Randy Orton's subservience to his master, Bray Wyatt, has encircled the WWE WrestleMania 33 main event with uncertainty.
Tradition dictates that Orton's win at Royal Rumble awards him a WWE Championship match. The man holding that title, though, is his patriarch—the dark cleric who has entranced him for months. So as SmackDown trots down the Road to WrestleMania, it's unclear who will challenge Wyatt.
Wyatt outlasted five other wrestlers on Sunday's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view to claim the WWE title. Two days later, he survived a Triple Threat match against AJ Styles and John Cena on SmackDown to retain the crown.
Orton emerged, seemingly to set up his expected WrestleMania collision with The Eater of Worlds. He instead deferred. The Viper promised not to fight the leader of The Wyatt Family.
SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan responded by booking a No. 1 Contender's Battle Royal for next week.
Suddenly, WWE has a variety of options at hand. The original plans may still come to pass, albeit with a dramatic delay or two. The company may be looking to make a change, however, shifting the WWE title scene ahead of the year's biggest event.
Who would make the best alternative challenger for Wyatt? What bout would provide the most compelling story and most engaging in-ring action?
Read on for a breakdown of three viable options for The Man of 1,000 Truths at The Show of Shows.
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena
This clash of good and evil would be rich with history.
Cena and Wyatt feuded in 2014 as the cult leader looked to indoctrinate the superhero of the squared circle. The Eater of Worlds hounded Cena for months but fell to him a number of times, including in a bout at WrestleMania 30.
To revisit that rivalry would be easy. Wyatt could claim he's more powerful now. He would be looking for redemption after all his losses to The Face That Runs the Place.
Cena would be in pursuit of a legacy-bolstering win. The powerhouse is one WWE title victory away from breaking Ric Flair's longstanding record of 16 world title reigns.
Cena's star power adds to the appeal of the bout, too.
The biggest drawback, though, is a lack of novelty. Cena and Wyatt have fought 21 times, per CageMatch.net, not counting their meetings when Wyatt was still Husky Harris.
Bray Wyatt vs. AJ Styles
A wild-card option for WrestleMania 33 is for The Phenomenal One to push his way past Cena and Orton to claim the No. 1 contender's spot.
This battle would require some narrative tinkering, thanks to both men being heels at the moment, but a change for either wouldn't be difficult. Fans have roared for Styles since his arrival despite all his on-screen villainy. And on Tuesday night, when Wyatt stepped onto the SmackDown stage for the first time since winning the WWE title, fans chanted, "You deserve it!"
Not exactly a Bronx cheer.
There isn't a surplus of direct history between Styles and Wyatt, but there is a base to build on. Wyatt pinned Styles in the Elimination Chamber en route to becoming world champ. Styles, meanwhile, feels he's still owed a one-on-one rematch after losing to Cena at Royal Rumble.
Styles vs. Wyatt would be a celebration of newness.
It would be the first time they have met one-on-one. It would be a clash of two men who have yet to headline WrestleMania—two key figures in the New Era.
The match itself would be stellar, with power meeting speed and size meeting cunning. The folks at WrestleZone are among those intrigued by the idea:
Perhaps that's a battle WWE could set up for SummerSlam or for later in the year, though. There is another more pressing, more powerful story ready to be told that involves the men Wyatt has commanded.
Bray Wyatt vs. Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
No potential WrestleMania 33 matchup for Wyatt has the robust narrative foundation that this Triple Threat bout would.
Luke Harper broke away from The Wyatt Family after Orton's inclusion led to tension and infighting. He feels as if The Viper stole his family from him. And he no longer submits to the man he once called master, as we saw on Tuesday night when the big man superkicked Wyatt.
Wyatt and Harper are at odds. Harper and Orton have bad blood. Orton and Wyatt have a strange relationship, going from enemies to allies to The Viper allowing his old rival to now pull his strings.
There's a variety of angles and subplots to explore here. As LaToya Ferguson of the A.V. Club put it, "It's both the best possible match and storytelling choice going into WrestleMania."
Harper vs. Orton at the Elimination Chamber PPV was excellent. Adding Wyatt and the WWE title to the mix on the grand stage that is WrestleMania will lead to The Wyatt Family civil war being something special.
WWE's best bet next Tuesday is for Harper to club his way to victory in the Battle Royal. Orton would then step in, looking to shield Wyatt from the son who broke away from the family. And a WrestleMania three-way dance teeming with potential would soon follow.