Zack Ryder's rapid rise up the WWE ladder was halted by Kane a couple months ago, and the Long Island Iced Z has never been able to reclaim his spot since healing his storyline injuries. That adds some intrigue to their match on the Over the Limit pre-show on Sunday.
The company has been experimenting with the pre-show concept over the last couple pay-per-views as a way to squeeze one more match onto the card. It gets broadcast on YouTube and WWE.com, replacing what previously would have been a dark match.
It's the perfect opportunity for a superstar struggling to find a direction to pick up a marquee victory without having to take up time on the actual show. That's certainly the category Ryder and Kane find themselves in right now.
Ryder looked unstoppable near the end of last year and early in 2012. He was finally receiving the push he'd been angling for since starting his YouTube show, and fans loved every second of it, giving him one of the biggest crowd reactions at every show.
He called it the Ryder Revolution. After winning the United States Championship at TLC, he was featured alongside CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as the company trotted out what looked like the next wave of stars.
But while Punk and Bryan have both watched their stocks skyrocket, Ryder has struggled. He lost his title on Raw back in January to Jack Swagger and has rarely managed to even make it on the main show ever since.
It's almost like Kane choke-slamming Ryder through the stage a couple months ago was a subliminal message by the creative team that Ryder was about to get buried.
Things haven't been going much better for Kane. Big things were expected from him when he returned with a masked gimmick, but more often than not he's simply been a main-event jobber for guys like John Cena and Randy Orton.
He did beat Orton at WrestleMania, but that was quickly offset by a Smackdown loss a couple nights later, ending any momentum the Big Red Monster had built up. He lost to Orton again at Extreme Rules, leaving him without a storyline over the past few weeks.
In a rare example of extended storyline continuation, Ryder attacked Kane during his Extreme Rules match, setting up the battle on Sunday.
Both superstars would really benefit from a victory to get them back on track, and that's the purpose of these pre-show matches. Ryder probably needs to win more because he's not an established veteran like Kane, but it's unclear if the WWE has any confidence in him to handle another push.
Either way, the feud should provide enough reason to watch the show on Sunday. Ryder's legion of fans will probably make it the most successful pre-show yet.