The Current WWE Superstars Who Deserve Their First Run With A Major Title, Including Cody Rhodes And Shinsuke Nakamura
These athletes need more time to shine.
The WWE has seen superstars like Roman Reigns sitting pretty at the top of its championship title scene for quite some time, and as awesome as it is to see a wrestler go on extended runs like that, one can’t help but wonder when the next talented brawler will get their chance to be the face of the wrestling organization for a spell. More specifically, when will marquee names like Cody Rhodes and Shinsuke Nakamura get shots at WWE title runs, so that they can show the world how the brand’s most sacred championship belts can be elevated by having some new blood.
Below, we’ll go through a list of skilled and promising competitors on the WWE roster who haven’t (yet) had a chance to wrap the WWE and Universal Championship belts around their waists, and will pinpoint why they deserve the run. Hopefully, we’ll get to see everyone here at the top of the company's rankings at some point in their careers, and maybe a few of them could do it before the end of the year.
Wrestlers like Riddle don’t come along often, but when they do, they deserve all of the opportunities that come along. Riddle nails his hilarious character, he’s in great shape, he works well with other WWE legends, and the crowd loves him. I kind of liken him to Chris Jericho when discussing his strengths, and most wrestlers would probably kill for the career that Jericho’s had so far. Riddle’s rise is on a similar trajectory, and his future in the company seems very bright. Unfortunately, I feel like his major title run will ultimately come at the cost of RK-Bro, splitting him up from real-life friend Randy Orton, which would mean losing one of the best things about WWE at the moment.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a wrestler to win a major world title in the WWE more than Cody Rhodes. Wrestling fans might have simmering thoughts about him leaving AEW to return to the company, but in my mind, it only adds to the real-life story that made his return so special. Rhodes left the WWE to prove he could be a main event talent outside of its ropes, and now he’s back to win the title that his father Dusty Rhodes never did. It’s not often that a wrestler’s real life can be mirrored as a perfect pro wrestling storyline, but when that happens, it tends to enhance the title runs with more emotions and eventual satisfaction.
I’m not sure there’s anyone who disagrees with the sentiment that Damian Priest is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the WWE right now. The heel angle he’s currently working with Edge is really popping, and it could easily turn into something truly great Priest is granted the proper amount of time to marinate and develop. Priest has shown he can thrive in the upper mid-card, but it's not necessarily a spot where he'd belong indefinitely. Eventually, he'll likely deserve to be escalated to the main-event picture, and a title run would be the perfect way to mark his change in status within the brand.
Shinsuke Nakamura has reaped much success since joining up with the WWE in 2016, with multiple title wins and even cementing a Royal Rumble victory. Given that, one might assume he’d already found a quick route to winning the WWE and/or Universal titles, but this is unfortunately not the case. Shinsuke’s maintained a decent slot for himself in the company's main roster, and is frequently someone in a position to be inserted into a major title shot. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him waltzing down that gold-belt road before too long, though I'm not so confident he’ll be THE wrestler to dethrone a Roman Reigns-level champion.
I can’t imagine a world in which Xavier Woods leaves the WWE without a world championship title run as part of his highlight reel. The New Day was and still is one of the hottest tag-team stables in modern pro wrestling, and now that both Kofi Kingston and Big E have world titles to their names, Woods’ time to shine brightest is imminent. Or at least it needs to be. Of course, with Woods pulling double-duty between WWE and G4 (and even potentially hosting AEW stars on his shows), the WWE might have reservations about setting him up with major title. Any and all such reservations should be cast aside, though, because Woods’ would be one of the most charismatic champions to date, and who wouldn't want to see one of the New Day crew back on top?
Austin Theory, or Theory as he’s known now, may not be blowing up a ton of people’s radars, but make no mistake: the fact that this 24-year-old wrestler is already a United States champion is a huge achievement and can only be a blessing for his future career. In a current roster where a good number of the top superstars are floating between their late 30s and early 40s, Theory represents the upper crust of the next generation waiting for their time with the crown. If Theory's willing to do something as wild as taking an F-5 from high off the ground from Brock Lesnar, I’d love to see how far he'd take things when he’s actually champ.
The renaissance of Baron Corbin since his call-up from NXT has been a joy to watch. Many athletes who start as a strong and silent types tend to struggle when required to take on a goofier extroverted character to run with. I think it’s fair to say that he thrived under King, Broke, and Happy Corbin, and I think there’s a lot more he can still do in WWE yet. I’d love to see him earn a major title run before he leaves the WWE, which could take a while, since it stands to reason he’ll be around for a long time. So, he’s probably got ample time to continue being one of the most entertaining stars in the brand before taking it to the next step.
It’s fitting to hype up Sami Zayn just after Baron Corbin, as they both kind of experienced similar trajectories within the WWE. Zayn was wildly popular and a top champion in NXT, even though it took a bit longer for his main roster debut to really get some momentum. But 3 Intercontinental championships later, he’s doing well for himself, though he still hasn’t geen granted a legitimate shot at the WWE or Universal title in some time, and I think it's long overdue. I’d especially like to see Zayn's attempts to win the gold coincide with Kevin Owens' next potential title run, just because of the great chemistry these longtime friends have in and out of the ring. Both men are expected to be with the company for the foreseeable future, so there’s plenty of time to make this happen. Hint. Hint.
Pro wrestling fans can catch most of these WWE superstars on Monday Night Raw on USA on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. ET or on SmackDown on Fox on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ET. Those with a Peacock premium subscription can also revisit some of these athletes' greatest matches to date, which should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they’re deserving of a major title.
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Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
By Nick Venable