The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, and more questionably Sin Cara, Stardust and Zack Ryder have been thrown into a seven-man ladder match alongside Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32.
Though Miz and Ziggler have been Intercontinental champions in the past and Zayn has a score to settle with Owens, the inclusions of Sin Cara, Stardust and Ryder feel random as none of these superstars have any momentum to boast about; neither do they deserve a shot at the title from a storyline standpoint. The IC title chase is now suffering from lazy last minute booking and its prestige is therefore diminished.
The seven men are all great workers and in all likelihood they will deliver in the ring on April 3, but the result of this bout holds little surprises. But adding in low-ranking midcarders is an excuse to make the midcarders look good and the top midcarders even better. Sin Cara is a high-flyer and will thrive in the ladder match; Stardust, Ziggler, Miz will undoubtedly put their athleticism on display; Ryder is an odd choice but can also rise up to the occasion. This leaves us with the core of this match: Zayn and Owens, who are realistically the two superstars with the biggest chances of walking out of the ring with the belt.
Their rivalry from NXT hasn’t yet been played out on the main roster’s bigger stage. Zayn’s quest for retribution against the man who put him out of action several months back is the centerpiece of this story. It was a surprising move by WWE Creative to dilute this burgeoning feud by diluting it in a seven-man ladder match, making less meaningful. Yet this may simply be the first chapter in their feud and a sign that WWE want to preserve their one-on-one encounters for other pay-per-views such as Payback or Extreme Rules which are both programmed for May.
I’ll make a bold prediction here and go with a hard-earned but narrow Kevin Owens victory at WrestleMania. He will retain successfully albeit using heel tactics to prevent Sami Zayn from winning. I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE teases us by having Zayn climb the ladder and touch the belt with his fingertips a few times.
It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see their rivalry continue during the weeks following WrestleMania and at Payback, where I expect Sami Zayn will beat Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship and claim his first WWE title. However, his glory will be short-lived as I can easily imagine Owens regaining his title back at Extreme Rules where he would be likely favored by their match’s hardcore stipulation, and ultimately be victorious in this feud.
Where to next? … Cesaro
With a heel Owens still IC champion, WWE would be wise to call upon a popular babyface on the rise to become his next challenger. It has been recently rumored that Cesaro is to soon step back into the ring. His immediate inclusion in the IC title scene would be organic and logical.
Cesaro has unfinished business with Kevin Owens and was reportedly lined up for an IC feud with KO prior to his shoulder injury in November. The Swiss Superman has the crowd connection and undeniable wrestling skills – as Jim Ross once said of Cesaro, “His in-ring work/persona is SO strong that he’s a main eventer waiting to explode.” Having said that he hasn’t been part of any high-profile feuds in recent history and he hasn’t been in contention for championships for a while. So his return to action against Kevin Owens would be highly impactful and all the more deserved.
WWE haven’t yet treated him as main event talent, but would be more willing to do so if he is given an IC opportunity beforehand. WWE would be smart to build on his potential and ride on the Cesaro Section wave. From an in-ring standpoint, Owens and Cesaro complement each others styles quite nicely. From a storyline angle, Cesaro hasn’t beaten Kevin Owens in WWE; one of his losses occurring at SummerSlam 2015.
Cesaro cannot get the upper hand on Owens and he will seek to do so by beginning a rivalry after Extreme Rules. Both men could face off at Money in the Bank. Cesaro could win their first encounter but by disqualification. Their second match at Battleground would see Owens come out as victor after a screwy finish. The culmination of their rivalry would take place at SummerSlam – exactly one year after Owens beat Cesaro. It would be a fitting event for Cesaro to finally win the IC title and come out on top of this feud.
This may sound like wishful predictions or crystal ball territory but placing Kevin Owens in feuds with Sami Zayn and Cesaro could lead to some polarizing action and classic, must-see WWE television.