There was big news in the world of WWE this week and also some really sad news as Roman Reigns appeared on Raw to tell the world that he had leukemia. Reigns revealed that he had leukemia (a form of cancer) eleven years ago when he was 22 years old, but now it’s back and he has to relinquish the Universal Championship to focus on getting better.
Reigns delivered a very emotional speech about how he is going to beat leukemia, he’s going to get back to WWE and how much he loved being a WWE superstar. It was a genuine speech that touched all of us that watched it, including the crowd that chanted “Thank You Roman” to him. Reigns made it clear that this was not a retirement and I certainly hope that is true, but you never really know how things will go when you have an illness as serious as leukemia.
To Roman Reigns, on behalf of every wrestling fan, I wish you the best in your recovery. I know that a lot of people over the years may not have liked the Roman Reigns character and they booed him in the arena, but as fans we have an appreciation for what every male and female do by busting their ass to put on a show for us in a WWE ring. We respect all of them, especially a guy that has made it to Roman’s level as a WWE and Universal Champion that has also headlined the last four WrestleManias.
Roman let us know that his name is Joe (last name is Anoa’i) and he needs to go home to beat this leukemia, which is something I think we can all understand. Roman has a wife, a daughter, and twin sons. Here’s hoping he can live a long and healthy life with his family by his side. This is not like some injury where we know a guy is coming back in six months. We don’t know if he is coming back, but we will continue to pray and hope for the best for him.
Thank you to everyone who’s reached out…I can’t put into words what it means to me.
Your energy and positivity motivate me to get better quickly to get back in the ring, but for now I’m going to spend time with my family and focus on health.
Thank you – Joe/Roman
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) October 23, 2018
Earlier in the week, I wrote a breakdown of every champion on WWE Raw and in it, I assumed that Reigns was going to be the long-term Universal Champion. That was about seven hours before Raw aired, so I had no idea what was coming. The Tag Team Titles also changed hands that night, with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins becoming the Raw Tag Team Champions, but that ended in controversy due to the Ambrose heel turn when he attacked Rollins. It was a sad night that ended with a crazy turn that may not have been appropriate on that night, but it’s pro wrestling and anything can happen at any time as we know.
It’s time to focus on WWE Smackdown Live’s four championships, and also take a quick look at the NXT Titles and the Cruiserweight Title as well.
WWE Champion: AJ Styles (champion since November 7, 2017 at Smackdown)
Next Announced Title Defense: It’s AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at Crown Jewel on Friday, November 2nd.
Championship Outlook: The second WWE Title reign for “the face that runs the place” AJ Styles has lasted for nearly one year. This year, Styles had long term feuds with Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe where I thought that each man was going to win the title at some point, but it didn’t happen. I think the Nakamura feud failed to live up to the hype. For whatever reason, it just didn’t click. The feud with Joe was good with WWE booking Joe like a cheap heel that makes it personal, but it was not a great rivalry.
I think the WWE Championship has been hurt by the fact that Styles doesn’t get to main event PPVs and is always taking a backseat to a Raw match on those major shows. While I think it would be great if Bryan were to become WWE Champion again, I just don’t think this is the right time. I can see something happen where Bryan loses due to some distraction by The Miz, which could set up a triple threat match between the three men at Survivor Series or something like that.
Possible Future Champions: The Miz, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Samoa Joe
Styles has been the best overall wrestler in WWE since the day he got there in January 2016, so we’re talking about three years now. As good as he has been, I think it’s time for a title change. What I think will happen is we’ll get Styles vs. Bryan vs. Miz at Survivor Series for the WWE Title and Miz will find a way to win by doing something cheap to become WWE Champion. At recent Survivor Series events, WWE has gone with the Raw vs. Smackdown theme, but reports are out there are noting that it’s likely not going to be that way this year, which is good.
