Which of WWE's young lions could become king?

In the jungle, there can only be one king. But there have never been any shortage of challengers to the lofty throne occupied by the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, WWE Champion CM Punk and Triple H in the land of WWE. Those alpha males have managed to keep a firm hold on the top spot thus far, but we at WWE.com feel the winds of change stirring in the jungle.

The recent influx of talent into the WWE roster has been impossible to ignore, and so has the impact of that talent. These young Superstars and Divas are doing more than winning matches, they’re distinguishing themselves in their first weeks out, and the opportunity for new kings to step up and make a name for themselves has never been riper. Far be it from us to predict the future, but don’t be surprised if some of these upstarts reach for the brass ring sooner rather than later. Through their charisma, their style or their sheer brute strength, these are the six young lions (and one lioness) who are best suited to become the new kings of the squared circle.

WWE Universe, who do you think will become the new king of the squared circle? Share your thoughts at #wweyounglions.

Ryback

Ryback unleashes his extraordinary strength and unique arsenal of moves on Heath Slater.

On a list of young lions, where does a man who possesses the ability to kill a lion with his bare hands fall?

It’s hard to overstate the potential that lies within Ryback, one of WWE’s scariest new Superstars. Since his debut on the April 6 episode of SmackDown, the monster rookie has decimated opponents at an alarming rate, leaving a trail of pain and suffering in his wake. The fierce competitor’s utter dominance can be attributed to his seemingly superhuman strength and voracious appetite for destruction.

As his collection of felled victims continues to pile up, it may only be a matter of time before the monstrous Superstar challenges for a major title.

Ryback is known to make proclamations at the end of his matches — if you want to call his one-sided slaughters “matches,” that is — and one in particular has WWE.com thinking about a possible future face-off of epic proportions. After destroying his opponent one Friday night, Ryback made reference to his own domination in the SmackDown waters as he shouted, pointedly, “Shark swimming with dolphins!”

The Great White Sheamus may have a thing or two to say about that, though, and just the thought of the World Heavyweight Champion colliding with the monster that is Ryback has “WrestleMania Moment” written all over it.

Antonio Cesaro

Teddy Long gets a seat in the front to watch Antonio Cesaro compete against Alex Riley and then kiss Aksana.

The sky is the limit for SmackDown’s Antonio Cesaro. This proud Swiss-born Superstar has been exceedingly impressive in his first matches on SmackDown, displaying incredible strength and agility. Throw in a high profile relationship with Aksana, and you have a recipe for ascendancy through the WWE ranks.

Once banned from competing in European rugby leagues due to “excessive aggression,” Cesaro has the perfect temperament for the squared circle. Possessing a unique arsenal that includes a vicious European Uppercut, he will be a major challenge for any opponent.

As ruthless as he’s shown he can be inside the ring, the Swiss-born Superstar is even more heartless outside the squared circle, as he’s made out with Aksana right in front of her ex, Teddy Long, without even a hint of remorse for the former GM. While that might not be the most admirable trait in a human being, here in WWE, it’s bound to make an impact.

Perhaps the fiery up-and-comer will look to cement his ruthlessness by striking at the heart of the former Team Teddy members. The Swiss-born star would make a dangerous challenger to Team Teddy captain Santino Marella’s United States Championship or even Kofi Kingston & R-Truth’s titles if the right partner presented himself.

Whatever he decides to do, one thing’s for sure: Antonio Cesaro is going to do so in style.

Darren Young & Titus O’Neil

Santino Marella & Zack Ryder team up to take on the cocky and confident Titus O'Neil & Darren Young.

How much is one dynamic, hungry tag team fresh out of the gate worth? According to Darren Young & Titus O’Neil, “millions of dollars.” Still, it’s tough to put a price tag on a duo with this much hype and the propensity to live up to it week after week. Young and O’Neil put the WWE Universe on notice their first week up from WWE NXT, when they defeated the Usos on SmackDown, and kept up their winning ways with a decisive victory over “Team Co-bro,” Zack Ryder and U.S. Champion Santino Marella.

