WWE thought they had it all figured out. They promoted Finn Balor from NXT and positioned him to become the first ever Universal Champion for the Raw brand. But, as we all know, injury struck in the SummerSlam Universal Title match when Finn landed weird after a Seth Rollins “buckle bomb” into the barricade. Balor, to his credit, finished the match with what we would later learn was a severely torn labrum. 24 hours later, Balor is on Raw, relinquishing the title. The next day, he’s in surgery – faced with a worse injury than expected and a minimum of a six month long rehab. WWE is left with having to have a “series of matches” (don’t ever call it a tournament) to get us to a Fatal Four Way match on this week’s Raw.
The lucky four men going to that Fatal Four Way match are Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, and Big Cass. To WWE’s credit, it was wise to give themselves a week to book who will be the next Universal Title holder. Sure, they could have knee-jerked that night and crowned someone, but pushing this out a week was a smart move. It was also wise to not push this all the way out to the Clash of Champions PPV. The fans, in general, have been sour towards the Universal Title as a whole, so making them wait another month to finally crown someone wouldn’t have gone over well.
That said, we’re going to armchair book and look at the likelihood of each Fatal Four Way contestant taking home the top Raw prize this Monday night on Raw.
We’ll start with the man who lost to Balor in the SummerSlam match to name the first Universal Title winner. The internet seems to think that Rollins will be “punished” for serving up the “buckle bomb” that led to Rollins’ injury. It seems highly unlikely they will do this, considering the only other confirmed injury his moveset has caused was the buckle bomb injury to Sting last year. The John Cena broken nose seems even less worthy of “blame Rollins” tag because it was a raised knee. People use knee strikes all of the time and I would not consider that to be a risky move. At least not nearly as much as having to take a power bomb bump, vertically, while falling backwards. Regardless, many place Rollins as the odds on favorite to win the Universal Title on Monday.
Why Seth Rollins will win: Easy, he’s the Plan B guy and also had a successful run with the WWE Championship last year before injury took him off the shelf.
Why Seth Rollins won’t win: WWE booking starts listening to Bret Hart, blames Rollins for the injury, and drops him down to the midcard. Nah, just kidding. I think if they don’t go Rollins, it’s because they want a face with the belt and then Rollins chases said face. It seems like the immediate program would have been Balor / Rollins, at least up through a Clash of Champions rematch or Triple Threat.
Kevin Owens is the dark horse pick on the heel side of this Fatal Four Way. He seems to have really clicked with Jericho and WWE could make JeriKO have legs if they wanted to. Obviously, putting the Universal Title on Owens puts the kibosh on that real quick. JeriKO will likely go the way of Y2AJ as yet another good idea killed off way too soon. The IWC has been drooling over the idea of Owens with the belt for a while and honestly, the guy has put in a ton of great work over the past year. At the very least he could get a short run to test the waters. While not as much of a lock as Rollins on the heel side, I could see this potentially happening.
Why Kevin Owens will win: Owens is one of Triple H’s “NXT guys” so it’s possible they want to run with him, a la Seth Rollins last year, and see how Owens fares. With the brand split there is less of a microscope on a title holder so this could be a good time to run with KO as champ and not put as much on the line if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason.
Why Kevin Owens won’t win: WWE booking will realize Owens is just one of Vince Russo’s much maligned “tumblers” and would never sully such as a prestigious title as the Universal Title on a guy that isn’t a “good worker” (according to Russo!). But seriously, I think WWE would be reluctant to break up JeriKO since they’re giving them expanded TV time. Likewise, the booking for Balor was for a face champion and I don’t see them turning Owens any time soon. While Owens could be a legit contender for the title, I’ll actually be surprised, though pleasantly surprised, if they pull the trigger on him this Monday.
Roman wins, LOL. But, seriously, the guy has put on some great matches lately. Popping him back up to the main event tier could be a move that the WWE makes out of necessity. He was allegedly slumming it in the U.S. Title division as the result of his recent suspension. However, I could see Vince making an exception here because desperate times require desperate measures. You could even read more into the “non-event” the U.S. title match at SummerSlam became as they were already aware that Balor was hurt and hurt bad. Not having Roman go over and become U.S. Champion or having to lose a title match to Rusev goes a long way in protecting him ahead of the “series of matches” on Raw. Cue X-Files theme.mp3. But seriously, the plans going out of SummerSlam were to have a babyface champion. Unless the writers are rewriting the whole Universal Title plan from scratch, it would be the easiest to plug a baby into this spot. Roman is the most likely of the two faces in the match.
Why Roman Reigns will win: WWE revisionist history shows that Roman with the top title = money. Especially when the “boos” are erased in post-production. That said, the guy has been winning over people since returning from suspension. He’s solid in the ring and was actually compelling going into the Rusev feud as far as his “on the mic” persona. A few tweaks here and there, and WWE could largely run with the same booking plan they had for Balor and just endure the boos until they want to switch to Rollins or Owens or whomever as the heel champ.
Why Roman Reigns won’t win: The only scenario I see where Roman doesn’t leave Raw as champ is if they’ve decided to go with Rollins. Sorry Owens and Cass fans, but I don’t think this is going to be either guy’s time.
I have nothing against Cass, but man, this spot really should have gone to Sami Zayn. That said, Cass getting the push here has to be 100% the result of Vince thinking he’s going to be a huge singles star down the road. Down. The. Road. Not now. Putting the title on him here is a terrible idea because it’s significantly too soon into his and Enzo’s tag run on the main roster. A Cass title win minimizes Enzo to the role of “big guy’s mouthpiece” which is a weird role to drop Enzo to like four months and change into his main roster run. Again, no disrespect to Cass, but beyond the “holy s**t” moment, I don’t see the average fan really buying him as the top guy… yet. Cass has a huge upside and I think given time, the sky is the limit for him, but I just don’t see him being the guy they plug in to replace Balor.
Why Big Cass will win: Really only if the WWE wants to swerve fans with the Fatal Four Way result or Vince pushes it through. Cass seems like the least logical choice to make it to the Fatal Four Way, thus he seems like the least likely guy to win. Which is exactly why he could walk out as the new Universal Champion.
Why Big Cass won’t win: WWE would be really shooting themselves in the foot effectively ending the Enzo / Big Cass tag team. Even more so than JeriKO, Enzo and Cass are a tag team that could have legs if given the time to develop. They really haven’t been afforded the opportunity to do much yet on the main roster and could easily be mainstays in the tag title hunt before inevitably breaking Cass off for that singles run. The fact that Cass won his qualifier by count out also isn’t lost on my argument he has the worst chance out of this field.
If I had to pick, I’m going to go with Roman Reigns leaving Raw with the Universal Title. It’s a step backwards in a lot of ways, but it’s also the easiest and safest move that WWE can really make without shaking things up too much. Hopefully we do get something truly exciting and well booked on Monday night regardless of who goes over!