Seth Rollins will enter The Viper's den on Sunday, April 26, when he defends the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton. This is the most important title defense of Rollins' brief run, and if he's to continue it, he must get a decisive win against Orton.
This match is all about the future coming to the forefront, about the man handpicked by Triple H putting it all on the line against The Game's former protege.
It's a storyline that has worked from the moment it began, and the two stars involved are performing at an incredibly high level.
Orton is stepping up to face the man who took his spot in The Authority, and prevailing will be no easy task considering Triple H's group has had Rollins' back from the very beginning. It's a situation Orton is very familiar with. He enjoyed the support of The Authority during his own title run, as virtually no one could touch him as champion.
On the other side is Rollins, the cocky and confident heel who is trying to convince fans on a weekly basis that he deserves their respect. He shocked the world at WrestleMania 31 when he won the title, and since then, his momentum has not slowed down.
But he will need all of that momentum and more to stop Orton.
WWE has done a great job of booking in this storyline, as Rollins needed a legitimate threat to keep his title run interesting.
It would have been very easy for the company to put Rollins against a parade of Superstars in mini-feuds to keep him busy. It's an idea that perhaps could have worked, as Brock Lesnar will eventually return for revenge and the championship.
But putting Rollins over one star after another may not have been the right move. Instead, Orton was the man chosen as his opponent, and it's a logical choice considering he beat Rollins at WrestleMania.
Suddenly, the championship run that many felt would last until Lesnar came back is now in serious jeopardy.
Orton could step back in right now and do a fine job as champion. He's been there before, proved himself so many times in the past, and other than John Cena, there is arguably no one in WWE who could take that spot.
Orton's face turn and subsequent run have given him a fresh start, and with him as champion, all of the drama would fall back on The Authority. Rollins would be seen as the man who dropped the ball, and the group could very well implode as a result.
It's a nice and tidy ending that wraps everything up while moving Orton on to the next challenge.
However, it's for that reason that WWE should keep the belt on Rollins. Fans have seen the nice and neat ending far too many times. In this case, it does not benefit the man holding the gold to come up short. Rollins is just getting started, and unlike Orton, he does not have a championship resume to fall back on.
A loss now would perhaps hurt him beyond repair. So if he's to keep the title, he should pin Orton at Extreme Rules.
A pinfall may actually be inevitable in this one, as a steel cage is surrounding the ring. This keeps the action between the ropes and also prevents any interference from The Authority. Rollins' options are limited, so if he's to go over, he may just have to do it the old-fashioned way and out-wrestle Orton for the win.
It's a high-profile title defense, one that will improve Rollins' bragging rights when he wins.
Holding the gold and being advertised as the next big thing is not really enough. Rollins must look strong and prove that he belongs at the very top of the company.
Even if the pin comes from a simple roll-up, so be it. Rollins needs a momentary distraction, a sleight of hand to turn the referee's head, whatever it takes to get the advantage and pin Orton's shoulders to the mat.
He doesn't need to win thanks to a weapon or surprise interference from a third party—Rollins needs to show he is smart and can outwit his opponent.
The strategy must be to stay one step ahead of Orton and prove he can stand on his own without being bailed out by The Authority.
Rollins was seen as the mastermind of The Shield and the same man who orchestrated its downfall. It's not a stretch to believe he can walk into the cage against Orton with a plan that will work independently of The Authority.
Rollins is continuing to build his legacy in WWE, and decisively beating Orton at Extreme Rules would become a very important chapter indeed.