Sunday's WWE Battleground pay-per-view is highlighted by a number of intriguing matches, but the Fatal 4-Way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is what has most fans talking.
Incumbent champion John Cena will defend his title against Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and Kane. Add in the ever-present threat of Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins and the potential return of Brock Lesnar, and there is no question that there are plenty of moving parts to consider.
WWE is billing the Fatal 4-Way as a way to stack the deck against Cena. Overcoming the odds is nothing new for the leader of the Cenation, but is he actually in danger of losing his title this time around? Here is a closer look at what to expect out of all four competitors during Sunday's encounter.
Despite the perceived disadvantage that Cena faces, there is no question that he is the odds-on favorite to win Sunday. He just became world champion for the 15th time at Money in the Bank, and it simply wouldn't make sense to put the title on one of the three other competitors in the match at this point.
Even so, Cena has tried to play up the notion that anything can happen in a Fatal 4-Way:
After Daniel Bryan was forced to surrender the WWE World Heavyweight Championship due to injury, it was transitioned to Cena largely because he is WWE's most reliable entity. The powers-that-be know that they can count on him to carry the title and main event SummerSlam if need be. The same can't necessarily be said for his three opponents.
Although nothing has officially been announced, the assumption is that Cena will face Lesnar at SummerSlam with the title on the line. Lesnar hasn't been seen since the night after beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX. As seen in this video courtesy of WWE's official Twitter account, though, Paul Heyman teased his potential return:
Heyman referred to Lesnar as The Authority's possible "Plan C" since Rollins has been branded "Plan B." Expect Cena to score a pinfall victory over Kane in this match only for Rollins to attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank contract.
Rollins will once again be foiled by Dean Ambrose, though, which will set the stage for an eventual Cena vs. Lesnar showdown. Lesnar probably won't show up at Battleground, but an appearance the next night on Raw is likely.
Even if Cena does win this match as expected, it's fair to say that much of the focus will be on Reigns. He will have plenty of help from the other three combatants, but fans are really interested to see how he performs as a singles wrestler on the big stage.
Reigns has become hugely popular and consistently gets a more favorable crowd reaction than perhaps anyone on the roster. He looks very much like the hand-picked face of the company moving forward, but many fans still question whether or not he is cut out for that.
The main criticism surrounding him is a perceived lack of diversity in his move set. Reigns' offense is explosive, but it isn't particularly expansive quite yet. Cena has been ridiculed by fans over the years for his "five moves of doom," and there is a growing school of thought that Reigns is similar in that regard.
Even though it isn't a true, one-on-one singles match, Sunday marks Reigns' first chance to prove that there is more to him than a spear and Superman Punch. In a recent interview with Brady Aymond of the Pensacola News Journal, Reigns made it clear that establishing himself as a top guy is his goal.
"To get in there, especially as a singles competitor, to be in the main event is unbelievable," Reigns said. "No matter what, you want to close the show properly."
Reigns won't get the win Sunday, but he will be protected in terms of not taking the fall. He will also get in plenty of offense, captivate the fans and come away as the brightest star among the four participants.
While this match is largely about Cena retaining and Reigns developing, there is no doubt that Orton is a key cog in the process. The Viper's character has been stale for quite some time, and his run with the World Heavyweight Championship was pretty uninspiring. Orton rarely comes up short in the ring, though, which is why he is a perfect fit for this match.
Orton has displayed a penchant for shining in multiman matches over the past several months. He was excellent in the WrestleMania XXX main event against Bryan and Batista. He played his part to perfection in the battle between Evolution and The Shield. He even laid it all on the line in the Ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank.
Question Orton's mic skills, charisma and character development all you want, but he is undoubtedly one of WWE's best and most consistent workers. He will be the glue who holds the Fatal 4-Way together, and he will be instrumental in making Reigns look great.
An Orton vs. Reigns feud may be on tap next, so look for plenty of interaction between them. Also, Orton and Kane have had their differences as of late despite both operating under The Authority's umbrella. With that in mind, there is a good chance that they will end up costing each other the match.
Orton rarely gets credit, and he probably won't be talked about much in the aftermath of the Fatal 4-Way, but he will ensure that it's a quality match.
Most would probably agree that Kane is the least likely Superstar to win this match, but he is very much a wild card. Due to this status as part of The Authority, he helped Rollins win the Money in the Bank contract and attempted to help Orton win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that same night. He could do the same at Battleground, but it is far from guaranteed.
Kane and Orton have been working together, but The Big Red Monster has also expressed dislike for The Viper. The Demon and Orton will probably work together for much of the match, but there will inevitably come a point when one of them is about to win only for the other to stop him.
Although Kane is in the twilight of his career, he lends a certain amount of credibility and star power to the proceedings. He is still a capable worker, and he can definitely aid in the process of getting Reigns over as a top guy.
Since Kane is the least integral Superstar in this match for WWE moving forward, it makes the most sense for him to take the fall. Kane is so entrenched as a respected veteran that a loss won't do much to him. He is flying under the radar in much the same way that Orton is, but he will play an important role as well.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter