In the past, Paul Heyman has claimed that he'd be open to working with a performer other than Brock Lesnar, but that he'd want to have some distance from his lengthy run as the advocate for "The Beast." But with what we saw on the most recent edition of Monday Night Raw, the stage has been set for a dramatic and abrupt jump from Lesnar to a new client, should WWE want to make that move.
The obvious question that follows is who could benefit most from having the legendary Heyman as their representative. Would a veteran in need of a lifeline and a fresh start be the best call? A promising up-and-comer with a world of potential? Or even one of the WWE's marquee talents, as a way to push them over a plateau to new heights?
In reality, almost anyone on the Raw or SmackDown rosters would get a bump from having Heyman in their corner, but five performers in particular stand out as being either the likeliest to benefit or the likeliest landing spot, should Heyman's services become available in the future.
At the moment, Drew McIntyre has a pretty good thing going with Dolph Ziggler. He's already proven to be more valuable than a simple mouthpiece since his re-debut on Raw in April. He's stood out among the crowded mid-to-upper-tier talent in his matches on Raw thus far, including a pair of matchups against Seth Rollins and a triple-threat match against Roman Reigns and Finn Balor.
At some point in the future, the Intercontinental championship, or some other driving force, will put a wedge between the two allies and McIntyre will have to go off on his own. Most splits in professional wrestling tend to see one performer go toward the darkness and the other to the light, regardless of where both partners began on the spectrum. Heyman getting into McIntyre's ear about how he isn't utilizing his potential to its fullest would be a smart and original way to break the team apart without having to turn either Ziggler or McIntyre into a good guy.
McIntyre has world champion written all over him between his look and his in-ring skills, and though he's flashed the ability to do serious damage on the microphone as well, having Heyman on the microphone speaking on his behalf would put a lot of weight behind McIntyre's actions and potential. An Intercontinental championship run right off the bat, and world title aspirations soon thereafter. Because the McIntyre-Ziggler partnership still has legs, this would give Heyman a chance to catch his breath and cool his jets before making his next big move in WWE.
One of the most commonly suggested pairings for Heyman would put him alongside another former UFC champion and gifted athlete in Ronda Rousey. It would be an easy fit to be sure, with Rousey already proving her in-ring prowess and intensity in her first two major matches while taking to the microphone more slowly than the ring.
Heyman would allow Rousey to take on her more natural short-tempered, short-on-words persona that helped make her a global star in the UFC. It would also push her toward the darkness, at a period in time that the Raw and SmackDown rosters are both lacking an intensely physical heel that could either be a champion or step in as a serious contender at a moment's notice beyond their champions.
With Rousey's WWE career still in its embryonic stages, a pairing with Heyman could either happen right away to give her a rocket boost on her upward trajectory, or it could happen as a way to keep that momentum rolling once she climbs to the top of the mountain. The only major question is whether or not Heyman pairing up with someone with similar personality traits and bonafides would be too close to a retread.
There's also the possibility of Heyman being a key figure opposite Rousey to build up a future contender.
For the better part of two years, Asuka ran roughshod through the NXT women's division. Her undefeated streak and run as NXT women's champion will likely never be touched, and the start to her run as part of the SmackDown roster started strongly enough. Though her streak came to an end, Asuka's match against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania was one of the standout performances of the night, but the months that followed haven't done Asuka any favors.
Heyman would be a perfect fit as Asuka's advocate, with a partnership that would instantly elevate Asuka back toward the top of the pecking order in either the Raw or SmackDown women's divisions. He's even expressed a desire to work with Asuka opposite Rousey, and the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Asuka is the best women's wrestler inside of the ring that the WWE has at this moment. While she took care of business in big-time matches against the likes of Rousey, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Ember Moon and anyone else that crossed her path, Heyman could recite all of her accomplishments and take most of the pressure off of Asuka on the microphone. Asuka could go back to being a performer with a serious, crazy edge, often shouting in Japanese, and that would give her occasional promos in English and words exchanged with her opponents more weight.
If we're talking about the likeliest candidates for a Heyman pairing in the short term, Reigns makes the most sense, if only because he's the one opposite Heyman and Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam in a few weeks' time. There are some major hurdles to clear to make this one make sense, though that hasn't stopped the WWE in the past.
First and foremost, it would mean Reigns finally turning his back on the fans. Granted, he's already getting boos from the majority of the crowd, but WWE has showed a major apprehension toward moving away from Reigns as the John Cena-esque face of the franchise for everything from media appearances to award shows and charity efforts.
The other issue would be the tensions and past between Heyman and Reigns, though WWE has shown it has very little with muddying the history of anything that happened more than six weeks ago if it makes telling a story in present day easier. Would Heyman's cult of personality and his continued ties to the Universal championship be enough to deal with Reigns' issues with a split crowd reaction and little meaningful character change or development since the breakup of The Shield more than four years ago? Or would a dramatic departure in direction do even more harm just as Reigns finally gets his hands back on a world title?
In reality, there's only one way to find out.
Braun Strowman seems to be counterintuitive in terms of a guy who would benefit from a partnership with Paul Heyman, but hear me out. Working with Reigns to dethrone Lesnar for what he did this past Monday night wouldn't fit well with the story that's been told thus far, but bringing in a mercenary with the means to instantly dethrone Lesnar once the SummerSlam main event is over makes all the sense in the world.
To this point, destroying giant things and bulldozing through people has worked well for Strowman. If he's going to be a singles champion in WWE and have a long, sustained run at the top, he needs to develop and evolve along the way. Strowman has all the charisma in the world and an ability to connect to the fans, and there's a lot of history of wrestlers getting the biggest and most enthusiastic reactions being the most effective bad guys by flipping everything on its head with one big act of betrayal.
In his current state, Strowman doesn't seem a clean pairing with Heyman, but over the past year Strowman has proven to be a character that's smarter than he may appear on the surface with an ability to be calculating and ruthless. As Lesnar enjoys the twilight of his Universal championship run, what better way could there be for Heyman to take the next step of his career than molding a young, giant, athletic performer with an almost endless supply of potential?
Stop me if you've heard this story before.