This past weekend at the WWE Backlash press conference, Paul “Triple H” Levesque announced that the World Heavyweight Championship tournament will begin tonight on Raw. The tournament features twelve stars from Raw and Smackdown competing in four, triple threat quarterfinal matches, followed by singles matches in the semi-finals and finals. WWE confirmed the following wrestlers for the tournament over the weekend in a video shared on social media:
- Cody Rhodes
- Damian Priest
- Finn Bálor
- Seth “Freakin” Rollins
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- The Miz
- AJ Styles
- Austin Theory
- Bobby Lashley
- Rey Mysterio
The winners from the Raw and Smackdown semi-final matches are set to square off in the finals at WWE Night of Champions later this month. PWInsider reported earlier today that the expected matches for tonight’s Raw are Rollins vs Priest vs Nakamura and Rhodes vs Miz vs Balor.
Ahead of the tournament kicking off, I thought I would take a look at each of the competitors’ chances and give them arbitrary odds of winning. Feel free to tell me how very right or wrong I am on Twitter, @Nick_Hausman.
Seth Rollins: 1 in 2
Seth Rollins is already reportedly the front-runner to win the tournament, so we will go ahead and give him the best odds at 1 in 2. Rollins is more than deserving of a world title run at this point in his career and the fans are insanely behind the manic architect at the moment. With both he and Rhodes competing in the opening rounds, on the same show, it appears we won’t see a rematch between the two for the title. However, barring an upset in his triple-threat bout, it is possible the duo will main event Raw, likely with Rollins going over.
Cody Rhodes: 1 in 6
While Rollins may be the backstage favorite, this is still WWE, and anything can happen. Rhodes did business “the right way” at WrestleMania 39 when he returned from launching the competition to put over the company’s marquee name, Roman Reigns. Now, on his quest to win WWE’s top prize, he’s already rolled through Brock Lesnar, and another shot at gold shouldn’t be counted out. While all signs point to Rollins, don’t be surprised if Rhodes shocks the universe tonight as there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping The American Nightmare.
Damian Priest: 1 in 8
Damian Priest put in some of his best work yet last night at WWE Backlash. In his backyard of Puerto Rico, Priest assumed the role of villain and expertly guided Bad Bunny through a match that had fans on the edge of their seat. While The Judgment Day’s muscle wasn’t victorious, he certainly opened some eyes in regard to his potential as a top player. If anyone could shock the world and take out Rollins in the quarterfinals, it might be Priest. How he would fare against someone from Smackdown, like Edge, in the finals, would be up in the air.
Finn Balor: 1 in 12
Balor has undoubtedly played his role as quasi-The Judgment Day leader well since the fall of Edge. If Rhodes is unable to make it out of his quarterfinal match, perhaps because of Lesnar interference, Balor could find himself in the semi-finals. Having recently seen a banger Miz vs Rollins match on Raw, Balor would be a more fresh opponent for the former SHIELD member.
The Miz: 1 in 20
As I alluded to in my Balor breakdown, Miz just seems like the odd man out here. His work as of late has been very entertaining but that has long been the story of his career, very entertaining and only to be pulled into the world title picture when absolutely needed. At the moment, he doesn’t seem needed as there are several talents that would benefit more by being in the world title picture, and because of that, I don’t see The Miz in the semi-finals tonight.
Shinsuke Nakamura: 1 in 40
I really want to see Nakamura shock me tonight but it just doesn’t seem likely. Rollins is heavily favored and Priest is coming off the buzziest performance of his career, leaving Nakamura a little lost in the shuffle. Being lost in the shuffle seems to be Nakamura’s MO in WWE, unfortunately. Perhaps I am wrong but it seems likely Nakamura will put on a great performance and then move onto some kind of mid-card title feud.
Edge: 1 in 4
Edge has to be considered the front-runner to win from the Smackdown brand. In what was possibly his final WWE WrestleMania match, the multi-time champion could have done the honors for Finn Balor inside Hell In A Cell. Instead, the former Judgment Day leader defeated The Demon and sent a message that he is still very much a player in the ring. Having announced his tentative plans to retire in 2023 last year, there’s only so much time to notch world title wins his belt. Crazy things happen at WWE’s premium live events in Saudi Arabia, maybe another Edge world title win could be one of them.
Bobby Lashley: 1 in 8
If Edge isn’t the man to win the Smackdown side of the tournament, it could be Lashley instead. The big man has been slapping meat with Bronson Reed as of late but could easily be reinserted back into the main event picture. Even when his program with Bray Wyatt fell apart, WWE still made sure to have something for Lashley to do, even if it was just winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal and waving to the crowd at WrestleMania. Perhaps bigger things could be on the horizon but it still seems doubtful he wins the whole thing.
AJ Styles: 1 in 16
It’s tough to give any of the Smackdown talent good odds because if they win, one would think they would be drafted to Raw with the title. That’s not confirmed but in order to follow through on the intent of creating a new title, having one on each brand would make the most sense, and would require talent being shuffled around, again, if a Smackdown talent wins. Styles is back, which is great, but he is in a stable with The O.C. and there’s a lot you can do with him outside the main event picture. Especially if you consider a possible Bloodline vs O.C. feud.
Rey Mysterio: 1 in 30
Fans love Rey Mysterio and wouldn’t object to a world title win but he’s got so much going on at the moment that doesn’t require him to be in the main event picture. He’s been wonderful about creating meaningful non-title programs with his son, The Judgment Day, LWO, Bad Bunny, and really anyone else he’s been paired with. A great addition to the tournament to give it credibility but very likely not the winner.
Austin Theory: 1 in 45
Let’s really think this through. Theory is the sitting United States Champion. So, if he wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, he will have two titles like Roman Reigns did and create a similar problem. How would he go about defending both titles? Would he defend one less frequently? Would he be sent to Raw with one or both titles? It’s a lot to think about. So much so that my head hurts. I don’t see it happening.
Sheamus: 1 in 50
Again, what are we even doing? Is Sheamus really going to win this, and then leave his Brawling Brutes to go defend a world title on Raw? I don’t think so. Money In The Bank is taking place in the UK and the red-haired star’s odds of winning the contract are much greater.