Daniel Bryan's latest injury issues have added to what has been one of the more frustrating journeys for wrestling fans ever. In the very ironic way that wrestling often traverses, the factual has mirrored the fictional, and Bryan's hard-fought triumph over nefarious adversity has taken a backseat to his own physical limitations. As mentioned in a previous column, this unfortunate circumstance has brought about at least one positive side effect: namely, the potential for the WWE to feature not one but two ladder matches in its MITB pay-per-view this month. While this has not been officially announced as of yet, it appears likely to happen in short order. The announced match will be for the unified championships themselves, and has quickly become more than half full with some of the usual suspects: Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, and Sheamus are all confirmed, in addition to the quickly rising Cesaro. With Kane being Bryan's main rival at the time of his injury, I can't imagine we don't see him inserted into the match at some point as well. Yawn.
Should WWE decide to do the right thing and feature a second match, the "traditional" ladder match for the right to cash in a title shot at any time over the next year, it is expected that it will boast a couple of guys ready to break through to the next level. This is the ideal reason to have both matches, as it not only promises fans a solid main event and new champion, but also allows for the normal curiosity and excitement over who the next big thing may be. My contribution to the affair is to toss out a couple of names that WWE may (or, more likely, may not) be considering for both the announced match and the rumored one. Any and all of them would add some level of detail that so far appears to be lacking. Like the Royal Rumble, MITB allows for stars to be made without even winning the match itself, and that's a major advantage that the creative team needs to not lose sight of. Here's some options:
WWE Title Ladder Match
Option #1: Goldust
Right out of the gate, it's time to shake things up. One of the major stories of last year was the return of Goldy to the big time, and he delivered the goods and then some. His presence helped to create one of the biggest angles of the year when he reunited with brother Cody and big daddy Dusty for a family reunion. Then a funny thing happened: he was fantastic in the ring. I've always appreciated Dustin's ring work, particularly when you consider that he's been waylaid by some very questionable gimmicks over the years, but his physical conditioning has rightly been called into question at times. This time, there has been no doubt that he is not only in good shape but outperforming plenty of talent half his age. Now that his tag team with Cody appears to be on the rocks, I love the idea of inserting him into the title picture in an upset scenario that enrages the former mustachioed man into a blood feud, figuratively and literally. It's also a solid way of rewarding the performance of a guy who has quite simply done anything the company has asked of him and delivered above and beyond expectation. Cody's no stranger to momentous occasions in ladder matches; I still get chills thinking about the Sandow/Rhodes breakup and its emotional impact at last year's event. Time to give the same opportunity to his brother before the final curtain.
Option #2: Jack Swagger
Swagger is no stranger to the main event title scene, as he not only previously won a MITB match but successfully cashed it in. (Y2J, you are missed!) Jack's title run lasted just a couple of months, however, and since then he's floundered about the midcard having largely unremarkable feuds while awaiting his next bite at the apple. Swagger's current tete-a-tete with newcomer Adam Rose will likely prevent him from taking part in the title match, but it shouldn't. Swags can always square things with Rose later, and his "anti-foreigner" gimmick ensures there will be multiple entrants he can take umbrage with quite easily. Solid ladder matches require solid worker types who can take a beating but deliver some serious offense in their own right, and Swagger possesses those qualities in spades. I've always liked him best when he's a bit unhinged, and a violent match such as this provides the perfect opportunity for that to be exploited. While I don't think he would be perceived as having much of a shot at actually going home with the gold, the stage would be set for him to last out in a memorable way that might get him back into the top tier. Cornerman Zeb Colter has been one of best comic talents on the entire roster for some time now, but Swagger has far too much ability to be a mere comedy act. Not that I don't want to see the Swagger Soaring Eagle again, natch.
Option #3: Bray Wyatt
It's unknown whether the John Cena/Bray Wyatt feud is truly over, and if it's not, that would be an excellent reason to keep those two out of the MITB match itself. It would also be a significant opportunity missed. If Cena will be taking on Wyatt again, it can serve the purpose of keeping Cena occupied while furthering Bray as a character to watch. It's highly doubtful WWE plans on placing the belt around JC's waist just yet, so it's naturally going to be challenging to exclude him from the match without a very good reason. It's tough for me to think he would be in the ladder match and not win, so this idea allows for him to compete (and possibly defeat) Bray before the Family takes him out and renders him unable to complete. Wyatt then naturally fills that slot, and there you have it. My main motivation for this is, like everyone else, I long to see Bray in a match like this. His build and physicality ensures some definite memorable moments in a match with objects being utilized, and his growing popularity will energize the crowd and provide another viable option to win the belts. Bray's odd appeal in the ring is undeniable, and the chance to present it in such a way allows the flexibility and spacing that's needed to keep him looking solid. There's also a level of mystery about what exactly he'll do next, which is exactly the asset you're looking for in a match such as this. Follow the buzzards to a title shot.
