On Thursday, Jonathan Coachman of ESPN broke the news that WWE world heavyweight champion Seth Rollins suffered ACL/MCL/medial meniscus tears in his right knee and would miss the next six-to-nine months of action.
As a result, WWE is stripping Rollins of the title.
Instead of a singles match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series between Rollins and Roman Reigns, the fans will now get a one-night tournament to crown a new champion, according to WWE.com.
For fans of the wrestling business, this concept harkens back to 1998 and Survivor Series: Deadly Game. If the WWE Universe is lucky, this tournament could be just as entertaining and memorable.
Here are the top contenders to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series 2015.
1. Roman Reigns
The likeliest option to walk out of Survivor Series as the new champion is current No. 1 contender Roman Reigns.
There were many fans who believed Reigns had the trajectory to win the championship from Rollins this month anyway, but the injury has thrown a wrench in the works. If WWE was going to crown him champion at any point over the next two months, simply letting Reigns win the tournament is the easiest solution.
Regardless of how many people are involved, Reigns would have to run through several Superstars to earn his way to the finals. Add in a battle against another top wrestler to win the championship, and it would be hard for even the biggest detractors to discount his effort.
Whether Reigns is ready for the world title or not is an entirely different discussion.
2. Dean Ambrose
One of the most underutilized talents on the WWE roster is Dean Ambrose. With Rollins being out of action, the need for a top heel is glaring, so maybe now is the time for Ambrose to turn against his friend and steal the championship.
WWE could easily book Ambrose and Reigns at opposite ends of the bracket and have them on a collision course in the finals.
Not only is Reigns vs. Ambrose a main-event-worthy matchup, but it would also give Ambrose the opportunity to cheat behind the referee’s back for the victory.
Whether it’s using a foreign object while the referee is distracted or putting his feet on the ropes to steal the win, Ambrose walking out with the championship in an underhanded way would cement him as a top heel and build even more sympathy for Reigns.
Plus, we'd get a pretty entertaining feud moving forward.
3. Triple H
Another intriguing possibility would be Triple H stepping in for the man he helped build and taking control of the company because he doesn’t feel anyone else is worthy.
After announcing all the other competitors, The Authority could leave one spot open. As the mystery builds, Triple H’s music could hit and he would be announced as the final participant. With several possible dream matchups in the tournament, his presence could help boost excitement for Survivor Series.
Using the help of former members of The Authority like Big Show and possible future members like Sheamus and King Barrett, Triple H could skate his way through the bracket by only wrestling once or twice. The resulting heat would be tremendous.
The possibility is there for Triple H to cheat against Reigns as well, building even more support for the former No. 1 contender.
4. Brock Lesnar
Losing your champion for six-to-nine months is a devastating blow, and WWE officials could easily begin to panic about where the company should go from here.
If panic sets in, calling on Brock Lesnar to make a return would be monumental.
In a tournament format, Lesnar isn’t going to lose.
Lesnar is one of the most destructive forces in WWE history, and he is coming off a win against Undertaker. After never actually getting pinned for the world title, there is no one with a bigger claim to hold the belt right now than Lesnar.
If WWE is willing to make wholesale changes to its plans for the next few months, Lesnar winning the championship is the right move. Not only is he a bona fide pay-per-view draw—as seen from his buyrates in the UFC—but he is also a mainstream success who will draw both hardcore and casual fans to the product.
It may be difficult contractually to get him to come in for extra dates and agree to carry the brand for now while stars like Rollins, Randy Orton and John Cena are out, but bringing him in to win the title would undoubtedly move the needle.
5. Daniel Bryan
While it’s arguably the most far-fetched idea, the perfect person to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament at Survivor Series would be a returning Daniel Bryan.
Bryan has said time after time that he has been cleared by an independent doctor and can return to wrestling. WWE needs something that is going to help erase the losses of top stars like Rollins, Cena and Orton, and Bryan has the drawing power to make everyone forget.
Bryan returning and winning could also give WWE the opportunity to turn Ambrose heel on Reigns in the finals of the tournament, thus replacing Rollins with Ambrose as the top heel in the company.
This whole concept depends on how WWE’s medical team feels about Bryan’s injuries, but he is the perfect fit for this moment. It’s the least likely option, but Bryan is the champion the company needs right now.
One person who is being forgotten a bit is Sheamus. As holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase, he could trump all of this discussion by simply cashing in the world title shot on whoever wins the tournament.
The eventual winner will have wrestled at least two times in one night and possibly even more. From a common-sense perspective, why wouldn’t Sheamus cash in on a tired and newly crowned champion?
If a good guy wins this tournament, look out for the ever-looming Sheamus and his briefcase.
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