When John Cena first revealed his swollen, misshapen elbow a few weeks ago on Raw, there wasn't really any consideration given to the notion that he might miss SummerSlam. Love him or hate him, Cena's toughness and tenacity is never up for debate. At the time, he never elaborated on what the problem was, but it was unspoken common knowledge that Cena, once again, would work through injury. That's par for the course, that's part of being a WWE Superstar. If no one predicted that Cena would miss SummerSlam, then there shouldn't have been a single member of the WWE Universe who could have anticipated the pipebomb Cena would drop the next night on Raw. Cena stated that medical personnel had advised him to forfeit the SummerSlam match due to the fact that the fluid in his elbow was a direct result of a torn tricep. This injury wasn't just an injury where Cena could sit on the sidelines for a couple of weeks and then returning to performing. No, this injury would require surgery and would land Cena on the bench for anywhere for four to six months. Unprecedented.
With Sheamus already off television due to an injury he sustained at Money in the Bank, at first glance, the loss of Cena is a hard hit for WWE to take. After all, he is the face of the company and the man responsible for attracting more children to the product than anyone else in history. However, the temporary loss of both of these men is a blessing in disguise. For a long, long time, a handful of very talented men have waited patiently in line for the moment when they would be given the opportunity to grab the brass ring and step across the threshold into the main event picture. With current main eventers like Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and RVD leading the way, the shining moment for the future of wrestling has finally arrived. It is time for these men to step up, claim the WWE as their own, and make a name for themselves. THEIR time is now:
Damien Sandow: the intellectual savior of the unwashed masses has had his hands full as of late, losing two matches in a row cleanly to his former tag team partner. This rivalry has escalated rapidly since Money in the Bank, and has been Sandow's most relevant, exciting singles feud in recent memory. Cody Rhodes may give him fits, but Sandow can still sleep well at night, knowing that his World championship contract is safe. He may have one eye on Rhodes, but rest assured that Sandow's main concern is how the World title match at Night of Champions will unfold. Til then, the most intelligent course of action for Sandow would be to make sure that Rhodes does not convince him to put his contract on the line in a match against him.
Cody Rhodes: at Money in the Bank, the grandson of a plumber turned face for the first time since he teamed with Hardcore Holly, and the WWE Universe has taken to him as if he never played a heel role. His feud with Damien Sandow is fresh and entertaining, and with Rhodes coming out victorious on more than one occasion, it's evident that Rhodes' obvious talent has become unfettered. The commentators have already begun mentioning his name as a possible number one contender for the World title after he defeated Sandow twice. Del Rio should not ignore Rhodes approaching in his rear view; the Mexican Aristocrat should be certain that his days as champion are numbered.
Wade Barrett: Bad News Barrett is arguably the most underrated Superstar on this list. Though he has held the Intercontinental Title for the majority of 2013, he was also regularly booked to lose matches on Raw, often by tapping out. To continuously tap out or take pinfalls weekly on WWE's flagship show is an enormous indignity for someone of Barrett's physique, talent and potential. He was teetering precariously on jobber status for a period of time that was rather disconcerting. Luckily, he seems to have revisited his previous feud with The Miz. Although there is no title involved, at the very least the two will have a decent rivalry that should grab a good amount of TV time. Hopefully The Miz will then return to wrestling full time, and Barrett can make himself relevant again in the eyes of the casual fan. William Regal once labeled Barrett as the future "first ever British born World champion." For a veteran like Regal to see that level of potential in Barrett should speak to where Barrett's career should be currently, or will be soon.
Fandango: this is the man who should rightly be announced each week as your Intercontinental Champion, not Curtis Axel. This is not a slight on Axel; he was merely Fandango's replacement at Payback, chosen primarily due to his recent repackaging. The Fandango gimmick is a moneymaker, with Johnny Curtis committing 110% to the role. He is a talented showman, quirky and comical, and when his music hits, fans know they're in for a treat. With a good amount of air time freed up by the injuries to Cena and Sheamus, look for Fandango to crash more backstage segments, and dance his way across his opponents' faces, all the way to a push for the Intercontinental title.
The Real Americans: with the amount of mat wrestling knowledge and experience between them, Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger could probably defeat 80% of the locker room in a technical wrestling match. With Zeb Colter as their mouthpiece, the two draw attention and could certainly contend for the tag team titles. Neither Swagger nor Cesaro lack for in-ring talent, but more television time could afford them opportunities to work on their promos and charisma. Given the chance, The Real Americans could dominate the tag team division. Matches against The Shield would have potential to be instant classics.
In so many sports, the emergence of young talent occurs after an injury to the veteran. These six men listed above, as well as others like Dolph Ziggler and Ryback, who have main evented pay-per-views before, have the next five months to establish themselves as big game players. Depending on how their respective rehabs go, Sheamus and Cena will most likely return to the WWE in time for the Royal Rumble. When they do return, they will find that the main event landscape is vastly different than it was when they left. This is such a tremendous opportunity for so many young Superstars, and with three hours to fill on Raw, each will be vying for the top spot. The best part of it all is that we, as fans, will be along for the ride.