Welcome another edition of the March to WrestleMania 35, breaking down the environment around all the championships heading into the biggest show of the year to set the tone for 1) recapping how we got to this point, 2) discussing possible plans for WrestleMania and 3) guessing where this all going to end up once WrestleMania has concluded.
This final post will be covering Monday Night Raw’s midcard environment and the people surrounding the Intercontinental Championship.
Let’s get into it and round out this series…
THE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Who is the current champion?
Bobby Lashley defeated Finn Balor on Monday Night Raw to regain the title after having lost it to Balor at Elimination Chamber in a handicap match which also featured Lio Rush, who was responsible for helping Lashley this time around. Even Steven, we’re back to square one.
Since Lashley’s not had much time as champion, as he initially won the belt on January 14th, there isn’t any great lineage associated with him and the title. He’s not in some historic reign that is nearing its end, nor is he just starting out his career and in the need of establishing himself with a midcard run.
Essentially, Lashley is filling the role that often happens with the Intercontinental and United States Championships, wherein he’s not prioritized enough to be a world champion at the moment, so having this belt is a good second-place thing to keep him relevant.
Who will challenge for the title at WrestleMania?
Right now, it seems like the go-to prediction is to just assume Finn Balor is getting a rematch for the title (despite, you know, the automatic rematch clause going away, even though we all know that that was never going to truly cease).
I’m of the opinion that this is incredibly underwhelming for many different reasons—not the least of which being that we’ve seen it many, many times over the past few months.
I tend to think WrestleMania matches should be something different or built up for a long period of time without it being a recent string of matches. If Lashley and Balor had only feuded in little spurts for the past year, and didn’t touch each other the past two months, then sure. But now that they’ve had as many matches as they’ve had together, what’s the selling point?
Demon Balor, apparently, and as unpopular of an opinion as it is, I’m entirely underwhelmed about that, too.
I’ve always had the criticism that Demon Balor is literally the exact same as the regular Balor, outside of some body paint. His entrance is mostly the same, his in-ring style doesn’t strike me as particularly different, and it’s more like WWE trying to convince me that when Mickie James wears her more Native American inspired ring gear that she’s suddenly a different character.
We’ve seen the Demon Balor picture on promotional material and since nothing at all is being set up as an alternative for Lashley OR Balor to do at WrestleMania, now that Braun Strowman has already ruled himself out and put his name in for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, I can’t see any match other than Lashley with Rush against Demon Balor happening.
If there were teases of The Undertaker, then sure, Demon Balor vs. Undertaker. But even that would still leave Lashley will no opponent, and there isn’t enough time to set up another challenger without it being rushed (no pun intended). Also, there aren’t any options on Raw that make sense to me to challenge for the belt other than Balor.
What happens at and after WrestleMania?
I guess it’s as simple as Balor winning the title, as the Demon gimmick doesn’t normally lose. It isn’t a guarantee, but it’s as safe of a bet as you can possibly get.
The match certainly won’t receive a ton of attention, as there are far too many matches on the card as it is and the bulk of them are more important in the grand scheme of things, so don’t be surprised if this is cut short to sub-10 minutes or something just to cram it in there.
Then, the Superstar Shake-up will be a big determining factor in whether or not Balor and/or Lashley move over to SmackDown, who they’ll be feuding with for the championship afterward and all the other elements to this.
However, with the Saudi Arabia show coming up on May 3rd, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see another match with Lashley getting his rematch for the title.
When in doubt, go with the prediction that WWE will beat something down into the ground as much as possible by taking the easy way out and pitching it to the audience as a super fantastic amazing feud that has stretched the past few months because of how much they hate each other, rather than “because we couldn’t think of anything else to do and figured this was good enough.”
It’s an underwhelming situation for the Intercontinental Championship, but unless something happens on the very next episode of Raw that changes everything 180 degrees, I think this is all we’re in store for when it comes to this title and WrestleMania 35.
Keep the discussion going by leaving your comments below and telling us what you think about this title situation for WrestleMania 35!