Without a challenger at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Big E Langston is in need of an opponent who can push and elevate him.
The field for the Elimination Chamber match is nearly complete while Langston awaits word on who will be hunting for his Intercontinental Championship. A pair of powerhouses and a loudmouth serve as the best choices for the role.
The Wyatt Family appear to be colliding with The Shield at the event. Alberto Del Rio is likely to play the part of Batista's prey.
That leaves Bad News Barrett, Alexander Rusev and Ryback as the available Superstars who would give Langston the most compelling match and be convincing threats to his reign. They offer the best stories and the kind of hard-hitting offense that will make an IC title match at Elimination Chamber a potential show stealer.
Bad News Barrett
Barrett's been there before, holding the Intercontinental Championship three times previously. That resume makes it easy to buy him as a threat to Langston's reign, but more importantly there is a potential narrative that would benefit both men.
The revamped Barrett has taken to insulting and depressing audiences around the country behind the safety of a podium.
The act has had its highs and lows, but overall has been an intriguing direction for him. What it needs now is some opposition. A blusterer can only run his mouth so long before someone moves to punch it closed.
Should Barrett turn his attention to Langston, the champion is gifted with an opportunity to become a hero to all the people irked by the Englishman's antics.
When someone finally rushes at Barrett's podium and clocks him, the reaction is going to be sizable. Let Langston have that moment, sparking a feud that has these two meeting at the Elimination Chamber.
The match itself promises to be excellent as well. Barrett has shown that he can thrive in a slugfest. His many battles with Sheamus are proof.
Should Barrett lose, he'll be armed with new material for his next podium sessions, further insulting Langston. An angry, embarrassed Barrett would be even more entertaining with his gavel in hand.
Either he can whine his way to a rematch or move on, grumbling and entertaining along the way.
The NXT bulldozer made his debut at the Royal Rumble, inspiring his enemies to team up against him.
For Rusev, a title match means immediate exposure. He would be a convincingly dangerous foe, one that would make Langston look strong in just surviving against him.
The typical route for a new monster heel like Rusev is for him to tear through lesser opponents and go on an undefeated streak. WWE can do a compact version of that story before Elimination Chamber with Rusev out to prove, with a trail of destruction, that he deserves a title shot.
The match would be a clash of power vs. power, of one titan looking to topple another.
To protect Rusev's air of invincibility and further the audience's perception of Langston's power, WWE can have this match go to a no-contest. Let both of them club each other. Let them have a slobberknocker that would make Jim Ross proud, but let it end in a brawl that the referee can't control.
Defeating Fandango did little for Langston. Being booked as the mountain the Bulgarian brute can't move is a significant step up.
The feud that WWE teased last fall still makes plenty of sense.
As Langston closed in on his first championship in WWE, he joined CM Punk in tag team action against Ryback and Curtis Axel as the Punk and Heyman feud overlapped with the one surrounding the IC title.
Ryback has yet to win a single championship with the company. It's not hard to sell his desire to become IC champ and for him to promise to win one for his tag team partner whom Langston dethroned.
Even with all his failures and spotty booking, Ryback has been in main events, coming close to victories against both John Cena and Punk. That history makes him a threat to Langston as well as a bigger triumph than besting a ballroom dancer.
The violent, smashmouth bout has great potential. It could be what many fans were hoping Mark Henry vs. Ryback would be—a collision of human tanks.
Langston has yet to face a powerhouse during his reign and outlasting Ryback here propels him forward. He will have then shown that he can defeat a brawler/mat wrestler like Axel, an athletic foe like Fandango and a man just as strong as he is.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the Shield/Wyatt matchup are sure to be the headliners of the Elimination Chamber event, but a bruiser of a challenger like Ryback, Barrett or Rusev will make Langston grab hold of the spotlight as well.
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