As the dust settles on another AEW pay per view, we’ve seen a changing of the guard at the top of the men’s roster. The greatest wrestling story of 2021 has come to a conclusion, with CM Punk the new World Champion after an admirably patient build.
In the short term, it’ll be exciting to see Punk in this position and carrying the company forward, but it’s intriguing to imagine what’s going to come next. The Best In The World is 43 years old, seems genuinely more interested in fostering young talent than pushing himself, and isn’t on the longest of contracts, so it’s not hard to imagine this being a relatively short reign.
With that in mind, thought goes to the next in line for the title. We’ve gone a little beyond that, though, and mapped out a course for the next 10 holders of the increasingly prestigious belt.
Predicting wrestling storytelling is, as ever, a fool’s errand, and as we’ve seen lately the business can be a volatile and unpredictable place at the best of times. With a locker room as stacked as AEW’s, though, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
10. Adam Cole
Let’s start with the man who seems the obvious choice to be next in line. Adam Cole made his AEW debut in grand fashion last September, and since then he has been presented as a true megastar. He has barely lost a match since, and while he tends to win in cheap fashion, he has been dealt major victories, culminating on Sunday with the Owen Hart Tournament.
He’s massively over with one of the best entrances in the business, has a great faction behind him for storytelling purposes, and can keep up with the best of them on the mic. He’s been cited by Jim Ross repeatedly as a future world champ.
Perhaps most importantly, Punk/Cole isn’t a match we’ve seen before. The two feel evenly matched in the ring; it would also give AEW another chance to cite the comparative styles of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels devotees.
It would feel wasteful not to try a Punk heel turn while he’s still around, but now’s probably not the time. Cocky heel Adam Cole dethroning uber-face Punk would give the Panama City Playboy some useful heat - and open the door to.