With Hell in a Cell 2017 in the books, Sami Zayn planning a Festival of Friendship with his old-new bestie Kevin Owens, and Baron Corbin holding a championship, it’s time to consider who is worthy of meeting The Modern Day Maharaja, WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, in singles competition. No doubt, as SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan did when determining Randy Orton’s number one contendership prior to Backlash 2017, a number of Superstars will be considered for the spot most recently held, and presumably vacated, by Shinsuke Nakamura on the heels of his second loss in a row to the champ. So, who’s in and who’s out in this process? Let’s take a look at some possible contenders based on a few criteria.
- The wrestler must have won a match at Hell in a Cell or recently lost a title, finalizing a feud.
- The wrestler must have a positive win-loss record in 2017.
- The wrestler must be a former WWE, Universal, or World Champion.
#1 Qualifier: Kevin Owens
With a huge win over Shane McMahon at Hell in a Cell and momentum after his attacks on Sami Zayn and Mr. McMahon himself, Owens is positioned to be a top contender. While he does not have a solid win-loss record (8-10 on SDL and PPV in 2017), he is a former Universal Champion.
#2 Qualifier: AJ Styles
While AJ lost his United States Championship to Baron Corbin at Hell in a Cell and failed to regain it the following Tuesday, he remains in the conversation for a WWE Title shot. His win-loss record (17-16 on SDL and PPV in 2017) puts him barely above water, but his reign as WWE Champion will always bring his name to the top of the roster.
#3 Qualifier: Bobby Roode
A new face to SDL, Bobby Roode brings years of bona fides along with his GLORIOUS robes and impact moves. He is currently undefeated on SDL and in WWE PPVs in 2017, just coming off a victory over Dolph Ziggler at Hell in a Cell. Depending on how Roode bides his time, he may aim for Baron Corbin’s US Title first before stepping up to the WWE Title, but in the Era of the Maharaja, anything is possible.
#4 Qualifier: The New Day
The New Day is an enigma in this contendership puzzle. None of the members are former heavyweight singles champions, although Kofi Kingston has four reigns as Intercontinental champ and three as the US champ to his name. The entire team is credited as the longest-reigning tag champs in WWE history, with Kingston coming in as the longest cumulative tag champ in WWE history with a total of nine tag team titles to his name. The New Day lost their match against The Usos at Hell in a Cell and have moved on as Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin are now #1 Contenders for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. It has long been known that The New Day consider winning the WWE Title the ultimate goal for the entire team. Kingston’s SDL/PPV win-loss is 4-3, the same as Big E, with Xavier Woods coming in at .500 (3-3).
With the way the SDL roster is shaking out, these seem to be the primary contenders for Jinder Mahal’s championship. While others always remain an option (Randy Orton, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Kane, Rusev, or another match against Nakamura), these men seem the most likely. Only time will tell who gets their shot at the Modern Day Maharrrrrrrrraja.