Curtis Axel will be teaming with Paul Heyman at WWE Night of Champions on September 15 against CM Punk in a two-on-one handicap elimination match. The bout is the culmination of several weeks' worth of heat between Punk and Heyman that began at Money in the Bank.
This one is a big deal as it could be the moment that Punk finally gets his hands on Heyman and gets the revenge that he's been after for so long.
But while much of the focus is on the Best in the World and his former best friend, we cannot forget about the odd man out. The Intercontinental champion needs a win in this match and he needs it in the worst way.
Axel is, of course, Heyman's newest project. Among all the talent in NXT, among all the talent that he could have scouted outside the company, Paul's character chose Curtis Axel to receive his guidance. He saw something in Curtis that he believed could be molded, something that he could work with and shape into his own image.
Heyman felt that Curtis Axel had the most potential, the biggest upside of anyone he could have chosen. And now Axel has the opportunity to prove him right.
Because winning the Intercontinental Championship is not enough. Going on a winning streak is not enough. Curtis Axel's role in this upcoming match is not to merely just turn in a solid performance and look good in the process.
The fact is that Axel needs to defeat Punk to build his reputation and protect his mentor. After all, if Heyman goes down, then Curtis goes down with him.
Right now, Heyman is worried. He's sweating bullets at the prospect of Punk dragging him into the ring and physically destroying him. He knows what his former client is capable of and he knows that until Punk gets what he wants, he will not stop.
And if Axel wants to prove himself, if he wants to stand head and shoulders above any other Superstar at Night of Champions, he must beat Punk in the center of the ring. Axel has had a good run since becoming Heyman's client. But if he wants to be something more than just filler, a vehicle for getting Paul Heyman on TV more often, he must defeat CM Punk on September 15.
Imagine how much more seriously fans would take Axel with a win over Punk. Punk is arguably the best worker in WWE, and for him to drop a pin to a guy like Curtis, who is still on the way up, it would be a huge moment.
It would certainly be the biggest thing that has happened in Axel's career thus far and would go a long way to legitimizing Axel as a rising star in Vince McMahon's company.
But will it happen? Will we see Curtis Axel get the win over CM Punk?
I believe that while it sounds like a very intriguing notion, much of the WWE faithful believe that Night of Champions will be the moment Punk will finally end his storyline with Heyman. I think it would be a fitting end to the angle and would tie up many loose ends for both of them.
The truth is that it does appear Heyman is out of time, out of options and has nowhere to hide. He is coming face to face with the man who wants to end him, and if Punk takes him out, then it would be a logical end.
But I think that WWE has put in too much work and done more than its fair share to get Axel over. This is a company that is all about opening doors for the next generation of stars to begin growing, and this would definitely be a very important step in the right direction for Axel if he were to win.
If the company wants fans to believe that Axel is the real deal, then he needs to win at Night of Champions. It's just that simple.
Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman are on a collision course with CM Punk at Night of Champions. Though many fans believe the night will belong to Punk, there are just as many who believe that Axel needs this win to maintain his momentum moving forward in the company.
Axel needs to shine, and beating the Best in the World is the perfect way to do just that.