On tonight’s episode of SmackDown, Bray Wyatt retained the WWE Championship in a triple threat match against John Cena and AJ Styles, but further developments after his victory may point to that not being the only time he has to defend his title against two other men in the near future.
Immediately following that match, Randy Orton came out to declare that as long as Wyatt is his superior, he refuses to challenge him at WrestleMania. To counteract this, on Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan announced that he’s scheduled a battle royal to determine a new #1 contender for Bray Wyatt’s WWE Championship, because if Orton doesn’t want to utilize his Royal Rumble victory, he forfeits it and someone else needs to fill in the slot.
Who will end up taking home that title shot?
If the rumors are true—and it definitely seems to be heading in that direction—AJ Styles will be tied up with Shane McMahon. Another element of Talking Smack was Styles complaining that Shane offered him a 1-on-1 rematch, but Bryan screwed that up. While that would appear to lead more toward a feud between Bryan/Styles, we know that isn’t going to happen, as if that were to be the case, we’d have seen some resolution to his rivalry with The Miz. Since the McMahon/Styles match is on the table, we can rule out The Phenomenal One as the winner of the battle royal.
The same goes for John Cena, if we get the rumored mixed-tag match where he pairs up with Nikki Bella against The Miz and Maryse. Again, Elimination Chamber pointed in this direction with Nikki bumping into Maryse and spilling powder all over her (what a dumb way to start a feud…) and Cena eliminating The Miz.
With those three out of the game, the next highest ranked individuals would be Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin, who are obviously going to fight each other for the Intercontinental Championship in some fashion at WrestleMania, meaning they’re busy with their own thing just the same. The only real question about that program is what type of match it will be as they could have some kind of gimmick attached to it like a No Disqualification match or Last Man Standing match. That information will come in time, but next week, they’ll be busy eliminating each other and brawling.
As big of a fan of Dolph Ziggler as I am, I would have zero faith that he would come out on top considering his current feud is against Apollo Crews and Kalisto, who have been treated as midcarders for months and don’t have much upward momentum. They’re still on a higher level than many other people on the roster, though, so at that point, if you know Crews and Kalisto stand no chance, you have to rule out Jack Swagger, Curt Hawkins, Mojo Rawley, the tag teams and so forth.
That leaves one man as the clear-cut favorite to win: Luke Harper.
However, I don’t think this is going to be a conventional passing from Orton to Harper. I’d imagine there would be controversy that would spin out of this where we’d have a situation similar to the debate Cena and Styles had about who should get a title match against Wyatt first. Technically, both were entitled to a rematch, although Styles somewhat got his by being an automatic entry into the Elimination Chamber. They ignored that aspect and granted him another shot, so I assume the same thing will happen here.
Harper will be declared the new #1 contender, but Wyatt will come out to demand that it be stricken from the schedule as Orton is the true challenger. Perhaps this will be a plan on Wyatt’s behalf to make it a 2-on-1 with Orton helping him retain the title, or maybe this is Orton’s plan all along to fully extinguish The Wyatt Family from within, goading Wyatt into a false sense of security and further deepening the wound between Wyatt/Harper so they never join forces again.
In any scenario they reach that point, it’s looking more and more likely that Harper may just be included in the title picture at WrestleMania rather than simply wasted as a losing member in the sea of competitors for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Is that something you’d like to see, or would you rather it just be Orton vs. Wyatt—or, for that matter, Harper vs. Wyatt without Orton involved at all?
Are there any other options you could imagine happening next week and how will that play out for WrestleMania?
Drop your predictions, theories and thoughts in the comments section below!