The shock-and-awe that everyone felt when Jinder Mahal beat Randy Orton to become WWE Champion at Backlash is what made the decision to go with the former mid-card talent so great.

Now, however, that feeling has worn off, and fans are ready to move on to someone else. This post will look at who the next WWE Champion, could and, should be. I should note, that this list is in no certain order. So I’m not saying that the superstar I put at five, deserves it less than the superstar at one. Without further ado let’s get moving on this list.

Honorable Mentions:
Baron Corbin

Corbin is the current Money in the Bank Briefcase holder, and therefore basically guaranteed to win the WWE Championship at some point. So I couldn’t put him on this list because he’s already in the running. This list is for superstars on the outside looking in.

Randy Orton

Orton is the current number one contender and is slated to take Mahal on in a Punjabi Prison match at the Battleground Pay-Per-View. So he’s not on the list for a lot of the same reasons as Corbin. So I won’t go over them again.

5. AJ Styles

Styles is on this list for the obvious reasons. Constantly in the running to be the next in line for a championship opportunity, Styles will always be near the top of the card.

Currently, though, Styles seems to be in a program with United States Champion Kevin Owens. And it’s possible the powers that be could put the U.S title on Styles. If they do, it may be a while before he drops it and can make a run at the WWE Champion.

Still though, if Styles doesn’t win the U.S. title at Battleground, don’t be surprised if he is in the discussion for a WWE Title opportunity at Summer Slam.

4. John Cena

Cena is returning to WWE tonight on Smackdown, and everyone is expecting some confrontation between Cena and current WWE Champion Jinder Mahal; whether it’s just in a backstage segment, or an attempt to beat up Cena, from Mahal and the Singh brothers.

Cena’s tied with industry legend Ric Flair for most Heavyweight Championships held at sixteen.

WWE loves to use Cena as the “American Hero.” The guy that comes in and beats the foreign champ, to save America and restore order. They’ve done multiple times, most recently when Rusev was U.S. Champ, and Cena dethroned him at Wrestle Mania 30.

WWE could go this route again, and let Cena surpass Ric on the all-time list. But if they go this route this means they expect Cena to be around for a while. It would also delay a  potential cash in by Baron Corbin, letting Cena hold the belt for a while, and make his seventeenth run an important one, and it should be if it’s going to break the record held by the best of all time.

3. Rusev

Since being drafted from Raw to Smackdown Live in April, Rusev hasn’t appeared on TV. Fans are eagerly awaiting his return too. They want to know what WWE is going to do with the “Bulgarian Brute.”

Allow me to make a suggestion.

Before Rusev left due to a shoulder injury, he was in an odd tag team with Jinder Mahal. Meaning the two have a history that you could easily remind the fans of once he returns.

As I stated before Orton has the next WWE Championship opportunity at the Battleground Pay-Per-View, so Rusev will have to wait his turn. But that leaves an open door.

After the match at Battleground Rusev could attack his former tag partner, setting up a match at Summer Slam. Granted it probably won’t be the most technically sound match WWE has ever put on. But both men have shown the ability to be brutal between the ropes.

The match will have potential to be good. Rusev always delivers, and at Money in the Bank, in his match with Randy Orton, Mahal seemed to be the only one of the two who wanted to be there. Mahal has gotten better in the ring, and Rusev could pull the best out of him.

Fans are eager to see Rusev as champ, and he could easily be the one to dethrone Mahal and wreak havoc as WWE Champion.

2. Shinsuke Nakamura

Ever since he was called up to the main roster after Mania Nakamura has been a shell of himself in NXT, and sadly fans are starting to lose interest; this isn’t Nakamura’s fault. A lot of it has to do with how he’s been booked since his debut. Only doing promos, and not spending much time in the ring, it seems WWE is trying to shame the Japanese star for not having a good grasp of the English language. Instead of focusing on what he’s great at, in ring work, WWE has been making him show his weakness, mic work. Because of this many fans are turned off by Nakamura, which is sad.

Nakamura is a great talent, which shows when he’s in the middle of the ring wrestling, and not talking. If you need any proof of how great he is in the ring, look no further than his NXT debut, at NXT Takeover: Dallas against Sami Zayn.

At Money in the Bank, WWE teased a “dream match” between Nakamura and AJ Styles later down the road and fans are eagerly looking forward to that. This match should be contested for the WWE Championship at Wrestle Mania 34 next year. So Nakamura getting a title shot is in the distant future. Maybe around Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber. I’ll even go so far as to say Nakamura is going to win the Royal Rumble next year.

1. Sami Zayn

Fans have clamored for Zayn to win the WWE Championship ever since he was called up to the main roster. He’s had a few opportunities to become number one contender too. Most recently when Mahal became number one contender. It looked like Zayn was going to win, then the Singh brothers interfered, and Mahal hit his finisher and won.

Ever since Zayn has been locked in a feud with Mr. Money in the Bank Baron Corbin; this makes for a perfect reason to give Zayn the WWE Championship.

Having Zayn win the belt at Summer Slam in a grueling match against Mahal, Corbin could cash in. Cementing Corbin as a heel, by robbing Zayn of his moment. Making Zayn look like the babyface who finally reaches the pinnacle of success only to be kicked back off the top of the ladder.

Giving WWE a feud going forward between Zayn and Corbin for the WWE Championship, and would eventually allow Zayn to win his title back at Wrestle Mania, or any number of events before.