With it is clear the main event scene doesn't have room for Drew McIntyre, his road to WrestleMania 35 clearly runs through one person: John Cena.
The Scot is the next big thing when it comes to bad-guy types at the top of the card, but the upcoming April 7 showpiece has to do some housecleaning first.
That isn't saying this year's event will be a bad show by any means. But it needs to re-end Brock Lesnar's reign by anointing Seth Rollins. It needs to protect Finn Balor after his recent loss to The Beast Incarnate. AJ Styles needs a moment, and so does Daniel Bryan. Braun Strowman has cooled off considerably. Dean Ambrose got ruined recently, which will likely leave him relegated to putting over a younger talent.
It leaves McIntyre in a bit of a limbo, barring a Cena return. Which we know is coming, of course.
Cena has popped up here and there since going Hollywood and doesn't appear to have anything major on the docket. The original plan, if any, was rumored to be a big match with Lars Sullivan, according to Wrestling Observer Radio's Dave Meltzer (h/t H Jenkins of Ringside News). But that's apparently out the window, though either way, it makes it clear the veteran's role was going to be helping build a new monster.
McIntyre certainly classifies.
Granted, he is more established than Sullivan at this point. But his plans have fallen through after he failed to win the Royal Rumble and go after the universal title. From a story standpoint, it's a total derailment of his goals for the time being; from a booking standpoint, it is clear WWE isn't ready for him in such a role.
Funnily enough, McIntyre's other recent actions fit a feud with Cena well. Remember him dismantling Kurt Angle in barbaric fashion? Tearing down a legend in humiliating fashion? Try this, though keep in mind this cut-up offering doesn't even do the full dismantling justice:
Shifting McIntyre to a legend-smashing role and letting him build a villain that way makes plenty of sense. And while Angle's resurgence has been fun, he's looked gassed at times. Cena is the top of the pile in this department.
Even better, McIntyre and Cena have played well off each other already recently, both in promos and in the ring:
Cena hit the right tones in the above promo—he's heard all the same things before from all sorts of Superstars and left in part because he'd hope others would emerge.
Well, here's McIntyre. The nice thing about a feud between the two with a finale at WrestleMania is that Cena doesn't even have to show up every week. He's not a champion so it isn't as big of a deal as Lesnar being absent.
McIntyre, on paper, could stay hot in the process of the days without Cena being around by taking out other major figures within the company. When Cena's there, he always shows up just a bit too late for the save.
Has WWE done a storyline like this before? Of course, but if it works for all, it works. Cena is an interesting case because he presumably can't be around each week on the road to 'Mania. McIntyre is the sort of talent in all phases (ring, mic, etc.) who can carry the feud in the interim.
Frankly, McIntyre needs some help at this point too. From a broad standpoint, he has it all. The look, mic skills and unexpected athletic bursts for a guy his size are hard to find. He can play the good or bad guy quite well. Even the long-running story is there considering he was at one point the supposed chosen one before leaving WWE, rebuilding himself and returning as a monster.
Yet, as of late he's been winning a feud with Dolph Ziggler before getting eliminated by him in the Royal Rumble, then wasting away in the purgatory that is Raw tag matches while teaming with guys like Baron Corbin.
A Cena push would reinflate The Scottish Psychopath's status and get him away from the mess underneath him. Going over Cena in a good-looking fashion will work wonders too.
With Rollins presumably sending Lesnar packing again, WWE will revert to needing a final boss of sorts who can give the appearance of deserving a title shot against the guy who slayed The Beast.
That guy is McIntyre coming off a dismantling of someone as prestigious as Cena on a stage like 'Mania. All gets forgotten in a hurry when it comes to the last few months if he's stomping out the veteran and sending him back to Hollywood, slapping away the usual "Cena raises your hand win or lose" after the end of the match.
Organic would be a good way to describe McIntyre's re-entry into the main event scene afterward for a feud with Rollins, who presumably won't have either Shield brother to spar with and stuck-in-mud guys like Strowman offering little in the way of chemistry.
While it's a shame other loose ends on an overly talented roster had to sweep McIntyre to the side momentarily. But it could be a blessing in disguise if he gets a WrestleMania moment against Cena that slingshots him into a void left by Lesnar, the difference being he'll show up each week and fight.