Option #4: Adrian Neville
NXT's champion is coming off an extremely strong showing against challenger Tyson Kidd at the NXT Takeover event, and anyone who's been watching their weekly show understands just how solid a performer the high flyer is. Incorporating NXT into current WWE storylines needs to be one of the top focuses of the current regime, as it builds their future and provides evidence of how it's no longer the company of the past. In order to not risk losing momentum as the current group ages and reduces their schedules, fans need more than just an hour a week to get to know the best the WWE's feeder program has to offer. It makes complete sense for NXT's champion to land a title shot for the big belt, and increases awareness and excitement for both brands. In essence, it's a total win/win. Neville's ring style is perfectly suited to incorporate ladders, and he's shown the rare ability to make his opponents look better, even when it's the opposition with more "major league" experience. Having Adrian come thisclose to the biggest championship in the sport makes NXT more viable and gets him on the radar screen of everyone who hasn't seen him yet.
MITB Title Shot Match
Option #1: Evan Bourne
I know what you're thinking: Duh. And you're right. Evan Bourne is ostensibly healed and ready to go, and yet we've still not seen him back on the active roster to date. What a waste. The time is now to get Bourne back into competition, and regardless of whether future plans will see him lumped back into the tag team division or not, that's no reason to not allow Bourne's aerial attack to get major airtime at MITB. Bourne is the perfect candidate for a ladder match in the same way that perennial contenders Christian and Rob Van Dam are: much of his offense features high-flying moves and he's fully capable of delivering significant damage using the home improvement tool. Unlike those other two, though, it would be one of the few times Bourne's gotten solid spotlight since first turning up in the WWE. As mentioned, there is no need to have Bourne actually win the match; one of the other competitors could begin a solid feud with him after the post-match fallout. It's unlikely that you could scour the roster and come up with too many talents who would be able to bring to the match what EB does, though, so it's worth investigating. Having Bourne come in cold without breaking up a current feud might be the best way to do it anyhow. Make it so.
Option #2: The Miz
Speaking of guys who have fallen off the radar screen, The Miz is rumored to be very close to returning to action. While Miz could certainly be considered more of a "main event" hand based on previous success, the reality is he's been booked criminally poorly for a long while and is not a contender in anyone's eyes. The right comeback match could change all that, naturally, and in the blink of an eye. If Miz is truly to be reunited with Hall of Famer Ric Flair upon his return, all the better. The idea of Flair training him or being involved in this match in some way just adds to the long list of reasons to do it. In short, Miz has to be a viable threat again, something we've not seen from him in quite some time. Flair would be part of that equation, but a hard-fought, exciting victory in a big match would be a far larger piece to the puzzle. Miz has impressed with his ring work on quite a few occasions, and this could further that in a more major way. It's unclear what the first steps for the former reality show star will be upon his impending return, but it's difficult to imagine a better opportunity to showcase his skills and remind fans of what he can do when given the opportunity. If he can't succeed with this match and that manager, he never will.
Option #3: Seth Rollins
Now you're talking. If one is to assume that the reduced Shield members will be busy defending their honor against The Wyatts or whatever else Triple H throws at them, then it stands to reason that the turncoat Rollins might just be available for this match. Rollins already has plenty of nuclear heat for his betrayal at the end of last week's Raw, but some behind-the-scenes finagling and manipulations would have it approaching Krakatoa level. In addition, the prospect of Rollins cashing in said title shot against Bryan when he returns to reclaim his belts is a tantalizing one to say the very least. It's also an effective way to keep Rollins in the Shield storyline while having the briefcase on the back burner. To say that Rollins would be a treat in a match featuring ladders is a lot like saying Betsy Ross could stitch your pants. He's been responsible for the biggest moments on recent PPVs, and it's time to see what he can do on his own in a match that still affords plenty of opportunity to be covered up by other talents. Having a heel own the title shot opportunity makes sense on many levels, as it's assumed that he'll cash it in when his opponent is weakest. Rollins is the best choice.
Option #4: Bo Dallas
Am I the only one that feels Bo's gimmick mainly exists to be completely opposite the one currently utilized by his older brother? I suppose it's been effective achieving some heat in its own way, but it's thus far been trumped by its sheer enormous annoyance. Dallas showed promise on his previous callup to the main roster, when he appeared in the Royal Rumble and tangled with Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. While all things take time to develop, a significant way to move the needle on how the audience feels about the pseudo-inspirational Bo is to have him land a title shot and cash it in at an opportune moment TBD. Just picture it: the guy telling everyone how to do the right thing takes the easiest route possible to land a championship. Bo has had a ton of solid matches in NXT, but his exposure to the average WWE fan has been minimal so far. An excellent way to showcase what he's truly capable of...and perhaps a way to make it a Wyatt sweep.
There you have it: Eight quality candidates who, if selected, would add a depth to the match listing not currently featured. Feel free to make your own suggestions in the space below.