So with it being Wrestlemania week, I thought I’d try and up the ante a bit. Usually I pick one match out of a PPV line-up and talk about the build-up, how it could play out and where it could go from there. But with this being the biggest card in recent memory with potentially 14 matches on the card (I mean so, many, matches), and it being Wrestlemania, I can’t pick just one. So I’m going to try and look at one match a day all week leading up to Wrestlemania. Starting with… Baron Corbin vs Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship!
Is it just me or has this match had the worst build out of them all for this Sunday? It’s just been so… forgettable. They still have one more shot to do something big tomorrow night, but so far that’s the word I’d use. There has been something every week, Corbin getting the upper hand most weeks, until last time round where Ambrose cost Corbin a match against Randy Orton. That wasn’t actually too bad to see, as it protected Corbin in an inevitable loss against the challenger to the WWE Championship at the biggest show of the year.
And “protected” is a word that has very much applied to Corbin since the draft. He had a strong debut at Wrestlemania last year, winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but faltered a bit in the succeeding months. He had a seemingly never-ending rivalry with Dolph Ziggler that did no favours for either man, but that he did at least win. But he looked dangerous in a rivalry with Kalisto, putting him on the shelf for a couple of months and having a surprisingly good chairs match against him in December, and Corbin has only been pinned twice in singles matches since becoming an exclusive part of the blue brand – and those happened against John Cena and Randy Orton.
Ambrose’s path has been a strange one in the last year. Around about this time, in the build-up to Wrestlemania 32, Ambrose may have been near the peak of his popularity. He was seen as the fans’ alternative to Roman Reigns, was coming off a title opportunity against Triple H and was in a match tipped to steal the show against Brock Lesnar in a Street Fight at Mania. When that didn’t quite live up to the hype, the Lunatic Fringe rebounded by winning the Money In The Bank briefcase and cashing it in to become a world champion for the first time in the same night, before defending it to take sports entertainment’s biggest prize exclusively to SmackDown Live.
But since then, it’s been mostly downhill for Ambrose. He was quickly overshadowed as the blue brand’s star performer by AJ Styles, lost the belt to the Phenomenal One and was cost the rematch by James Ellsworth. He was a non-entity in the Royal Rumble, having won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz on the first show of the year. And inside the Elimination Chamber, it seemed he only got the elimination of Baron Corbin to set up this match.
Maybe part of the reason the build has been so forgettable is because it seems like there is only one winner come Sunday night. With Corbin’s star so clearly on the rise while Ambrose feels like he’s peaked, Dean appears to be the sacrificial lamb that will be used to get the big man over.
But maybe that’s a good thing for all parties. I think Ambrose is a prime candidate to move to Raw in any post-Wrestlemania brand changes, because there isn’t really anyone left for him to face on SmackDown. He has battled Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt over the last couple of years, and his two most recent feuds before this one were AJ Styles and The Miz. With John Cena’s imminent departure, that means he has feuded with the top two faces and the top two heels on SmackDown in the last two to three years. Unless he battles with Dolph Ziggler in a glass ceiling rivalry that probably wouldn’t see either man move up the card despite putting on really good matches, a move to Raw is the only other option for him at the minute.
For Corbin, after impressive performances in matches against Ziggler, Styles, Miz, Ambrose and Cena already in the last few months, a dominant if not lengthy reign as Intercontinental Champion beckons. This will add to his credibility when he makes the step up to world title contention, which could happen before the end of the year. I personally wouldn’t book that to happen, but it could very feasibly turn out that way.
For SmackDown, it should be a good match at Wrestlemania that I would expect to get between 8 and 13 minutes. It’s a workhorse in Ambrose and as JBL keeps telling us a “future world champion” in Corbin. It gives them the chance to deliver on a big stage, and elevate someone in a big way. There are obvious comparisons to be made between Corbin’s booking on SmackDown and Braun Strowman on Raw, and that’s a good thing in my opinion. For me, we are in the midst of what could potentially be an 18 month to two year journey of Baron Corbin’s rise to being a main eventer, with Wrestlemania being the next step. And that is definitely something to be excited about.