Predicting the next WWE ChampionS

As a big baseball fan, I enjoy all the advanced metrics that have been created to help evaluate players and teams and to predict future behavior. Though professional wrestling outcomes are predetermined, they cannot be truly random due to the nature of humans being involved in determining the outcome.

This caused me to wonder if there was any useful data I could use to help predict the next WWE title change. I gathered data from every single WWE champion from 1983 to present to help me try to make a reasonable prediction. During this period there were 105 title changes resulting in 37 different champions. 14 men have won the WWE title just once while 23 have earned multiple championships. For the purposes of this exercise, title reigns of less than one day are rounded up to 1 day e.g. Andre the Giant's brief time as champion before having the belt taken away will count for one day. The average reign lasts 100.6 days, with several men tied for the shortest reign at 1 day and Hulk Hogan with the longest time at the top, 1,474 days.

The following is an alphabetical list of every event the title has changed hands at, and how many times it has happened at that event. The data here is somewhat skewed as pay per views have largely come and gone over the past 30+ years. Not surprisingly, WrestleMania leads the way, with the WWE title changing hands there 18 times. The title has changed hands at Monday Night Raw 13 times. If one were to add House Shows into the total it would bring the number up to 17 title changes. I left it separate here, but a reasonable argument could be made to add it in with the either the Raw or SmackDown numbers. The other notable occasions for a title change are Survivor Series, 10 times, Royal Rumble, 7 times, and SummerSlam with 5.

Armageddon - 2

Backlash - 4

Breaking Point - 2

Bragging Rights - 1

ECW One Night Stand - 1

Elimination Chamber - 2

Extreme Rules - 2

Fatal 4-Way - 1

Halftime Heat - 1

Hell in a Cell - 2

House Show - 4

In Your House - 1

Judgment Day - 2

King of the Ring - 3

Money in the Bank - 1 (at the event, not all title changes via the briefcase)

New Year's Revolution - 1

Night of Champions - 2

No Mercy - 4

No Way Out - 3

Over the Edge - 1

Prime Time Wrestling - 1

Raw - 13

Royal Rumble - 7

SmackDown - 2

SummerSlam - 5

Survivor Series - 10

The Great American Bash - 1

The Main Event - 1

This Tuesday in Texas - 1

TLC - 1

Unforgiven - 3

Vengeance - 3

Wrestlemania - 18

On April 7, 2013 John Cena won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. With the average title reign in the WWE lasting roughly 100 days this points to Cena holding the title until the July 14, 2013 Money in the Bank pay per view, 99 days after WM or the following day's Monday Night Raw, in what would be his 100th day as champion. Does this indicate the title changing hands in July? Not necessarily. I mentioned there were 105 title changes since 1983. Hulk Hogan's 1,474 day reign skews the numbers, as do the 11 individuals with one day title reigns. I chose to remove these outliers. In doing so the average title reign drops from 100.6 days to 97.6 or 98 days. Of course, a 98 day title reign still puts John Cena in range to lose the title at Money in the Bank on his 99th day or Raw on his 100th day.

Predicting the next WWE ChampionS

If Cena were to retain the title until the following pay per view, SummerSlam, he will be the 134th day of his reign. SummerSlam has a stronger history of title changes than Money in the Bank, but it has also been held on 25 occasions to MITB's 3. 20% of SummerSlams result in a new WWE champion while 33% of MITB pay per views have had seen a new title holder, though this number is also likely skewed due to small sample size. The percentage for Raw is so low I am not going to calculate it. With all of this data I am going to make an educated guess that there is a new WWE Champion by the end of the July 14th Money in the Bank.

The question now becomes, who will be the next WWE Champion. 38% of WWE champions are first time title holders while 62% are former WWE Champions. On the active or semi-active roster as of today these are the personnel who fit into the latter category.

Alberto Del Rio

Batista

Big Show

Brock Lesnar

CM Punk

John Cena

Kane (currently one half of the tag team champions)

Randy Orton

Rey Mysterio

Sheamus

The Miz

The Rock

Triple H

Undertaker

Straight away we can remove Cena from the list, I'm pretty sure WWE would love to have a Cena vs Cena Main Event, right now science is holding them back though. That leaves 13 possible former WWE Champions that could take the belt off Cena at MITB. Due to the part time status of Brock Lesnar, the Rock, Undertaker, and Triple H I think it's safe to say it will probably not be one of these four. It's also likely that Rey Mysterio will not be in another WWE title match prior to what is expected an imminent retirement. The Miz currently resides on the mid card, having recently completed a 1 day "reign" as Intercontinental Champion. With those men out of the picture, it leaves Del Rio, Batista (expected to return soon), Big Show, Orton, and Sheamus as the once and most likely next WWE Champion.

Predicting the next WWE ChampionS

Leaving this group of 4 aside for a moment, how can we determine who is a candidate to be a first time champion by defeating John Cena? Perhaps new comers to the WWE Championship scene have held some other WWE title prior to the big prize. For this research I only counted WWE titles held prior to the WWE Championship as most wrestlers have held some form of championship prior to their time with WWE, e.g. Ric Flair's NWA titles are not included when evaluating him. Of the 37 individuals who have held the WWE Championship since 1983, 23 of them had held a different WWE title prior to winning the big one, 14, including Mr. McMahon, had no WWE title experience. Most recently, Alberto Del Rio won the WWE Championship in 2011, his first WWE title of any sort. Interestingly, we have the same split here as we did with those who won just one WWE Championship in their career - 14 and those with multiple title runs - 23.

The odds would then favor an individual who has already held some type of gold to go on and win the WWE Championship. At this point there are so many people on the roster who fit this description it is all but impossible to list each one of them. Keeping in mind that other wrestlers may win their first championship between today and when I expect to see a new champion, July 14th, I will list a few names that I think are more likely. Some of these men hold titles right now. It is likely though not impossible that if they still hold their current title at MITB they will not be the one to win the WWE Championship.

Christian

Daniel Bryan (currently one half of the tag team champions)

Dolph Ziggler (current WHC)

Jack Swagger

Mark Henry

As for candidates that have zero title experience but could potentially make the WWE Championship their first taste of WWE gold, several names come to mind.

Fandango

Ryback

With these last two lists, I have left off quite a few wrestlers who fit either category, notably Kofi Kingston, Chris Jericho, and all three members of the Shield. It is not that they could not end up the next champion, just that I feel it is highly unlikely. Now we will take a look at the consolidated list and attempt to determine who will be the next WWE Champion.

Alberto Del Rio

Batista

Big Show

Christian

CM Punk

Daniel Bryan

Dolph Ziggler

Fandango

Jack Swagger

Kane

Mark Henry

Randy Orton

Ryback

Sheamus

We're left with 14 names. This is where things become much less scientific. If I were to choose one individual from each of the three groups (former WWE Champion, former Champion, yet to be Champion) I would narrow it down to:

Batista

Daniel Bryan

Ryback

It is difficult to choose Batista ahead of his cohort, as he has been out of the WWE for some time, and still has not been officially confirmed as part of any upcoming events. Similarly, Daniel Bryan is a difficult choice as he is currently enjoying a successful run as a tag team champion. Ryback was an easier choice from his group, as he has the size advantage over Fandango, and has appeared on quite a few pay per views over the last year. Of course, his recent attack on Cena is another factor.

Now that we've come this far, let's pick a winner. In my mind, all signs point to David Batista beating John Cena at Money in the Bank to be the next WWE Champion.