Who deserves a chance at Sheamus’ World Heavyweight Title?

Who deserves a chance at Sheamus’ World Heavyweight Title?

The setting, TLC 2011: Black steel remnants of a titanic clash between two giants were scattered across the squared circle. When the smoke cleared, Big Show had defeated Mark Henry in an epic Chairs Match and the WWE Universe had a new World Heavyweight Champion. For one shining moment, The World’s Largest Athlete could reflect on his monumental victory and think about what he no doubt believed would be a long and glorious title reign to come.

But a lot can happen in just a few moments.  

Without warning, the defeated Mark Henry roared back in a vicious post-match assault of pure vengeance, leaving the gigantic new champion lying among the chaotic wreckage.

As in nature, when prey is left in such a state in WWE, a predator is never far from striking. Enter Daniel Bryan who, seemingly out of nowhere, cashed in his Money in the Bank title opportunity on the war-torn giant to bring Big Show’s reign to a close within minutes of its start.

Anything can happen in WWE, just that quickly. Fast-forward to WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami, where Bryan would learn that lesson, in a matter of 18 seconds.

When The Great White Sheamus leveled the distracted champion with a Brogue Kick, then covered him for the victory, thoughts of Big Show had to be flashing somewhere inside Daniel Bryan’s mind. Just like that, the title that he had successfully defended at both Royal Rumble 2012 and Elimination Chamber 2012 now belonged to someone else. Bryan was left empty-handed.

Was this somehow poetic justice or just a true case of easy come, easy go?

And what about Sheamus? Was his 18-second victory a dominant display befitting a newly crowned champion? Or was Bryan left vulnerable — like Big Show four months ago — and The Celtic Warrior was simply taking advantage of the situation?

The biggest question of all might be who should get the first crack at the new champion? We know that Bryan is contractually guaranteed a rematch against The Great White. But does he truly deserve to get that opportunity first after his poor showing on The Grandest Stage of Them All? Moreover, is there anyone else who deserves the chance even more than the former champion?

Alberto Del Rio jumps quickly to mind. The Mexican Superstar returned Monday night to announce that he’ll face The Celtic Warrior on Friday’s SmackDown, and, if Del Rio defeats the champion, he’ll be granted a title opportunity. But one can argue that Del Rio is receiving preferential treatment from John Laurinaitis, thanks to his display of support for the the GM at the 25thAnniversary of the Royal Rumble in January. As good as he is, has Del Rio done anything recently to deserve this "golden" opportunity, or is he just on Laurinaitis’ good side?

Members of Team Johnny, one would think, are in a similarly positive position. Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger have done Laurinaitis’ bidding, and backed the new GM up at WrestleMania. Could one of them also be destined to journey to SmackDown to challenge Sheamus for his gold?

Along those lines, if things were to come full circle, then fellow Team Johnny member Mark Henry might also end up with a chance to regain the title he lost to Big Show in December. Speaking of The World’s Largest Athlete, coming off his Intercontinental Championship victory at The Show of Shows, who would stop Big Show if he decides to challenge for another title as well?

And finally, there is also the 500-pound elephant in the room. Just one week ago, the thought of a Brock Lesnar-Sheamus title bout may have seemed like nothing more than a fantasy. But Lesnar’s shocking presence Monday night opens up the imagination to all kinds of possibilities. Though his intentions are not clear as this moment, his very name adds fuel to the fires of speculation as the WWE Universe plays a very real game of “Who’s Next?” in line to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship.

How will this all unfold? Don’t miss SmackDown on Syfy, Friday at 8/7 CT to see how Del Rio fares in his quest to overcome The Celtic Warrior and put himself on the path to a World Heavyweight Championship.

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