With Heyman preoccupied with Ryback in his feud with CM Punk, Axel will now have the ability to carve out a path for himself as Intercontinental Champion. As Axel is the holder of the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship belt (click on the phrase for video), he holds a title whose prestige was recently restored by Cody Rhodes. Now that he’s no longer front and center in the Heyman-Punk feud, Axel can create a deep feud with great matches with an opponent who can elevate him or be elevated by beating Axel. Let’s look at a few options for both of these purposes.
Kofi Kingston- This guy is the first person that you probably thought of when you started to wonder who would be great opponents for Axel, and you thought of him for good reason. Kofi is versatile, adapts well to a number of ring styles, and has been a midcarder almost as long as he’s been in the WWE. But the match that he had with Axel at Night of Champions was easily one of the best of the night. If they could carry on a feud for a few months where they don’t kill the mystique and anticipation for their matches by only having them wrestle each other a few times, a Kofi-Axel feud can be a great late-year addition.
R-Truth- It’s no secret that R-Truth is past his prime but in the last few years, the WWE has been giving older stars pushes as a token of gratitude and as an expression of appreciation for the dutiful work they’ve done over the years, namely jobbing to countless rising stars. Truth has little momentum now, but if he revived the Little Jimmy persona and went after Axel, I think that they could create a compelling feud. Truth is also woefully underrated in the ring, and Axel’s a talented wrestler, so the combination of these two in a feud–if Truth resurrected the Little Jimmy persona–would make for a fun feud with solid matches.
NXT call up- The WWE farm system, if you will, is robust with great talents that have been performing well on NXT and are itching for the opportunity to bring their talent to the main stage. The WWE could bring up a can’t-miss prospect that they deeply believe in and have him entrenched in a deep feud with Axel. This prospect has to be be one that they believe in, however, because we don’t want to see another Bo Dallas/Wade Barrett episode where an upstart is around for 3 weeks and magically disappears due to the machinations of the WWE Creative division .
Ryback- It’s almost hard to believe that for someone who’s been pushed so hard in the singles ranks, he’s never won a title. A swerve where Ryback takes out Axel and his title would be unpredictable and fresh. This also would underscore Heyman’s tendency to be treacherous and only self-interested. This could be a great way to get Ryback his first title and a way to do something different with Axel. However, the problem with this would be that I don’t know if Axel could make it alone as a face yet. I’m not sure that the crowd has bought into him enough for a switch to occur and then succeed alone. Maybe the WWE can put this in the backpocket for future use.