The Miz as WWE Champion can lead to Bryan either winning the Royal Rumble or earning a WWE Title shot some other way, leading to Bryan beating Miz for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 35 next year. It would mean Bryan gets the WWE Title one year after he returned to the ring. Randy Orton could also be the next WWE Champion since he’s targeting popular wrestlers. He also hasn’t had a feud with Styles since they’ve been Smackdown guys for over two years, so that’s a possibility. I just think Miz deserves another shot as WWE Champion, so he’s my pick as the next champion. I can see Styles matched up against a guy like Orton or maybe a dream match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania.
Smackdown Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch (champion since September 16, 2018 at Hell in a Cell)
Next Announced Title Defense: This Sunday, October 28 at Evolution, Lynch defends the Smackdown Women’s Title against Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing Match.
Championship Outlook: Lynch just won the championship last month, so I doubt she’s going to drop it to Charlotte already. Then again, Charlotte had less than a month as the champion. This feels like the end of their rivalry at Evolution and I’m thinking Lynch will win. I can see Lynch as a long-term SD Women’s Champion that carries the title all the way to WrestleMania. I think Charlotte will win the Women’s Royal Rumble and challenge Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania.
Possible Future Champions: Asuka, Naomi, Carmella, Charlotte Flair
I can see WWE trying to reboot Asuka by having her win the battle royal at Evolution. It sets up a feud with Becky Lynch, which hasn’t been done before, so it would feel fresh. They could also get there by not having Asuka win the battle royal. Naomi’s very popular and hasn’t had much to do this year, so that can be a rivalry for Lynch. Now that Carmella is in a face role, she could get a title shot at some point although I doubt she wins it. I listed Charlotte, but I don’t think it will be her. I’ll go with Asuka possibly winning the title next year perhaps at WrestleMania or sometime before that.
United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura (champion since July 15, 2018 at Extreme Rules)
Next Announced Title Defense: none
Championship Outlook: I think it’s fair to say that Nakamura is the worst booked champion on the main roster right now. He beat Jeff Hardy for the title, they had a rematch and then Hardy moved on to his feud with Orton while Nakamura has had nothing to do. The lack of long-term planning for him as champion is pretty bad.
Possible Future Champions: Rey Mysterio, Andrade Cien Almas, Rusev
Rey Mysterio will probably be the next US Champion. He beat Nakamura in a non-title match in the World Cup qualifying match and Nakamura tweeted that it wasn’t over between them. That likely means some more matches are coming with the US Title on the line. It wouldn’t surprise me if the title change happens within the next month since Nakamura is doing nothing as champion. From there, Mysterio can put over Andrade Cien Almas for the US Title because then it’s a veteran putting over a young guy for his first title. Rusev is a former US Champion, but that was when he was a heel. A rivalry with Nakamura could be good for both guys.
Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Bar – Sheamus and Cesaro (champions since October 16, 2018 at Smackdown)
Next Announced Title Defense: The Bar vs. The New Day for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at Crown Jewel on November 2.
Championship Outlook: The Bar beating The New Day for the Smackdown Tag Titles two weeks ago was a surprise that I didn’t see it coming. Big Show turned heel by putting Kofi Kingston through an announce table while Sheamus hit Big E with a Brogue Kick to win the titles. It sets up the trio of Sheamus, Cesaro, and Big Show (Showbar?) as a new group for New Day to conquer, so this could be a long-term feud. I would be surprised if New Day won the titles back at Crown Jewel next week.
Possible Future Champions: The Usos, The New Day, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Sanity.
The Smackdown Tag Team division is a lot better than what they have on Raw, so there are options here. Due to there being other worthy teams on Smackdown, it’s hard to forecast if this will be a long-term title reign or if they drop the gold before the end of the year.
The Usos stick out to me because I think they’re the best team in WWE, with New Day and The Bar right after them. Sadly, The Usos have taken a back seat this year, but I think by doing this title change, WWE wanted to get the gold on a heel team like The Bar to set up a rivalry with The Usos to end the year and to go into next year. I can see The Usos winning the gold early next year. The New Day certainly could be the ones to get it back too, but why do the title change in the first place? That’s why I think it will be The Usos. I included Gallows & Anderson and Sanity there because I’m hopeful that WWE remembers that they are great teams that should be doing more. Right now, there’s just not much going on with them.
