I've recently been doing a lot of thinking about how the World Heavyweight Championship scene will take shape leading up to Wrestlemania. Admittedly, my thought process usually consists of how and when Ziggler will get the strap, but I'll refrain for a minute.
Alberto Del Rio's recent World Title win caught me off guard. At first I assumed he would be a transitional champion, a face for the #Heel to cash-in on. However, Del Rio appears to be relatively promising and comfortable in his new role as a babyface champion (I am shocked I just gave him a compliment). Vince's involvement in the Del Rio/Show feud to kick off Raw last week further supports the idea that they are making a real effort to give that belt some value. Anyways, I think it's safe to say Del Rio defeats Big Show at the Rumble. But, what's next? Can Del Rio really be the WHC leading into the biggest PPV of the year? Or will two fresh faces (neither Big Show or Del Rio) square off at Mania for the big gold belt?
Let's look at the players: Obviously there is Del Rio and Big Show, but there is also Sheamus, Ziggler, Orton, Wade, Miz, and a handful of others.
To me, the lead candidate to be involved in the WHC Match at Wrestlemania is Dolph Ziggler. The WWE has been building him up (I know, with epicly frustrating losses to Cena every week) for months now. He took down Orton at Survivor Series, beat Cena at TLC, started a new stable, and added the Superkick to his finishing move repetoir. Some argue he will hold his briefcase until AFTER Mania, but that doesn't seem like a 'show-off' kind of thing to do. I suppose he could announce his cash in for a title match at Mania, but that's a VERY babyface move for him to make. That said, they did mention they are considering a face turn for him.
But if he were to Cash-in, when? Del Rio vs. Big Show will happen before the Rumble match. Will he cash-in before and enter the Rumble match as Champ? Logic says he won't WIN the Rumble, so he'd have to get eliminated as the new WHC, which would seem kind of like a momentum killer. (Although a new WHC Ziggler and Cena as the final two in the Rumble would be massively entertaining). It will be tough for him to Cash-In at the Elimination Chamber. 1. He'll probably be in the match. 2. It's a tough environment to Cash-In at with 5 other guys involved in the match. Based on my logic, Dolph will need to Cash-in at a Raw, sometime between the Rumble and Mania. Will the WHC change hands on cable TV two consecutive times? I just don't know!
Fun Idea: Ziggler cashes in at the Rumble, wins, but then is eliminated by his eventual Mania opponent. Top candidates: Randy Orton, The Miz, or Chris Jericho.
This is getting lengthy, and I didn't plan for it to. Sorry everyone who has made it this far. I'll try to sum this up quickly.
I don't think Ziggler vs Del Rio would be the best program the WWE could offer for a title match at Mania. I personally don't want to see Del Rio fighting for it. But, where would Del Rio go? I'd like to see him face off with Wade Barrett or some other stud mid-carder.
I think Big Show dropped the title to enter his eventual feud with Ryback. I think Sheamus had the strap for a long time and will be kept away from the WHC scene for the next few months. That leaves Orton, Miz, and Ziggler. The Miz seems to be comfortable in the mid-card at the moment, although him and Dolph have great in-ring and on-the-mic chemistry. Their brief two-week stint on Main Event a few months back was awesome. A guy like Daniel Bryan could and will be amazing in a singles match for the WHC, but I think he'll still be tied to Kane in April (as his partner or opponent). So I'm left with Orton and Ziggler. Barring any suprising returns (Jericho, John Morrison, etc), my prediction for the WHC match at Mania:
Dolph Ziggler (C) vs. Randy Orton