The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wrestling Inc or its staff
Seth Rollins' injury sucks. Rollins was having a terrific year as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, improving on the mic and working his ass off in the ring to have good matches and really establishing himself as the top guy of the new generation of WWE stars. Watching a talented guy who has recently achieved so much is a downer, and everyone in the wrestling world is rooting for Seth to make a speedy recovery. If there is one thing to be thankful for it is that at least it was his ACL, an injury that can be rehabilitated and healed in a reasonable manner, unlike an injury to the neck or back.
With Rollins vacating the title and going on the shelf for a while it puts WWE in one of the biggest holes it has seen itself in throughout its entire history. Rollins was injured at a time when he was THE force in WWE. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan are also injured and John Cena just began his two month vacation, meaning that WWE was really relying on Rollins to carry the ball for them over the next couple months. Currently, WWE is out its four most prominent full-time wrestlers, and the onus is now on unproven talents to step up to the plate and deliver.
I wrote last month that WWE had done a poor job of creating a new wave of legit main eventers. At the time, I said that of the active full-time talent, only Orton, Rollins and Cena were the only wrestlers on the roster who were proven to be capable long-term options as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. With all three of those wrestlers inactive now, WWE is going to have to face the fact that their roster is currently as devoid of star power as it ever has been in the company's history.
And you know what? This is entirely WWE's own fault. They only really push a couple of talents as legit stars, and every other person on the roster sits around trading wins on the mid-card. This is not the same as 1996-1997 when WCW was gobbling up all of the top talent in the market, WWE has a deep reservoir of talented performers on their roster, but due to incompetent and indifferent booking, have managed to screw it all up.
A big problem right now is the lack of top level heels. Rollins has been the main villain on the show for quite some time now, to the point that The Authority have almost become defacto babyfaces. With Rollins out now, the top heel in the company probably becomes Bray Wyatt, who of course is currently occupied in a strange feud with The Undertaker and Kane. Beneath him? Kevin Owens, Sheamus and Wade Barrett. All of those guys are certainly talented, but a lot of their potential has been zapped but WWE's horrific booking. WWE is now counting on those guys, but it seems hard for guys like Sheamus and Barrett to go from wrestling on the pre-show on the last PPV to becoming the top heels in the company. Even if WWE rolls out Owens, Sheamus and Barrett on Monday and presents them as top heels and those guys kill out on the mic and have a great match, it will still be very difficult for the crowd to take them seriously as top heels, because WWE has seemingly gone out of their way over the last several months to show fans that they are anything but.
The big winner in all of this is probably Alberto Del Rio, who recently came back to the company and was given a big push as a heel, despite apparently nothing changing in his character since his original debut in the company. For all of his faults, Del Rio has been booked throughout his time in WWE as a legit contender for titles, and with a huge void in top heels opening up, from an audience perspective he is the most accomplished guy to fill that void. Del Rio never worked out as top heel in WWE and it is unlikely he will suddenly become a huge draw for WWE if he were to fill the void, but at least he has been booked in a consistent enough fashion to warrant a chance as a top heel.
WWE will decide their new champion through a tournament that will take place at Survivor Series in a couple weeks. The favorite for the tournament is going to be Roman Reigns, who already was the number one contender for the world title and was set to face Rollins in the main event of the show before Rollins was injured. There was a chance Reigns was going to take the championship off of Rollins anyway at Survivor Series, so in that regard things might not change all that much. Reigns should very well be the favorite, but one possible question mark I see in WWE going with Reigns is that he really needs his run as a babyface world champion to be coupled with great challengers. Reigns needs to work with guys like Rollins to help establish himself as the top babyface, I don't think facing off against Del Rio and Sheamus is really going to do the trick for him. A heel turn for Dean Ambrose and a potential world championship run for him has been talked about by fans, but if Ambrose were to turn on Reigns and beat him for the title, that would just make Ambrose a huge babyface because the fans clearly like Ambrose more than Reigns.
There are plenty of other possibilities for the world title tournament. Bryan's injury situation is murky and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he could be cleared and returns to action by Survivor Series. WWE could also write a few more checks to Brock Lesnar and get him involved. Also, while Cena certainly deserves his time off, would it really surprise anybody if he were to come back early and work Survivor Series?
As bad as Rollins' injury is, it's exciting to see the roster and current plans for WWE in such chaos. The WWE product is usually very predictable, but now I think it is anything but. WWE has been ignoring pushing new talents for so long, it is intriguing to see them get put into a situation where they have to do something. With that being said, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if WWE ended up doing very little in this situation. They might just make Roman Reigns the champion and have him face Del Rio in an incredibly boring feud. Last month I wrote about how it was upsetting WWE wasted a world title match on Kane when they could have used it for someone new (and wouldn't WWE feel a little more confident in someone like Cesaro if he had just wrestled Rollins for the world title) but instead used it on a guy that was never going to get more over than he already was. WWE could totally squander this opportunity and allow the injuries to cripple their roster. They haven't necessarily been the most innovative company when it comes to booking over the last several years, so why would we expect any different from them now?
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings