By Jason Powell
The news of Seth Rollins re-injuring his surgically repaired knee is devastating. And while there’s no word yet as to whether it will cause him to miss a substantial amount of time, it has led to speculation regarding potential replacements for him in a match against Triple H at WrestleMania. This speculation is no different than when a team sport athlete suffers an injury, and fans and media members question how the coach will fill the void. So while I hope this is a useless exercise and Rollins gets good news, here’s a list of potential candidates to replace Rollins in his program with Triple H and Samoa Joe.
Samoa Joe: Yes, Joe was working on behalf of Hunter on Monday’s Raw when he attacked Rollins. The simple storyline twist would be to have Hunter and Stephanie McMahon offend Joe by laying it on thick while saying that if Rollins thinks what Joe did to him was bad, it was nothing compared to what The Destroyer would have done. An offended Joe could it up as if he was trying to rough up Rollins, not injure him on Hunter’s behalf, which is why he never targeted the knee. In other words, Joe could play the babyface while Hunter is cast as the heel. I’d actually prefer to see Hunter turn babyface since the fans want to cheer him, and his promo on Monday seemed more babyface than heelish anyway. It would be a bit abrupt, but Hunter could actually express remorse for Rollins and say that while he wanted Joe to send a message, he felt bad about him actually suffering the injury. Meanwhile, Joe would show no remorse whatsoever and then turn on Hunter for being too soft.
Finn Balor: If Balor is medically cleared, he could easily replace the man he was wrestling when he suffered his own injury. Sure, Rollins laughed it off the next night on Raw, but Balor could rewrite the story by talking about how Rollins later saw the light and reached out to him once he broke away from The Authority. The gist of it would be that Rollins and Balor bonded over being forced to drop the championship due to suffering major injuries. In this scenario, Balor would actually be back to avenge a friend he made off camera.
Kurt Angle: Your Olympic Hero has history with Triple H and Stephanie in WWE, as well as Samoa Joe in TNA. I’m not sure whether WWE wants to put Angle back in the ring, but I would strongly consider it if he can pass medical testing. There’s no obvious connection to Rollins, but Angle returning to wrestle at WrestleMania just two days after he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame would be big.
Shinsuke Nakamura: I’m actually not as high on the idea of shoehorning Nakamura into this program as a lot of fans seem to be. I am as anxious as anyone to see him on the main roster so I wouldn’t object to it, but Hunter vs. Nakamura was never among my dream scenarios for the former NXT Champion. There is an obvious connection here with Joe given their NXT feud.
Shawn Michaels: This idea was mentioned by Wade Keller on the PWTorch Livecast earlier today. I suspect HBK has already worked his last match. Then again, a big payday for a match with his best buddy might be enough to make him reconsider. I would certainly make the phone call just in case.
Shane McMahon: We all assumed we’d see a Hunter vs. Shane showdown match at some point. The storyline writes itself, but who knows what their relationship is and whether they would want to share the ring together. For that matter, who knows if the match would appeal to Hunter if he’s looking to deliver a strong in-ring performance rather than a big stunt Shane match.
AJ Styles: Keep in mind that Triple H and Samoa Joe are not technically Raw wrestlers. WWE would have no problem breaking the rules of the brand split for WrestleMania anyway, but in this case they wouldn’t be doing so. There are more than enough fans aware of Joe and AJ’s history outside WWE to tell the story that Joe agreed to take out Rollins for Hunter, and taking out Styles is for himself. I would prefer to see a Styles vs. Joe program more than a Styles vs. Hunter match, but this beats the hell out of the Styles vs. Shane speculation.
John Cena: There are rumors of Cena working a mixed tag match at WrestleMania, which does nothing for me. Cena and Hunter have WWE history, and it’s well known that Cena and Joe broke in together. Cena working with Joe and Hunter is better use of Cena than the rumored tag match with Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse.
Kevin Owens: I have tried to limit the list to wrestlers who do not seem to have a set WrestleMania program. And while I suspect that Owens is penciled in for a match with Chris Jericho, this would be an opportunity to turn Owens babyface. If Owens drops the title at Fastlane, then Hunter could punish him by unleashing Joe on him the next night. This scenario feels like a long shot, but Owens will be a terrific babyface at some point.
Chris Jericho: Another long shot. What if Jericho accidentally costs his best friend the championship at Fastlane? In this scenario, Owens would still be aligned with Hunter and Joe, and the three of them ganging up on the popular Jericho would make him a sympathetic babyface. It just feels rushed in terms of going right from the breakup with Owens into a match with Triple H at WrestleMania. That said, they could even turn Owens and Jericho for a fun tag match with heels Hunter and Joe at WrestleMania.