Jeff Hardy shocked the world when he knocked off Jinder Mahal for the United States Championship on the April 16 edition of Raw. The next night on SmackDown Live, he was moved to the blue brand in the 2018 Superstar Shake-up and has been on a roll as champ ever since.
Coming off Hardy's successful title defense against Randy Orton at last Sunday's Backlash pay-per-view, it remains to be seen who will be next to step up and challenge for the championship.
The Charismatic Enigma fell short of qualifying for the men's Money in the Bank Ladder match this past week, so it's likely he'll be putting his gold up for grabs in a separate bout at the pay-per-view instead.
Thankfully, SmackDown has a stacked roster coming out of the Superstar Shake-up, and thus there are several Superstars waiting in the wings for a shot at the strap.
However, the following four competitors would be the best potential opponents for Hardy at Money in the Bank and beyond.
Andrade "Cien" Almas
At one point, Andrade "Cien" Almas appeared to be a lost cause in NXT due to never living up to the lofty expectations many had set for him upon his debut in the promotion. It wasn't until he joined forces with Zelina Vega last summer that he turned his career around by coming into his own as a heel and becoming NXT champion.
Shortly after his title reign ended at the hands of Aleister Black at TakeOver: New Orleans, it was evident he was ready for prime time. Sure enough, he was recruited by SmackDown Live in the 2018 Superstar Shake-up and is set to make his debut on the blue brand next Tuesday.
It's unknown what he'll be involved in from the get-go on SmackDown, but having him chase the United States Championship would seem to make sense. He would benefit greatly from working with someone as experienced as Hardy, and the matches could be a ton of fun.
Above all, Almas eventually capturing the star-spangled prize would certainly solidify him as a star on the rise and put him in a position to succeed. There are few better ways for him to make an impact straight out of the gate than by beating a fan favorite for his first piece of WWE gold.
On the May 8 edition of SmackDown, Hardy came close to qualifying for the men's Money in the Bank ladder bout before The Miz stole the victory in their match. Of course, that would mean Miz vs. Hardy is out of the question for the pay-per-view, but there's nothing stopping them from feuding ahead of the event.
In theory, Miz defeating the United States champion should earn him a title shot at some point. It should also be noted that Hardy's sole two losses in singles competition since returning to WWE in April 2017 have come against The Awesome One.
Based on their one-on-one outings, Hardy and Miz have excellent in-ring chemistry together. Their most recent encounter on SmackDown was especially entertaining and left viewers anxiously anticipating their next meeting inside the squared circle.
Money in the Bank isn't for another month-and-a-half, so it would be logical for Miz to vie for the gold in the meantime. Let's not forget, he was U.S. champion the last time he seized the opportunistic briefcase in 2010 and could repeat history if he were to take the title from Hardy before then.
Interestingly enough, Hardy and Daniel Bryan have never actually been in the same promotion at the same time until now. Bryan made his WWE debut months removed from Hardy's departure, so they have yet to cross paths in any capacity.
All these years later, the two fan favorites are a part of SmackDown, so it should be more a matter of when and not if they will finally do battle. Additionally, Money in the Bank might be an ideal event for them to wage war considering both failed to earn entry into the men's ladder match this past week.
Bryan is no stranger to the star-spangled prize, usurping Miz as United States champion at 2010's Night of Champions event. He then embarked on a six-month-long reign with the title, so if anyone knows a thing or two about bringing prestige to that piece of hardware, it's him.
At Backlash, Bryan and Hardy won their respective matches in clean fashion and are feud-free at the moment. That said, a United States Championship match pitting them against each other on the Money in the Bank undercard could be a classic.
Few Superstars are on more of a roll right now than Samoa Joe, who has been a fantastic fit for SmackDown in his brief time on the brand. As remarkable as his run was on Raw, Joe has already been established as a top star on Tuesday nights, and he clearly has the WWE Championship in his sights.
However, it looks like the feud between current champ AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura is not yet over if the finish to their Backlash bout was any indication. That means it will be at least another month or so before he can gun for the gold, but the United States Championship is a feasible target for Joe for the time being.
Joe and Hardy had their fair share of matches in TNA, and they always worked well together. Not only would it be cool to see them rekindle that rivalry in WWE, it could lead to Joe getting a title around his waist at long last.
Although the Backlash loss to Roman Reigns hindered his momentum a bit, Joe can bounce back with ease in a rivalry with The Charismatic Enigma. Expect this high-profile program to come to fruition sooner rather than later.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.