In my posts I often say of current low- and mid-card talent that they strike me as a future champion. So I’ve decided to list my top five men and top five women, and why I think they’ll succeed in WWE. I won’t use anyone who has already been a champion, so that leaves out Andrade “Cien” Almas and Drew McIntyre, who have both been NXT Champions, though I think both of them will be WWE/Universal Champions someday. This is exclusively wrestlers who have never held any title in WWE/NXT who I think will be a WWE/Universal/Women’s Champion at some point.
First the men. Honorable mention: Hideo Itami, Lio Rush (hey, if Rey Mysterio can be champion…)
5. Elias, Raw
I profiled what I think lies in Elias’ future in my first Gorilla Fighters feature. Imagine the songs Elias would write if he was WWE Champion. He has size, power, technique, and certainly charisma. He has mainstream appeal and is marketable. He’s an extremely talented wrestler, but his presence and musical ability make him possibly the most talented overall performer/entertainer on the roster.
4. Velveteen Dream, NXT
Dream OOZES charisma. He gets the psychology of the business more than probably any other superstar in WWE or NXT, he’s 6’2, 227 pounds of pure muscle, and he’s only 23 years old. Every match and every promo is a must-watch. He’s so over the top but so sharp and crisp with his promos and in the ring. He’s a heel but the crowd loves him. And even with that being said, he can make them hate him in an instant. It could be a while down the road, but he has MAIN EVENT written all over him.
3. Lars Sullivan, NXT
Look at that monster. He is the type of guy WWE LOVES to have at the top. The biggest knock on him at this point is that his voice is kind of funny, but hell, so is Brock Lesnar’s. He’s not Brock Lesnar… yet. He is solid in the ring and is a POWERHOUSE. He may not be as marketable as Elias and Velveteen Dream, but he has some time to get the charisma and promos down. He’s not bad at them by any means, but to be a champion he needs to be better. Right now he’s better as the monster that the champion overcomes, but with a few tweaks and improvements to his character work that could change in an instant. I expect one of two things to happen with the 30-year-old: he’s either kept in NXT and then released in a round of cuts, or he gets called up to the main roster and built up like Braun Strowman.
2. Baron Corbin, Raw
I know he’s the constable now, but that look suits him so much better. When this whole constable thing is over, or hell, maybe even while it’s going on, because he can book himself into a title match, I expect Corbin to hold company’s top prize. I’m sure it’s going to happen at some point. He’s a natural heel champion. Every loves to hate this guy. I don’t get the “you can’t wrestle” chants, I guess that’s what morons chant when they don’t like a guy who is obviously good enough in the ring to be in main events, but he certain CAN wrestle, and damn well. WWE main eventers don’t have to apologize for not wrestling like Kenny Omega, no matter what douche bag hipster smarks think. He puts on great matches and could match up perfectly and any face at the top of the card. I don’t see him having a long championship run, but I definitely see him at least as a transitional champion, and at most having a good few month run with the belt.
Just was informed, because I forgot, that Corbin was a US Champion, therefore ineligible by my own standards. Add in Hideo Itami from 205 Live at #5 and move everyone down one. Carry on.
1. Apollo Crews, Raw
LOOK AT THIS DUDE! Because of the way he’s been booked, I wouldn’t be surprised if people haven’t noticed how incredible he is in the ring. He has a combination of strength and athleticism that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. If WWE doesn’t take advantage of him in his prime years (he’s 31), they’re missing a grand opportunity. He’s personable, but the knock is, maybe too much. He may be better served as a heel, but if you keep him face, let him be himself. They shouldn’t make him the cheesy, always smiling, happy fun guy they made him in his original singles run, and is the same thing they’re doing with Bobby Lashley now. Crews and WWE both need this. Otherwise, he’s being terribly wasted. Dana Brooke already left Titus Worldwide, so I hope a break up of that team is in the process. Let Crews start a feud with Titus and then work his way up to bigger things. IC Championship is a great start, and go forward from there. If he’s not WWE or Universal Champion within the next 2-3 years, I think he’ll be back on the indies, and his WWE career will have been a tremendous disappointment.
And now, the top five women who I think are future Raw or SmackDown Women’s Champions. Honorable mention who just miss the list: Billie Kay, Ruby Riott
5. Sonya Deville, SmackDown Live
I would love to see her take on Ronda Rousey someday. I feel like they’re staying away from that at the moment, putting them on different shows. She looked great in her match with Charlotte on Raw, though the psychology of the match was highly questionable. She can stand in there with anybody and have a good match. She’s a legitimate bad ass. If this was the diva’s era, Mandy Rose would be the obvious choice as a potential future champion. But now we’re in the women’s revolution, and she is a perfect choice as one of the leaders and top dogs of the movement. She looks ready to step into the spotlight and shine as a face or a heel.
4. Sarah Logan, Raw
When they first introduced the Riott Squad and had redneck Sarah Logan talking like an idiot redneck girl, it was terrible. They smartly took the mic away from her and Liv Morgan and let Ruby Riott cut all the promos. Then Sarah stopped being silly and started getting mean. They she started looking a little different, and her promos got better. Then they made her a Viking, and therefore awesome. They let her be herself. She is the breakout star of the Riott Squad. I love Ruby, but I think Sarah stepped up and overtook in during Ruby’s time off with injury. She’s big, strong, and has a tough-as-nails look, and when they’re not giving her awful redneck shit to say, she can hold her own on the mic.
3. Bianca Belair, NXT
I have been raving about Bianca Belair since last year’s Mae Young Classic. She calls herself the EST of NXT, as in bigEST, strongEST, fastEST, bEST. Same as I wrote about Velveteen Dream, she OOZES charisma and is a natural performer on camera. She plays to the crowd perfectly, can be a heel or face, and in the ring, WOW. She can military press most girls on the roster, and we saw last year at WrestleMania she can hit a 450 splash. There’s a lot of moves in between that look awesome. I never miss a match, and I can’t wait until she inevitably gets to the top of the card and we get more and more promos from her. She will very likely be an NXT Women’s Champion, and someday, Raw or SmackDown Women’s Champion.
2. Peyton Royce, SmackDown Live
Let’s be clear: I HATED Peyton Royce and Billie Kay in NXT. Their characters were awful and their felt were boring and all the same, and they never seemed to get a comeuppance for their heel actions. I didn’t want them called up to the main roster, I wanted them released. Then their promos started getting a little better. They found a gimmick of mocking their opponents—badly, but in an entertaining way. Peyton’s matches are really, really good. Billie can wrestle as well, but Peyton has shined brighter between the two, and usually gets the matches. I see her climbing her way to the top of the card with Billie constantly helping her get cheap wins, a la Carmella with James Ellsworth. I think she needs a deserves a championship to keep the characters from being just an annoying duo who stagnates in the women’s mid card.
1. Lacey Evans, NXT
True fact: Lacey Evans is a United States Marine, and was a member of their SRT team, which is basically their SWAT team. So yeah, she’s fucking tough. Look at her build, she’s RIPPED. If you don’t watch NXT, START WATCHING! Ahem. If you don’t watch NXT, she calls herself the “Lady of NXT” and complains that the other women in the division are the “lowest forms of societal trash.” Needless to say, she is a heel. She is a GREAT heel. And her ring work is top notch. She wasn’t always a heel, and her short face run was good, but this character is much better. She’s a better-than-you snob. She sets out to prove that every match, and usually does. Her look matches her attitude in and out of the ring, and I look forward to seeing her and Bianca Belair battle of the NXT Women’s Championship soon.
Who did I miss? Do you have a top ten? Disagree with any of my choices? I want to hear it in the comments.