On WWE Raw, it was announced that a five-way match at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view would determine who the No. 1 contender will be against Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire. This shift in planning was due to Braun Strowman’s injury being more severe than expected, as a 4-8 week timeline was moved to six months.
Shortly before this match announcement, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins were in a triple threat match with The Miz to determine who the number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship will be. Although both men lost to the Miz, they now have the chance to become WWE Universal Champion. Seemingly, WWE was put in a place where they had to put a few different feuds together to create a new number one contender.
Based on these candidates, new information has been released regarding who the frontrunners are to compete against Lesnar in July. Right now, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the favorites are Seth Rollins and Finn Balor.
The idea with Roman Reigns at the moment is that WWE is still planning on holding him off of the Universal Championship picture until the big showdown with Lesnar in New Orleans, LA at WrestleMania 34. This is expected to create an ever great big-fight feel for the event. Moreover, since there is still unfinished business left between the two following their bout in Santa Clara, CA at WrestleMania 31.
This leaves Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, and Bray Wyatt. The feud between Seth Rollins is expected to stretch out further, which could cancel out both of them as being contenders. Bray Wyatt once teased feuding with Lesnar, but those plans never fully developed, as Wyatt suffered an injury shortly after the angle commenced. Since appearing on Raw after the Superstar Shakeup, Wyatt has been stalking Balor, making him his new target to annihilate.
While both the Rollins/Joe and Balor/Wyatt feuds could pick back up after Great Balls of Fire, or could even conclude before the event, Raw is in need of a top babyface outside of Reigns to fill the vacant spot against Lesnar. Although Strowman is not a babyface but was still going to compete against Lesnar, he is the exception to the rule, as people were looking forward to more of the King Kong vs. Godzilla feel that the match would present.
Recently, WWE has been putting a great emphasis on Finn Balor, so much that the WWE Network featured a WWE 24 special on him which documented his road from suffering a shoulder injury against Rollins at SummerSlam to returning from injury on the Raw after WrestleMania.
Although Balor and Rollins are both the top favorites to face Brock Lesnar, fans have yet to experience a Lesnar vs. Balor showdown. Interestingly, one of the biggest pushbacks about this match is that Lesnar is considerably larger than Balor. However, despite this, when Balor appeared on Raw and said that he wanted to face Lesnar, he received a resounding ovation from the live audience affirming his decision to face The Beast.
— Max Mann (@MaxMann00105029) May 13, 2017
Ultimately, whoever will be placed in the position of No. 1 contender at Great Balls of Fire, will most likely be a placeholder to make Lesnar look even stronger against Roman Reigns. For Reigns, despite the negative fan reaction, WWE is continuing to heavily invest in him. On top of main-evening WrestleMania events for three straight years (vs. Brock Lesnar, Triple H, and The Undertaker, respectively), Reigns was responsible for being the sole current full-time competitor who was able to defeat The Phenom at the “grandest stage of em all.”
It is unknown whether WWE will decide to keep the title on Lesnar until next year’s WrestleMania. However, with the gap in time he competes, it does not seem as if that idea is too far-fetched.
[Featured Image by WWE]