What's Next for Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton After Hell in a Cell?
After 20 minutes of hard-hitting action, special guest referee Shawn Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music to Daniel Bryan and counted his protege's shoulders to the mat before declaring Randy Orton the new WWE champion.
It was a shocking moment that created more questions than answers.
One of those questions is, what is next for Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton following their third consecutive pay-per-view main event?
Will the intense rivals clash over the WWE Championship for a fourth straight time, or will they be kept apart from one another in order to give fans a break from their feud after dominating the fall?
If they are sent in opposite directions, with who will each Superstar find themselves working with?
As the new WWE champion, there is a seemingly infinite number of stars for Orton to feud with, but given the delicacy that the company must approach Bryan's main event push with, there are significantly less possibilities for the Aberdeen native.
What are these possibilities and who might Orton find himself defending his newly won title against in the coming weeks and months?
Let's take a look.
The Viper has struggled to get his feet under him as a heel following a three-year run as one of the most popular stars in the industry.
With that said, he rediscovered some of the tendencies that made him one of the most hated Superstars in WWE on the road to Hell in a Cell, and the success of his latest title reign will be based on how well he builds upon those tendencies and becomes the captivating, vile, ruthless villain.
He will have ample opportunity to do so as he squares off against some of WWE's most beloved babyfaces. One of the first competitors he may defend his title against is his rival of the last four months, Daniel Bryan.
There is still a great deal of unfinished business between Orton and Bryan, most notably the latter's desire to exact revenge on the new champion and The Authority for months of torment. A match between the two, probably at Survivor Series on November 24, would make sense. The problem is, as stated above, fans have seen it so many times that they may be numb to it at this point.
Who should be the first Superstar to challenge Orton for the WWE Championship?
The Big Show would be a logical opponent for Orton given his conflict with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and Orton's status as The Authority's hand-picked champion. The two established main event stars competed against one another earlier this year at May's Extreme Rules and worked well enough together to suspect that a match between the two would be pay-per-view main event quality.
The most intriguing potential opponent for Orton is a man who wrapped up a three-month story of his own at Hell in a Cell, that being CM Punk.
Punk has been out of the title picture for months. His feud with Paul Heyman over the course of the summer and early fall was entertaining, but it is clear that he is bigger and better than some of the matches he participated in during that rivalry.
He has a history with Orton dating back to the days of the New Nexus, and the two Superstars even had a show-stealing Last Man Standing match at April 2011's Extreme Rules.
It has been long enough since Punk and Orton clashed in singles competition in a major program that led to pay-per-view matches that it could be considered fresh.
The quality of matches, not to mention the first interaction between Punk and The Authority, would make the angle must-see television.
The potential rivalries for Bryan are limited due to his quest to regain the WWE title and his rivalry with The Authority.
As previously mentioned, the easiest feud to slot Bryan in is one against Randy Orton. There is still a lot of story that has gone untold, and one has to figure the entire angle was predicated on Bryan winning the WWE Championship and becoming one of the faces of World Wrestling Entertainment.
If the company chooses to keep him away from Orton to prevent burning fans out, a match with Triple H at one of WWE's premiere pay-per-views of the year could be another option.
At Hell in a Cell, Bryan delivered the running knee to The Game, knocking him out to a huge pop from the fans in Miami. The actions of the goat-faced Superstar could easily set in motion events that would lead to a high-profile match between he and the COO of WWE at Survivor Series.
What should Bryan's role be at Survivor Series?
The annual November event has been a staple of the company since 1987 and has seen its fair share of controversy in the 26 years of its existence. A Bryan-Triple H match would help drive up buyrates and pique the interest of fans who have become tired of the repetitive Bryan-Orton main events.
If that is not the direction WWE decides to take Bryan, a traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match involving the Rhodes brothers, The Shield and more could be an option. The problem with this scenario is that the same mix of Superstars have been involved in so many multiple-man tag matches on free television over the last few months that there is no reason for anyone to pay to see it.
After the actions of Shawn Michaels at Hell in a Cell, there will be plenty of fans that fantasy book a match between HBK and Bryan, but it is highly unlikely that Michaels will come out of retirement for a match, and, if he does, it surely will not be at any event other than WrestleMania.
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