A number of wrestling industry insiders have speculated that Shane McMahon could be next in line to face Kofi Kingston for the WWE Championship, and that he may even have a realistic shot of claiming the gold.
Shane, 49, has always been heavily pushed as an on-screen character, but his status has reached new heights in recent months. He was victorious against The Miz at WrestleMania 35 (under Falls Count Anywhere rules) and Money In The Bank (inside a Steel Cage), and he even pinned Roman Reigns at Super ShowDown. Granted, none of his victories were squeaky-clean by any means (he needed assistance from Drew McIntyre to pin Roman, for instance), but he still had his hand raised nonetheless.
The original assumption was that Miz would defeat Shane at Mania, but McMahon continuously coming out on top against The A-Lister (including a quick pinfall over Miz, following the latter’s bouts against Elias and McIntyre, this past Tuesday on SmackDown) suggested that Miz was being used to promote Shane, rather than the opposite. Then, fans believed that it would be Roman to put Shane O Mac in his place at SSD, but obviously that didn’t happen either. In the meantime, Shane has built up an army of heels to back his cause, with The Revival on Raw and Elias on SmackDown, while Drew takes advantage of the Wild Card rule by appearing on both shows.
Though the Shane vs. Roman feud is far from over, there are growing whispers that McMahon could be placed in an even more high-profile story, one involving the current WWE Champion, Kofi Kingston. Kofi has been riding a huge wave of momentum over the past few months, and his push has only strengthened since capturing the WWE Title from Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. He overcame Bryan in a rematch and then pinned Kevin Owens at MITB. He also pinned Dolph Ziggler at Super ShowDown, and is almost certainly going to win their Steel Cage rematch at Stomping Grounds. In the meantime, he has not been defeated once on television since WM 35.
Indeed, Kofi’s reign seems to have no end in sight, but for his title run to truly go down in history, he needs fresh, believable competition. And right now, based on his on-screen perception if nothing else, Shane seems perfectly poised to target Kofi for the company’s richest prize, perhaps as soon as Extreme Rules in July, or at SummerSlam in August.
It would certainly be an attraction for the boss’ son to have a World Title opportunity on a major stage, but fans have already felt turned-off by Shane’s character in recent months. It largely stems from his last name being McMahon, but it also comes from his advancing age, his part-time status (though he has been a regular fixture of both shows since the spring, especially), and the fact that he is, at his core, a non-wrestler who is somehow able to keep up with and dominate his larger, tougher opponents. Even with an unofficial faction behind him, many followers find it hard to take Shane seriously, not least for his punches that could not break the proverbial paper bag.
Therefore, the prospect of Shane’s profile reaching an all-time peak of earning a WWE Championship opportunity on a PPV event is not one that fans are feeling excited about, and there could be complete outrage if Shane does indeed go on to win the gold, thus ending Kofi’s feel-good reign.
But perhaps such an outcome would not be a bad thing. If you can take Shane’s character for what it is, then you can realise that his character is deliberately delusional, that all his wins are questioned by the announcers to the point where nobody is meant to take him completely seriously, and his growing base of bodyguards make it clear that he has no chance of defeating bigger names on his own. As for his in-ring ability, Shane can certainly bring the goods against the right opponent in the right environment, and he can generate heat on the microphone as good as most of the heels that WWE has right now (even if the content of his promos is often dull).
There would be major heat on whomever dethroned Kingston, given his long journey and clear on-screen struggles just to win the belt in the first place. And his title run will have to end at some point, especially with SmackDown’s move to Fox this October meaning that there will be a greater emphasis on star names than there is at present. Long-term, Roman Reigns is destined to once again lift the WWE Title at some point, but having The Big Dog take the gold from Kofi would not go down well at all. Using Shane as a buffer, given his growing heat amongst fans, and having him hold the title for a brief period before losing it to Roman could be the most logical transition for WWE to use.
Nevertheless, this is all pure speculation at this point, and the early reaction to these rumours has not been particularly positive. Shane’s character is bound to receive his comeuppance at some point, so his continued heel push has a clear final destination, but we’ll have to wait and see if that comes while he has the WWE Championship wrapped around his waist.