In a Tag Team division that is primarily populated by newly minted pairings (like Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger and current champions R-Truth & Kofi Kingston) O’Neil and Young bring a refreshingly old school mentality to the championship picture: two young bucks who came up together in NXT, honed their craft and don’t need lag time to learn how to mesh their styles together in the ring. The hard-hitting mat work of Young, combined with the showmanship and power of “The Big Deal” has made for fantastic TV so far. Although they already lost to Truth & Kingston once, we don’t expect O’Neil and Young to take the loss lying down. They were made for the challenge of becoming tag champs.

Oh, and they’ve got personality, too. We call that combination priceless.

WWE Universe, who do you think will become the new king of the squared circle? Share your thoughts at #wweyounglions.

Brodus Clay

The Miz and The Funasaurus go one-on-one.

Brodus Clay knows how to get downandput opponents down for the count, too. He's part beast, part rump shaker and one of the fastest-rising Superstars in WWE.

Since debuting on the January 9, 2012, edition of Raw SuperShow, The Funkasaurus has torn through the competition like a wrecking ball, dismantling his foes one by one with a barrage of headbutts, suplexes and big splashes. Former champions like Dolph Ziggler and The Miz have tried their best to wear down the mighty Brodus, but they couldn't match up to his combination of brute force and high adrenaline. With a swagger reminiscent of Sir Mix-a-Lot, the momma-callin' mammoth has also become a favorite of the WWE Universe by grooving into their hearts.

It's only a matter of time before The Funkasaurus charges into the title picture in WWE. He has the towering size to stand toe-to-toe with World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus and the dexterity to escape out of WWE Champion CM Punk's Anaconda Vise (in other words, good luck trying to lock the submission hold on one of his beefy arms). Even United States Champion Santino Marella would be wise to keep a close eye on his occasional tag team partner, because when Brodus gets hungry, even his allies aren't safe from being chomped.

There's no telling when a Superstar will be able to finally knock this fearsome predator from the undefeated ranks. It might be time to trade in that fedora for a crown.

Maxine

Kaitlyn faces off against Maxine on NXT.

As new Divas Champion Layla’s shocking return confirmed, anything can happen in WWE’s Divas division. With the stunning firing of The Bella Twins, the defeat of dominant former champion Beth Phoenix at WWE Over the Limit, AJ’s battle with emotional matters of the heart and Eve entrenched in her Executive Administrator role, perhaps the timing has never been better for an up-and-coming beauty to emerge into prominence. And that femme fatale is Maxine.

Dazzling, calculating and volatile, Maxine is a no-nonsense Diva who gets what she wants. After a successful run on WWE NXT, the foul-tempered bombshell debuted on Raw SuperShow on May 7. Although at a glance she appears beautiful and composed, Maxine is a fierce and feral beast inside the squared circle – and often outside, too. She fights dirty, screaming and pulling hair, and many opponents have learned the hard way that once she locks in her Dragon Sleeper finisher, it’s lights out. When Maxine can’t get what she wants in the ring, she has shown no hesitation to use her feminine wiles to manipulate men, as Derrick Bateman, Johnny Curtis and William Regal have all fallen under her spell.

Without a doubt, Maxine will go on to utilize her varied talents on Raw, live up to her great potential and make her mark in the Divas division. As her entrance music declares, “If you want it, come and get it.”

Damien Sandow

Damien Sandow makes his in-ring debut against Yoshi Tatsu.

Perhaps the only young lion with the intelligence and gravitas to rise up as a new king of WWE is Damien Sandow.

In fact, the cultured Superstar would likely embrace the “lion” nickname in the Buddhist sense of the term. According to that particular philosophy, a lion importantly symbolizes regality, strength and power – all attributes that the self-professed “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” believes he brings to the table in his pursuit to enlighten the WWE Universe by any means necessary.

Rather than merely aspiring to be a new king of WWE, however, the tasteful titan would likely settle for nothing less than replacing The King of Kings himself: Triple H. A refined figure like Sandow may take some pleasure in becoming a 13-time World Champion like The Game, but he already makes no secret of his aim to be thought of as an intellectual mastermind in the ring.

So, why should a young lion settle for a royal reputation if he clearly seeks to prove himself as WWE’s newest Cerebral Assassin?

WWE Universe, who do you think will become the new king of the squared circle? Share your thoughts at #wweyounglions.

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