On September 15, WWE presents their Night of Champions pay-per-view, billed annually as the one night where every championship is guaranteed to be on the line in a match. This year marks the seventh straight year that WWE has had a Night of Champions event and every active championship at the time has been defended in all six previous nights.
The seventh should be no different, but Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel has been placed into a match where his championship isn't up for grabs. All that seems to mean is that Curtis Axel won't be Intercontinental Champion come September 15.
Axel was announced this past week as being involved in a two-on-one Elimination Handicap match with manager Paul Heyman against rival and former "Heyman Guy" CM Punk.
Basically, Heyman and Axel can both try and dismantle a banged-up Punk, while Punk has to manage to defeat both men at the same time. Storyline aside, it gives Axel a rub with a top guy in the company and has entered him into this storyline between Heyman and Punk. Though, to be perfectly honest, Axel feels like a third wheel in this equation.
While Brock Lesnar could step in and deliver a brutal match with Punk at SummerSlam, the same instant classic feel cannot be said about Axel clashing with Punk.
Axel took on his current persona after Heyman introduced him as his newest guy in May and has faced top-tier talent ever since. Axel has victories over the likes of John Cena and Triple H, even if they were won in only a technical sense.
Axel won his first Intercontinental Championship as a replacement in a Triple Threat match at WWE Payback. On Father's Day, Axel won a championship that was defined as a credible accomplishment by his own father, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. Since then, the former Michael McGillicutty has gotten just as much appreciation now as he had before.
In what feels like record time, Axel was repackaged, supported by fans, pushed to a mid-card championship and has now fallen flat on his face.
Was it just not working? Did the fans grow weary of Axel? Was he angering people backstage? It isn't known exactly what happened, but all that is known is that Axel needs a change.
Keeping Heyman as his manager and mouthpiece is fine, though rumors are surfacing that Heyman getting another new superstar in his life could be on the horizon. It's still early to fully give up on Axel, especially when he seems roped into this entire feud.
At least Lesnar and Punk had a rivalry that built itself around their relationships with Heyman, but Axel's relationship with Heyman is still so fresh and new that it is not relateable. It's not easy to compare the love that a man has for his ex-wife with his new girlfriend, so why take a manager's old client and new client and try to compare side-by-side?
Simply put, Axel is only involved because he is trying to fight a battle on behalf of Heyman. The feud isn't with Axel, but it could be and should be led down that way.
There needs to be a way to take Axel and give him a reason to want to beat down CM Punk other than "Paul wants to, so I want to."
That's where the Intercontinental Championship comes into play. There's no reason to put the title on the line in that match with Punk. Punk has no need for a championship that isn't a world championship at this point. Axel likely won't defend against Punk, but he should see a title defense coming soon.
With some of the losses Axel has had lately, a few superstars have earned chances to become Intercontinental Champion and one could be one match away from that achievement.
In keeping with a recent trend of blending storylines together, Cody Rhodes could take his recent success into a championship bout with Axel. Both Punk and Damien Sandow could get involved, but it would be Rhodes who still pulls off the victory and becomes the new champion.
Now, a match between Sandow and Rhodes could be for the Intercontinental Championship or a title vs. briefcase scenario.
As for Axel, watching Punk ultimately cause a distraction and end his reign is enough ammo for Axel to have a problem with Punk personally. Up until this point, Punk would fight Axel only to be used as a liaison for Heyman. With his championship gone, it is Axel that could blame Punk for no longer being a champion.
While Axel would theoretically have to start from the bottom and work back the way up the ranks, a win over Punk helps to exact revenge and also jumps Axel back into the title hunt.
The Curtis Axel fanbase should enjoy things while they still can. In just 18 days or less, Axel will have lost his championship, but will gain a fresh start with a pay-per-view rivalry with CM Punk.
Axel got shot up to the stars to get his first singles title. His second singles title, if he gets one, will be earned.