For the first time since he introduced the concept months ago, John Cena’s United States Championship open challenge will be held on a pay-per-view. Of course, any time a mystery partner or opponent is in play, intrigue for a particular match heightens. There’s a wealth of potential challengers for Cena, but only a select few worth of dethroning the reigning U.S. Champion.
Let’s take a look at a trio of men who best fit the bill, starting with, perhaps, Cena’s most obvious opponent…
Granted, a Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler program carried a lot more momentum just a few weeks ago, but that was, at least momentarily, derailed when Ziggler lost to Cena clean in one of Cena’s open challenges. Prior to that, seeds were being planted for a very intense rivalry between the two.
Thanks to an inadvertent superkick from Ziggler to Cena the two were left lying at the hands of the New Day on a previous edition of Raw. And that came on the heels of, as detailed by my colleague, William McCormick, a very real reason for animosity between Cena and Ziggler popping up on Total Divas.
It isn’t certain what seemingly prompted the WWE to shelve plans of this rivalry, but it isn’t beyond salvaging. Ziggler could’ve simply taken the week to ponder his plan of attack, to have Cena drop his guard. He could come out with a newfound vicious streak at Hell in a Cell and finally get the signature victory that his career so sorely lacks. If the WWE pulls the trigger, they might just have a star-making moment for a man who’s been on the cusp for years.
I opined earlier this week that a program between Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton would be a good direction for both directionless superstars. The two are simply too talented to be treading water, as they have been for the past several months. Unfortunately, it recently came out that Orton suffered a shoulder injury and will be sidelined for at least the immediate future. Without Orton, the WWE’s down a top-tier face.
That’s where Ambrose comes in. Because of Orton’s injury, Ambrose is now left without a match on Sunday’s pay-per-view. For a guy who’s among the more popular in the company, that simply won’t do. Ambrose has been felled by Cena in his quest for the U.S. title before, but, by sheer virtue of his unorthodox character, has retained his credibility.
Ambrose is sort of the anti-Cena. The Batman to John’s Superman. Cena’s a squeaky clean do-gooder and a company man. Ambrose may fight for what is just, but he does so while looking like a seedy guy lurking in the shadows at a dive bar. Ambrose would get a huge boost from toppling Cena and would no doubt receive ample crowd support from the hordes of fans who detest Cena’s one-dimensional character.
No doubt the biggest wildcard in this trio of potential challengers comes in the form of Prince Pretty himself — Tyler Breeze. Breeze has ascended to become one of the most popular acts in NXT — though he couldn’t care less. Of course, those shows are shot in front a largely static audience, which means those fans have had time to come to respect and appreciate Breeze’s unique character.
In the hyper-masculine and ever-changing world of WWE, it’s no certainty that Breeze will be afforded the same type of reception. His flamboyant nature — from brightly-colored outfits, to a perfectly crafted duck face and even a selfie stick — will no doubt turn some fans against him from the moment he sets foot in a WWE ring. And that’s OK.
Breeze character isn’t built on an effeminate nature alone, but rather that alongside the fact that he’s a skilled in-ring combatant. For him to take out the WWE’s alpha male, even if it’s by way of underhanded tactics, would likely draw the ire of many fans. In the age of the “cool heel,” that’s a good thing.