March to WrestleMania 36: Exploring the Intercontinental Championship Scene


Welcome another edition of the March to WrestleMania 36, 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 SmackDown’s midcard environment and the people surrounding the Intercontinental Championship.

Note: Obviously, the coronavirus has left WrestleMania up in the air. This series assumes that it will still happen (as WWE continues to advertise it) and exists to bring casual viewers up to speed with information they’ve missed out on by not watching recent events.

Let’s get into it and round out this series…


Who is the current champion?

With the help of Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura in a 3-on-1 handicap match, Sami Zayn became the new intercontinental champion by defeating Braun Strowman at Elimination Chamber.

This is the first title for Zayn on the main roster and only his second total belt in the company after having a short run as NXT champion many years ago (that Kevin Owens put a quick end to).

Who will challenge for the title at WrestleMania?

It seems as though there are only really two real contenders: Braun Strowman and Daniel Bryan.

Logically, Strowman should be looking to win his title back. The Monster Among Men lost it in a way that he was protected, so it’s not like he’s lost the credibility to become champion again. Then again, why did WWE bother taking the title off him in the first place? I can’t imagine it was just to have a rematch against Zayn at WrestleMania, win the title back and have that be it.

Instead, while I think this means WWE has no plans for Strowman (again…) for WrestleMania, I feel they’ve swiftly brushed him aside in favor of Daniel Bryan.

This past episode of SmackDown had Bryan asking Drew Gulak for advice on how to improve his game backstage when Zayn, Cesaro and Nakamura casually came over to them and started talking trash. It’s a very lame, easy, effortless and uninspired way to start a feud for the biggest show of the year, but they did it and you can’t expect much out of WWE these days, especially with all this coronavirus stuff going on.

That led to a match between Bryan and Cesaro, which Bryan won. The trio attacked Bryan and Gulak after the match, which means this is now a feud, for sure.

Many months ago, Bryan was gearing up to fight Zayn and his crew before Survivor Series. Rumors suggested the plan was for Bryan to beat Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship back then so he could fight AJ Styles and Roderick Strong. However, WWE opted to go with Bryan against The Fiend and booked him against Bray Wyatt for the event instead when shuffling things around.

That put it all on the back burner, and I guess they’re getting around to doing that now.

Bryan against Zayn for WrestleMania seems like the thing to do.

What happens at and after WrestleMania?

Bryan wins the championship and has a bit of a reign with it as the #2 guy on SmackDown underneath Roman Reigns as universal champion.

He’ll probably feud with Cesaro, Nakamura and Zayn for a while before moving on to King Corbin. Then, if he doesn’t drop the belt to him, he’ll lose it to Sheamus, who needs the IC title to check off one of the few things he has yet to do in his career.

The Celtic Warrior has specifically talked about wanting that belt as one of his remaining goals, rather than focusing on the Universal Championship or anything else. I think WWE will go ahead with it. Then, beyond that point, perhaps Strowman gets it back by being the one to take out Sheamus late in 2020, if not in 2021.

Keep the discussion going by leaving your comments below and telling us what you think about this title situation for WrestleMania 36!


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