It’s official: Alberto Del Rio is out of the No Way Out World title match with a concussion.
It couldn’t come at a worse time for WWE, given the suspensions and the injuries that have been handed out; tonight on Raw, WWE is going to name a new No. 1 contender for Sheamus’s title at Sunday’s PPV.
So, with only a week to build this feud, who is it going to be?
Ryback, Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro, Brodus Clay
If these guys had either 1) been around a bit longer, or 2) been built up as anything other than jobber-squashers, I could definitely see one of these guys stepping up to the plate and filling in.
Sandow is the toughest one to cut here, because his character lends itself to someone cocky enough to think he can step up already. However, I don’t think he has enough heat yet to pull it off.
Ryback would be an interesting choice, what with it being a face vs. face match, and they could play it as being a learning experience for the young stud; Sheamus beats him, then takes him under his wing, only for Ryback to eventually turn on him and they can feud properly. This would be a tricky one to pull off, given that it would take some time, but I think that this could be the best long-term option given that Vince wants to push him to the moon.
However, these guys just aren’t ready quite yet to take this spot. Then again, when Sheamus won the Breakthrough Battle Royal in 2009, a lot of people were saying the same thing about him (he had been around for only about six months when he got his shot at Cena), and the long-term results have shown that it was the right call.
If it were a month or two from now? Maybe. But not yet.
And NO, it’s not going to be Dean Ambrose either.
The Miz, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston
These are three guys that, depending on some other circumstances, may or may not be a part of the match; they are all likely to some degree, but can be written off for other reasons.
The Miz is off filming the new Marine movie, but if need be I’m sure that WWE could pull him back to help out. I know that there is some heat on him backstage (hence his recent sorta-burial), but he’s been in the top spot before and if nothing else could be counted on for a one-shot deal. If he can’t really do it, fine, WWE’s decision to de-push him is justified; if he can put on a great show, maybe his career is back on track.
Mark Henry is injured, but he has recently posted on Twitter that he is the “healthiest [he’s] been in 5 years” now. Do we know, exactly, what that means? Is he just feeling better after his surgery or is he maybe ready to go? If he’s ready to go (or at least 80 percent ready), I’m sure WWE would give him this shot, seeing that he was a surprisingly good champion and his feud with Sheamus was never truly resolved.
Kingston, in my eyes, is the ultimate dark horse, but if WWE is feeling confident I could see him finally getting a shot. News has recently broke online that R-Truth might have broken his foot, and may need to be written out of storylines. It is entirely possible that they could have Kofi & Truth drop the tag belts, leading either to: 1) a Kofi heel turn (attacking truth for letting him down), or 2) Kofi entering a battle royal later in the show and getting a face-vs.-face push against Sheamus, much like I mentioned with Ryback.
Of all of these three guys, I’d say the most likely option is Kingston. Remember, the last major time we had a fun-loving, easy-going, tag-team-oriented, midcard babyface break from his partner and turn heel, we got JBL. Just saying.
So Christian returns from injury, wins a battle royal, then turns face and starts a feud with Cody Rhodes over the Intercontinental Title.
Had WWE been patient with Christian and kept him in his awesome heel role, he would be by far the most obvious guy to put in here. He still has beef with Sheamus, he played up “one more match” before his injury, and has recently been a world champion.
However, in a weird way, WWE’s attempt to bring some attention back to the IC Title has screwed them; by putting Christian and Cody in a legitimate feud, they have taken away their best and (likely) safest option for this spot.
Not that it can’t happen, just that it likely won’t.
Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger
Yes, I know that I just talked about the Cody Rhodes-Christian feud and said that Christian is out of the question, but Cody is not. If he were to win a battle royal tonight on Raw, he could then tell Christian that he’s done with him and is moving on to bigger things (leaving Christian without an opponent for NOW, though it’s not like the Intercontinental Title not being defended on pay-per-view is such a shock).
This way, Christian can either cost Cody the match to further their feud, or—and this would be the awesome part—Cody can actually win the title and feud with Christian over the World Title instead of the IC belt. Presto, instant recharge to Smackdown’s main event.
Then, of course, we have the IWC’s sexy pick: Dolph Ziggler. The Internet has been all atwitter about Ziggler’s chance to be in the spotlight. Here’s what I have to say about Ziggler: If WWE actually wants him to be a serious main event player, he absolutely must win the title at NWO. No questions, no debates, no ifs-ands-or-buts. It has to happen, or no one will take him seriously again. I don’t care if he wins it and drops it back at the next PPV; if Ziggler doesn’t win the belt in this, his umpteenth shot, his time is up (at least for the considerable future).
If they want to bring Ziggler up, but not put him in the title match, Swagger would be another interesting choice. Let’s say Swagger either wins a battle royal (somehow screwing over Ziggler) or is put in there via Vickie’s insistence; Ziggler could call shenanigans and cost Swagger the match at the PPV, thereby leading to a Ziggler face turn and a feud with Swagger and Vickie. This way, WWE gets itself a new main event face (though the heel side is thinner) and two new main eventers in Ziggler and Swagger.
We’d all like to think that it’s going to be Ziggler. I don’t doubt that he’ll get the shot, and personally I love the guy and think he should get the opportunity. However, this is WWE.
And, therefore, I think the most likely candidate—via storyline and backstage politics—is going to be this next guy…
The Big Show
Hear me out.
This is all dependent on Laurinaitis keeping his job tonight on Raw. While a lot of people are saying that he’s going to get fired tonight, the fact is that Big Johnny’s been improving steadily with each passing week, and WWE has put a lot of energy into pushing him as a heel authority figure (and that Laurinaitis has actually been putting in the leg-work to improve).
I say that Laurinaitis sticks around as GM of Raw and Smackdown. Which means that it’s more than likely going to be his guy, Big Show, that takes the open spot in the World Title match.
I stand by what I said in an article I wrote a week or so ago, saying that Big Show is in the midst of a “thank you” push towards the end of his career, getting booked as the unstoppable monster he should have been all along. That being said, I could definitely see him opening the show by facing Cena in the steel cage and then going on, in the main event, to fight Sheamus for the World Title.
This could work out in a few ways:
1) Show beats Cena and then beats Sheamus, establishing his dominance and starting a dominant title run a la Mark Henry.
2) Show beats Cena, but Cena costs him the match against Sheamus and continuing the Cena-Show feuding and allowing Del Rio to get healthy.
3) Show loses to Cena, beats Sheamus, and Cena (who is already going to be pulling double duty on Raw and Smackdown) feuds with Show over the title (again…heaven help us).
4) Show loses to Cena, then loses to Sheamus clean, effectively negating any effort WWE is putting into Show’s push (and being true to their confounding booking strategies).
Regardless, providing that Laurinaitis stays in power, I see Big Show being the guy to face Sheamus at No Way Out. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s in the middle of a big push, and can step in and lead the blue brand at least for a little while.
If Big Johnny does get canned, Show could always, say, lose to Cena and—in a fit of rage—take out Sheamus and whoever his opponent is; this would eliminate the World Title match at the PPV (no doubt infuriating paying customers), but it would also establish Show as a dominant heel who should not be messed with under any circumstances.