Bo Dallas and Jack Swagger meet each other at a crossroads, a heel in the process of making his name and a babyface slipping from the spotlight.
WWE should have two major goals with this rivalry—repairing Swagger's win-loss record and getting some genuine heat on Dallas. The All-American American is badly in need of some wins. His rival has yet to truly make his presence felt since joining the main roster.
This isn't the feud that many guessed would have come about. It doesn't have the inherent appeal that Swagger and Rusev had, either.
Still, it's possible to elevate both men with this developing story.
Having a panel of fans explain how Swagger's losses hurt them isn't the way to do that, though. That's the direction WWE went on Monday's Raw, having a trio of fans in chairs watch Swagger take on Curtis Axel.
Prior to the bout, Dallas had asked each of them to tell their Swagger-related story. It was an awkward scene that had little spark.
The Pro Wrestling Illustrated Twitter account noted the effect the segment had on the crowd:
Swagger, w. Zeb, beat Curtis Axel. Bo Dallas then introduced fans allegedly hurt by Jack's recent losses. This died a horrible death live.2014-9-2 01:33:53
To reach this feud's potential, WWE has to instead rely on more straightforward storytelling. It must get folks to anticipate this eventual showdown.
The Coward Strikes and Then Slips Away
Throw Swagger and Dallas in the ring right now and few fans will care. Dallas doesn't seem like much of a threat and hasn't done all that much to rile up the former world champ.
The wannabe motivational speaker cost Swagger a win on last Friday's SmackDown when he distracted the referee with a towel. With the official's back turned, Dallas knocked Swagger off his feet, forcing him to suffer Rusev's Accolade for even longer.
That's a good start. And from here on out, Dallas needs to make Swagger suffer more of this kind of fate.
Have the sodden-haired Superstar ruin every one of Swagger's matches in the near future. WWE Creative can't turn to the overused cheap distraction finish, either.
Dallas should hand Swagger's opponent a steel chair when the referee isn't looking, take cheap shots from behind or throw him over the security railing to get him counted out. The angrier that Swagger gets, the better.
Then it's time for Swagger to go into pursuit.
He can challenge and call out Dallas again and again, but Dallas delays their showdown. Fans should grow antsy to see the powerhouse pound his grinning enemy into the mat.
The two foes keep getting booked in matches, but somehow Dallas weasels out of it. He can fake an injury once, send in a fake Bo Dallas or get himself disqualified just seconds into the bout.
By the end of it, the audience should be as hungry to see Dallas fall as Swagger is.
The Warrior Crushes the Fool
That kind of buildup will make a win over Dallas more powerful than it is right now.
As it stands, Dallas is a low-level villain. He's more Killer Moth than The Joker.
He hasn't had enough wins to be a true threat to Swagger. Rusev's win streak is still going. Dallas' ended in a whimper to R-Truth.
When Swagger finally does get his hands around Dallas' throat, it will have followed so much frustration that the act of him clobbering his foe will be a cathartic experience for fans.
It will be the present-day equivalent of someone finally knocking off The Honky Tonk Man.
Swagger will need the wins he gets here. His rivalry with Rusev left him out cold again and again. He lost to The Bulgarian Brute at Battleground, SummerSlam, on last Friday's SmackDown and on the Aug. 25 Raw.
Should he tear Dallas apart in their first uninterrupted meeting, it will help him regain some momentum.
Dallas can follow that up with a savage attack backstage. The newcomer needs to be presented as dangerous as well as annoying. Have him injure Swagger by drumming a steel chair across his flesh.
That sets up their rematch, one powered by even more seething animosity.
Let them battle inside a steel cage or a Falls Count Anywhere match. During that clash, Dallas should outsmart Swagger a few times throughout. It's good to plant images of Dallas' cunning into the fans' minds for the sake of his future feuds.
In the end, though, Swagger guts it out through his injury and wallops Dallas.
Have the match end with one lasting, violent image. Swagger can power bomb Dallas through a stack of tables, for example.
Dallas showing up in the weeks following this with a neck brace on, excuses at the ready, gets him ready for his next storyline. There's an opportunity for some golden promos there. For Swagger, he moves on, having squashed a bug, looking for further redemption.
Cheap shots and revenge are not innovative story elements, but they should be the cornerstones of the feud Swagger and Dallas have begun in earnest. They are the keys to siphoning the most from this rivalry.