1. Zoro’s role in Wano
Since Sanji had a whole arc about his connection with his family that gave us plenty of development for him, a lot of people jumped into the “Wano is going to be Zoro’s arc” idea. Sincerely, I think that it is partially true, but not in the same sense as how Whole Cake was Sanji’s arc. Sanji was a pivotal part of the WCI arc, so his development and focus was absoutely necessary for it to happen: Without Sanji, that arc wouldn’t have happened, or at least, it wouldn’t have happened neither before Wano nor with the same consequences for the crew.
Zoro’s involvement in Wano on the other hand comes from a completely different aproach. Zoro has indeed conections with the country thanks to Ryuma and we’ve had some glipses of how the Shimotsuki village has some ties with Wano too. But let’s be real: Zoro doesn’t care about that. Up until now, he was excited to go to Wano because it is a country of powerful samurai that he could fight to prove himself as a swordsman. Or at least that’s how it was up until chapter 930: Now Zoro has a bond, first with the Ebisu town citizens, and second with Hiyori. Yasuie’s death marked a personal afront with the shogun at the eyes of Zoro, who was even trying to kill him. Sincerely, I don’t remember Zoro that angry in the whole series despite how many awful things we’ve seen (specially in Dressrosa or Alabasta).
And this is where we are going: Wano has two main villains (Kaido and Orochi) and Oda can’t make Luffy defeat both of them. This is why, narratively speaking, Zoro has way more chances to become an important asset in the defeat of Orochi (being it directly or indirectly). Not just because of Yasuie’s legacy, but because, as I said, he also shares a conection with another character of Wano, who we know that it is pivotal into the shogun downfall: Hiyori. She said that she wanted to kill him with her own hands, which is also an aditional motivation for Zoro to go against the shogun.
2. Zoro’s strenght
Well, here is where we enter the part where many can argue to me that we don’t know the true power of Zoro and that we can’t judge him in that regard: Yes, I know that we don’t really know Zoro’s full power yet, but the narrative is what it is. Since the timeskip, Zoro has fought really weak enemies: In Fishman Island he had no one that could stand a chance against him and both Monet and Pica were way too overconfident in their devil fruits. Monet didn’t even had Haki, she was way to weak against someone like Zoro, and Pica’s main hability was a fruit that it is broken to say the least, but once Zoro found him it was over. The only important fight he had was Killer, and despite that there are too many variables: Zoro was poisoned and distracted, Killer was mentally and physically tortured and didn’t have his usual weapons, and Oda probably ended that fight fast because he expects the anime to add a bit more into it latter. This gives us a bad way of measuring Zoro’s power, but imo we can always mesure his power in comparison with our main character because narratively speaking, Zoro can’t be stronger than Luffy.
It can be argued that up until Enies Lobby both were close in strenght. But after that, and with the implementation of Gears, Haki and the fact that Luffy grows with every fight, I guess it’s common sense to say that Luffy is way stronger than Zoro right now. Luffy has had problems in his three main fights in the New World: against Doflamingo it was the time limit of Gear Fourth, with Cracker it was a bad matchup and with Katakuri it was the Advanced Observation Haki of the Commander. In two out of these three fights he could have died, but despite that we can all agree that Luffy is right now first commander level, a level that he reached in Whole Cake Island after fighting Katakuri.
The important here is that Luffy had to fight 2 strong enemies (Doflamingo and Cracker) before he could defeat the strongest Commander of an Emperor, and even with that he had it difficult. Given that, it just feels wrong that, without any stepping stone, Zoro could jump up to where Luffy is right now. As I said, we don’t know King’s power either apart of his devil fruit and what he did with the Queen Mama Chanter. But again we can go with how Oda builds up villains: It doesn’t have much sense that King would be weaker that Katakuri, specially since as far as we’ve seen, Kaido is a guy that respects strenght above everything.
The main reasoning here is that since King has a sword and is the first Commander of Kaido, he has to fight Zoro. But in that same reasoning goes the fact that then Sanji has to fight Queen, who can also be considered a swordsman: He has two swords with him all the time. We’ve always followed that formula, but it doesn’t mean that Wano will be like that. In fact, this arc seems to follow a different aproach and as I say it kind of feels like Zoro will “lead” the Orochi subplot while Luffy leads the Kaido plot. Another example I can bring up: Remember when in WCI everyone said that Sanji would fight Katakuri just because he dodged one of his attacks? Remember when everyone said that Luffy would beat Big Mom because otherwise there would be no other arc in the series where Luffy would fight her? Well, look at how those theories ended up. This is why I don’t think that neither Zoro or Sanji could fight the two strongest commanders of an emperor right now, not even with their new power ups, which I believe that will serve other purposes but that’s another theory that would be way too long to explain here. As much, I believe that Zoro could probably defeat Jack, but it wouldn’t be easy for him. But as I know that this is just conjeture, I’ll go with another reason why Zoro vs King doesn’t really have much sense.
3. There are too many characters in this arc
This is the main problem with Wano. Just think about the huge number of characters present in Wano and the ones that have been implied to be part of it:
On one side, the Ninja-Pirate-Mink-Samurai Alliance (the Straw Hats, Heart Pirates, the 9 Red Scabbards, the Minks, the Yakuza under Hyogoro…), which will enventually have the Kid Pirates at their side. It also feels like at the very least, Drake and Hawkins will end up switching sides and it also looks like Marco will show up now that Weevil will be too occupied fighting the Marines.
On the other side, the Beasts Pirates have Kaido, 3 Calamities, the Flying Six, at least 8 Numbers and Apoo. That not even counting regular Headliners. Then we have Orochi and his forces, which includes the Oniwabanshu, the Mimawarigumi and the Yakuza loyal to him. And then there is the Big Mom Pirates with Big Mom, Smoothie, Perospero and Daifuku among others.
See? There’s no way that Oda would let characters that we will see again steal screen time from anothers that will be done once this arc is over. Oda has done that before (Rebecca for example), but we are talking about another members of the worst generation or important characters. For example, I doubt that Hawkins, Drake, Law or Marco are going to be relevant again up until the final arc, and that if they don’t die in Wano. I feel like Marco vs King sounds really posible since both can fly, can use fire and both have the same rank. The same goes with how Queen vs Drake (with Hawkins as a suport) sounds like a cool option to me. With this I’m not underestimating our main cast, but Zoro and Sanji will be present up until the end of the series so having them grow fight by fight until they can stand toe to toe against the blackbeard pirates seems more logical than if Oda made them solve all the problems while interesting characters that have been presented for more than 400 chapters are there for nothing.
4. Then, who?
Wano is the country of samurai, but even with all the hype surrounding them we haven’t even met any strong samurai that was an enemy… or have we? Despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to be strictly loyal to Orochi and it even looks like he is following his own agenda, Kyoshiro seems to be set up as the match up for Zoro this arc. Why?
We know that he is really strong. After all, he managed to stop a slash from an angry Zoro and he could keep up with him for some time. They both know Hiyori, and I’m pretty sure that when she said that Toko was one of the few ones that knew her true identity she was talking about Kyoshiro. Despite that, my theory is that he is using her for her own interests, and at the end of the day Zoro will have to fight him if he wants to “save her” and make her free.
So to end this, if it has to happen Oda will probably make it work but as of now, it doesn’t look like it is the direction that he is taking. It feels like Zoro will prove himself against the strongest samurai of Wano as a stepping stone to end up fighting against Shiryu of the Blackbeard Pirates later on, instead of fighting someone that could be dealt by another characters that need their own moments with more urge (like Marco and the rest of the worst generation). I’d like to know what do you guys think about this.
*Theory by 2stepsfromglory