As many of you may know by now, the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, Jack Swagger, was recently arrested and charged with traffic violations as well as marijuana possession.
One has to think that WWE will likely have some sort of punishment in store for Swagger, considering how backstage issues were the result of his last failed world title run.
While there's nothing concrete yet, one has to think Swagger is in hot water.
That leaves the question of where WWE will look to go with the World Heavyweight Championship from now to Mania, and potentially beyond if Swagger is to be ousted (though I hope that's not the case).
However, one man's mistake can be another man's chance to shine. I think I may have the next best candidate to push towards the World Title, in what can only be considered a good thing for all involved.
Ryback has been knocking at the glass ceiling since late 2012, but has found roadblocks at every turn in the forms of CM Punk, The Shield and Brad Maddox. It seems as though Big Hungry is getting fed up. In recent weeks, he's begun to show signs of increasing animosity and frustration as the fall guy for his team at Elimination Chamber, failing to get his revenge against The Shield on RAW.
WWE seems to be setting up for a potential heel turn for Ryback somewhere in the next few weeks. How and if that will be incorporated into Mania has yet to be seen. I have to think that there are two ways WWE can go about positioning Ryback as a top heel and threat to the World Title, since a spot may be opening up with Swagger's fall from grace.
Even now, as I write this, my phone has decided (on shuffle) to play Ryback's theme. A sign? Probably not, but funny nonetheless. Now, where was I...oh yeah!
As I was saying, let's just assume that Swagger will be suspended for thirty days. The simplest route would be to have an upset Ryback simply destroy Swagger after losing to...let's say Roman Reigns. This allows WWE to write Swagger off to serve his suspension, and via the brutality shown, gets Ryback over (let's say in the ensuing chaos he takes out a couple of likeable faces such as Kingston, Truth or even Hornswoggle just so it's clear that Ryback doesn't care anymore).
After leaving that path of destruction, Swagger's out and Booker has to respond.
He can announce that Swagger may not be medically cleared to compete before Mania, and says that he's going to find a new No. 1 contender. This causes Ryback to come down to the ring, and subsequently attack Booker. This gets even more heat on Ryback and also signals for Sheamus to try and make the save, leading to a brawl between the two.
Later in the show, we have Teddy Long and Sheamus talking about Booker's idea (indicating that at least Teddy knew the plan going forward) and Sheamus is asking for a shot at Ryback.
Now, at this point WWE can do one of two things and go one of two routes. One leads Ryback straight to the title and the other sets him up for a Mania feud to get him in position for the title.
The "Instant Gratification" Scenario
Here, we have Teddy tell Sheamus that he's going along with the initial plan to set up a tournament to crown Swagger's replacement. The matches over the next couple of weeks will be Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton, Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry vs. Sheamus, and Kane vs. Ryback.
If Sheamus wants to get his hands on Ryback he's gotta make it through the tournament and hope Ryback does too.
Over the next few weeks, we dwindle down our tournament until we have Ryback going against Sheamus on Smackdown, with Del Rio at ringside to watch the match and see who his challenger is. This match main-events Smackdown, but Jack Swagger comes in, chair in hand to take everyone out, Del Rio included.
At Mania, we have a Fatal 4-Way which sees Ryback vs. Swagger vs. Del Rio vs. Sheamus. The only ones who would have a chance in this scenario are Ryback and Del Rio.
If Del Rio walks away from Mania with the title, we see him continue to feud with Swagger, seeing him in a one-on-one match at Extreme Rules, where we see Del Rio retain once more.
If Ryback leaves Mania with the belt, Del Rio vs. Swagger becomes a No. 1 contender feud. Ryback faces Sheamus over Extreme Rules and Over The Limit, before moving onto former Champion in Del Rio, continuing a run of dominance.
At some point, we could even see Zeb leave Jack Swagger, stating being a "Real American" is about being a winner, and Ryback is a winner, leading to Ryback getting a mouthpiece. We tone down the "Tea Party/Real American" thing, to being more about simply getting Ryback over via Zeb putting him over.
This can lead to Swagger disappearing again for a time and/or turning face, but where that goes is for another time.
Now, that was all one scenario. There is another slightly slower way of going about building Ryback into a threat for the World Title.
The "Slow Build" Scenario
This scenario has Teddy Long trying to get revenge against Ryback, putting him in matches first with Khali. The next week can see Ryback run the gauntlet against Justin Gabriel, followed by The Miz, followed by The World Heavyweight Champion, Del Rio, with the final match having a double count-out, but ending in a brawl for the two to be separated.
In the last week leading up to Mania, we have Ryback announce that he wants Del Rio at Mania, seeing as how he took out the No. 1 contender, and took the champ to his limit last week. This leads Sheamus to come out, and berate Ryback for never being able to get the job done, citing run-ins with Punk and Shield.
This leads to a bit of a character change for Ryback. He acknowledges maybe he was too hungry—that he wanted too much, too soon.
This is followed up quickly by a Meathook clothesline to Sheamus, before Ryback explains that since Sheamus wants to be a tough guy, he'll see him at Mania instead, referring to him as an "Irish Appetizer" before "My Mexican Main Dish."
This leads to a No. 1 contender match at Mania between Sheamus and Ryback. By this night already, Del Rio has been lain out by Swagger who announces he will be at Mania, before locking in the Patriot Act on Ricardo to at least build some heat for Mania.
The one problem I see here is the World Title not getting proper build-up again, though I would expect a solid match.
On the flipside, the problem with the "Instant Gratification" approach is that some may see it as too soon to put the title on Ryback or put him in the World Title feud at this point.
Now, these ideas hinge on two things: a Ryback heel turn and Swagger serving his suspension in the next week or so to still be able to work Mania.
It may seem a bit convoluted to some people, but I'd enjoy Sheamus/Ryback and Ryback/Del Rio over another proposed option like Jericho/Ziggler.
Again, Ryback vs. Del Rio is at least a new feud, because the dynamic has shifted and we've only seen this a couple of times as far as matches go, which is still the same amount of times we've seen Jericho and Ziggler go at it. It's also incorporating a Fatal 4-Way—a match I don't think we've seen since last year when Antonio Cesaro defended the U.S. Title against Barrett, Kofi and Truth.
Of course, this is just an idea, and as cerebral as it is, I doubt WWE would do anything close to this, since the same rumors that state Ryback turning heel have him facing Cena post-Mania. Still, I like it. (My idea, not so much Cena vs. Ryback.)
Let me know what you think about all of this. Thanks for the read.
By the way, in case anyone is curious. My phone is playing the theme from Dragonball Z: Boudakai III now, so...yeah...there's that. Have a nice day!
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!