5 Wrestlers Who Could Win Their First World Title Following Vince McMahon’s Retirement

Roman Reigns World Title

Now that Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque is in charge of WWE creative, who could be on their way to capturing that first lucrative World Championship?

WWE is in a new era. Vince McMahon is out. Stephanie McMahon, Nick Khan, and Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque are in.

Creative-wise, the sports entertainment giant is about to undergo a major shift. Vince McMahon wasn’t expected to leave his role. Ever. Tragically, most thought only his passing would’ve removed Vince from his day-to-day executive duties.

With Levesque now manning the metaphorical pen, change is the hot topic within WWE. This could – and already has – lead to changes in booking, particularly as it pertains to the WWE and Universal Championship’s. The division is dominated by Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, and has been for the past seven years. Intermittent challengers have been just that; the ever-changing filling between the bread that is Reigns and Lesnar.

Note, the NXT Championship isn’t actively considered a World Championship, so former – or indeed current – holders are eligible. Furthermore, this feature will focus on WWE World Championships only; if a talent has won a World Championship elsewhere, they remain allowed here.

So, with Paul Levesque in charge, who could be on their way to that glorious first WWE World Championship?

Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn stands in the crowd on WWE SmackDown 2022

To clear up any doubt, WWE values Sami Zayn as a performer, yet his trigger remains untapped.

When Vince McMahon was in charge, ‘The Great Liberator’ was never even close to World Champion material. ‘He’s too small’, is what the ex-WWE Chairman and CEO would have said in response to a metaphorical Sami Zayn World Championship pitch.

Under the watchful eye of Triple H and co. in NXT, the three-time Intercontinental Champion stood out from the pack. His run as NXT Champion proved that Zayn could carry himself like a champion. Even in defeat, Zayn went down strong, not being pinned or submitted but rather, being beaten so badly he couldn’t continue. It may not have looked like it, but Sami Zayn embodied what it meant to carry a brand on your back.

Naturally, a WWE World Championship run today would be different compared to what it would have been eight years ago. Sami Zayn’s character has progressed with time, but this only further justifies a Zayn run on top. Sami has easily been one of the shining lights of WWE in recent memory, currently finding himself positioned in a story that includes Roman Reigns. Now that Paul Levesque makes the final call, it could be just a matter of time before Sami Zayn stands above ‘The Tribal Chief’.


Riddle makes his entrance at WWE SummerSlam 2022

If anything, Riddle almost doesn’t need to be acknowledged when discussing such topics. ‘The Original Bro’ was presented as a top-level WWE Superstar from the moment of his June 2020 arrival on the main roster, having been written out of NXT perfectly and brought into the blue brand’s ranks with as much pomp and circumstance as one could have during the bleak Performance Center era.

The one-time United States Champion has since remained a constant fixture in the upper-card, regularly facing, teaming with, and indeed defeating former WWE World Champions. His alignment with Randy Orton in RK-Bro is on the backburner for now, with ‘The Viper’ potentially requiring back surgery. They’ll be back together next year at the earliest but, really, this is the perfect opportunity to slyly push Riddle up the card.

His mix of athleticism, precision, and stiffness makes him a sublime performer during a time when pro wrestling is as much about the moves you can do as it is the character you portray. Riddle’s cool, calm, and collected demeanour becomes advantageous to his character progression when he begins kneeing people square in the jaw; he’s a main event-level talent.

A 2023 Royal Rumble victory is as genuine a possibility for Riddle as ever. It’s the cheap option for someone as talented and well-liked backstage as Riddle, but it’s worked in the past so why change the proven formula?

Karrion Kross

Karrion Kross and Scarlett return to SmackDown

Karrion Kross’ immediate presentation upon returning to WWE should serve as a clear indication that he’ll do well under the pen of Paul Levesque.

Mere hours after reports emerged of WWE officials being keen to have the former Killer Kross back, he returned to the company, this time on SmackDown. His NXT presentation was intact, he was flanked by Scarlett, and he returned in a segment involving Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns. Levesque understands Kross as a performer.

Intriguingly, a second Fightful Select report revealed a pitch that had supposedly been made for the two-time NXT Champion to challenge for one of Roman Reigns’ championships, as opposed to both. This, presumably, would mean splitting up the championships, and having either Kross or ‘The Tribal Chief’ return a World Championship to Raw full-time.

His infamous first run on WWE’s main roster needs to be rectified. Paul Levesque has booked him in the right direction thus far, and while making him a top champion this soon may hotshot Kross up the card, it’s a risk worth taking with one of WWE’s worst-booked stars of 2021.

Montez Ford

Montez Ford making his entrance on WWE SmackDown 2022

If it wasn’t already clear at Money in the Bank, it was crystal at SummerSlam. The Street Profits are less than a year away from disbanding.

Two straight losses to The Usos, two back-to-back failed attempts at capturing the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships, means Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins will soon be no more. There’s nowhere else the duo can go, so barring a shock departure from the company, they’ll both be singles stars by the time of New Year celebrations at the latest.

Montez will unquestionably be the star of the pair; the Shawn Michaels to Dawkins’ Marty Jannetty, the Otis to his Tucker, et al. Though Angelo has since developed a sense of charisma in recent times, a stark contrast to his dry NXT self, he isn’t quite main event material; Montez Ford absolutely is, to the extent that WWE officials are reportedly “very high on him“.

Numerous pro wrestling personalities, even The Rock, have backed Montez to become a WWE World Champion. With Paul Levesque in charge of creative, it seems certain that he’ll ultimately lift the big one, joining Bianca Belair as WWE’s new power couple.


Triple H raises Tommaso Ciampa's hand

Ciampa is going to be a WWE World Champion. Need more be said?

He’s famously a Triple H Guy, as has been evidenced time after time. If it wasn’t through his booking and presentation in NXT, it was when they embraced at NXT Stand And Deliver, the last night for ‘The Blackheart’ in the brand. Most obvious, however, has been the complete change of direction for Ciampa’s career since ‘The Game’ took over creative responsibilities with WWE.

In one night, Ciampa went from just being The Miz’s second to being the number one contender for Bobby Lashley’s United States Championship. He would never have come near the championship with Vince McMahon in charge; the entire US Championship number one contender’s series wouldn’t have occurred, for that matter. It’s been an astounding change of pace for him, and it won’t stop there.

How, exactly, Ciampa is pushed towards the World Championship scene will be interesting to see. Stranger things have happened – Jinder bloody Mahal – so expect to see Ciampa holding either the WWE or Universal Championships within the next few years.