I’m going to go over the four NXT Titles quickly. The next major NXT show is NXT Takeover Wargames on November 17, 2018. Most of the card isn’t announced yet, so that will be known when they have their next tapings soon.
NXT Champion: Tommaso Ciampa (champion since July 25, 2018 at NXT)
Championship Outlook: I enjoy Ciampa as the heel champ that brags about everything like a bad guy should. There are a lot of options to dethrone him, with his main rival Johnny Gargano as the most obvious name, but he may be off in another direction now. I think Velveteen Dream would be an awesome choice as the next champion. Another guy is EC3, although honestly, I want to see him on the main roster soon because he’s more than ready to be a star there. All of them are ready, but WWE wants to keep their third brand, NXT, strong. Ricochet could be the guy when he loses his title, because I think WWE wants to have him be the “face” of NXT for a year or so.
NXT Women’s Champion: Kairi Sane (champion since August 18, 2018 at NXT Takeover Brooklyn)
Championship Outlook: Sane defends the NXT Women’s Title at Evolution on Sunday, which I’ll cover more in my predictions tomorrow (cheap plug). The name that comes to mind as a future NXT Women’s Champion is Nikki Cross, who came so close to winning the title multiple times in the past. The fans always react to whether she’s booked as a face or a heel, so I think she’d be a good choice. I’ve also been very impressed by women like Lacey Evans, Candice LeRae, and Bianca Belair, to name a few. The NXT women’s division isn’t as deep as it was about three years ago, but they still have a lot of talent there.
NXT North American Champion: Ricochet (champion since August 18, 2018 at NXT Takeover Brooklyn)
Championship Outlook: Ricochet has been booked strongly since he debuted and I wasn’t surprised when he beat Adam Cole for the North American Title at Takeover Brooklyn. The roster is so deep that there are so many guys that I can see as the next champion. A guy that jumps out at me as a potential future champion is Matt Riddle, who started in WWE around SummerSlam. I can see him getting a big push. Plus, it can lead to Ricochet going after the NXT Title.
NXT Tag Team Champions: The Undisputed Era – Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong (champions since June 21, 2018 at NXT)
Championship Outlook: The Undisputed Era has dominated the tag team division for one year. My hope is that these four guys (O’Reilly, Strong, Bobby Fish, and Adam Cole as the leader) are together on the main roster in the near future as a group that continues to work well together. Until then, they must drop the straps to somebody. The logical choice is the War Raiders duo of Hanson and Rowe, who are kind of like Harper and Roman on the main roster. It won’t happen at the next Takeover since that’s a WarGames match, but I can see the titles changing hands soon after.
205 Live Cruiserweight Champion: Buddy Murphy (champion since October 6, 2018)
Championship Outlook: The 205 Live brand just celebrated 100 episodes with Buddy Murphy as the champion after he beat Cedric Alexander for the title at the Super Show-Down event in Melbourne earlier this month. There are a lot of potential challengers out there with a guy like Mustafa Ali standing out as the best choice to win the title. Ali nearly beat Alexander for the vacant title at WrestleMania and he’s had some great matches with Murphy as well. Three masked wrestlers stand out with Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik as potential future contenders. Of the three, I can see Kalisto winning the title. My choice would be Ali, though. It may not be until next year because I think Murphy will have a pretty good title reign.
I’m not going to go over the NXT UK Titles since the brand just debuted on WWE Network two weeks ago. Pete Dunne is doing well as the NXT UK Champion and I think he’s got a very bright future in the company.
That’s my look at the title situations in WWE. I’ll try to do this again in about three months prior to the Royal Rumble.
I’ll be back on Friday with some predictions for the women’s only WWE Evolution pay-per-view event.