WWE Backlash 2016 will feature of slew of exciting encounters, but perhaps no match on the September 11 card is more intriguing than the first one-on-one encounter between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt.
On the latest edition of SmackDown Live, Wyatt conducted a "Sermon for the Serpent," calling out Orton and challenging him to a match at the pending pay-per-view, to which The Viper accepted.
Thus, the stage has been set for a match that has been many years in the making.
Wyatt initially arrived on the WWE scene in the summer of 2013, and since then, he and Orton have seldom crossed paths. In fact, Orton was involved in a short-lived crusade against The Wyatt Family late last year before suffering a shoulder injury that put him on the shelf for nine months.
From John Cena to Dean Ambrose to Roman Reigns, Wyatt has faced (and beaten) a majority of WWE's most notable names—with the exception of Orton. Now he will have a chance to add to his already impressive resume with a win over the established SmackDown Superstar at Backlash.
But while Wyatt will have something to prove at the pay-per-view, it will be just as much about Orton as well. This feud will provide him with the perfect opportunity to revive the Randy Orton character as he enters the twilight of his career.
When Orton made his first on-air appearance of 2016 at Battleground, he looked to be more motivated than ever. He has always had a reputation for being monotonous on the microphone, but that was far from the case when he went face-to-face with Chris Jericho during The Highlight Reel.
The reinvigorated Orton continued to shine throughout his SummerSlam program with Brock Lesnar and nearly had a fighting chance to upset him. That was, however, until he was decisively defeated by The Beast Incarnate and left lying in a pool of his own blood at The Biggest Party of the Summer.
Orton has been around long enough that fans won't view him as any less credible coming out of the event, but it would be a lie to say his stock hasn't dropped somewhat since SummerSlam. That said, this rebound feud with Wyatt might be exactly what he needs to get him back on track.
That isn't to say this rivalry should see Wyatt be nothing more than a stepping stone for Orton, though. Both men stand to benefit from this feud, especially if they are booked as equals and one isn't constantly dominating the other.
During their verbal exchange on Tuesday night, Wyatt's mic work wasn't anything different than what we've heard from him before. Meanwhile, Orton seemed to develop an extra layer to his character by exhibiting vulnerability, and more of that will complete his character evolution.
With Dean Ambrose not delivering consistently as world champion and John Cena presumably out of action for the foreseeable future, SmackDown is heavily dependent on Orton to be its top babyface. He may not have the top title in his possession, but he doesn't need to; he is a main event-caliber competitor regardless of what storyline he is involved in.
That said, he shouldn't rest on his laurels, and therefore it is imperative to continue to change up his character and avoid growing stagnant. Wyatt can certainly help with that by playing a fantastic foil to the fan favorite through his masterful mic work and villainous tendencies.
After being left off SummerSlam for unknown reasons, it's also time for Wyatt to begin to build momentum. Win, lose or draw, a strong showing versus The Viper will go a long way in solidifying him as a legitimate threat to Orton and the main event scene on SmackDown.
The similar "crazy" characteristics the two of them share should make their feud all the more entertaining, in addition to the solid matchups they are bound to produce. Their upcoming clash at Backlash could very well be the best bout on the entire card.
Orton has added more depth to his character these past two months than he has in years, and as a result, his feuds have felt fresher. What we have seen so far from him and Wyatt has been compelling, so one can only imagine what else they have in store for fans for the remainder of the rivalry.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a Digital Journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.