Wrestlemania 32 is in the books, and it was for the main part a mediocre show with a few surprises that made it more interesting.
Few expected any other outcome than Roman Reigns walking away with the WWF title or The Undertaker beating Shane McMahon after Shane made some kind of insane suicide dive from the Cell (Yes it was awesome, but we'd rather have seen him win...)
The biggest "shock" of the night however was the outcome of the Intercontinental Ladder match, now a staple of the 'Mania card. The match is there to ostensibly give the upper mid card guys something more meaningful to do than The Andre The Giant Battle Royale. Mainly however the match seems to set up a change of champion without necesarrily damaging the guy losing the belt.
Last year, Wade Barrett walked in as IC champion but Daniel Bryan walked out. While disappointing for Barrett (enough that he has stated he will leave WWE when his contract expires) it was only further injury that derailed him again, losing the title in that way to Bryan of all people was not damaging, especially when talents like Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and former IC Champ Luke Harper were in the mix - all known for their more "hardcore" experience.
This year, the man with the gold walking in was Kevin "KO" Owens, who this time last year wasn't even on the roster. The bullish Canadian stormed into WWE and BEAT JOHN CENA, clean and has established himself as a strong up and comer during two IC title reigns. He injured long time indy and NXT foe Sami Zayn and tore up many other stars with his vicious Pop-Up Powerbomb.
Zayn made his return in the run up to Wrestlemania and a blood feud for the IC title seemed on the cards - although seemingly Owens wrote his own destruction by mouthing off to Stephanie McMahon at the wrong moment, putting him in a odds-stacked 7 man match.
The one name that seemed "odd" in this mix was Zack Ryder, who has for years been seen by many fans as deserving of more than he got, yet he has been repeatedly buried seemingly by the WWE brass. Some speculated that he commited a cardinal sin of "getting himself over in spite of them" via his Youtube channel - indeed Ryder was the FIRST to do something that is now a cornerstone of WWE's media landscape - even going so far as to name himself the "Internet Champion". After a brief US title run and storyline involving Kane, John Cena and an aborted relationship with Eve Torres that saw Ryder, sent off the stage in a wheelchair by "The Big Red Machine" it seemed that there was no way back.
Most recently Ryder was seen in NXT as part of "The Hype Bros" a thrown together team with rookie and former NFL player Mojo Rawley, seemingly as part of the Breaking Ground network show. Ryder was playing the "team player" role, helping the rookie to learn and get over but made clear he "had to get what he needs from it" and for many, it seemed only a matter of time till he was "Future Endeavoured" from the company.
Recently, indeed in the last month or so, things seem to have altered radically for Ryder. The first piece of luck, if you can call it that was an unfortunate injury to British superstar Neville that took him out of Wrestlemania. Indeed, had he been fit it is obvious to everyone that he, not Ryder would have been in the match.
Ryder has also gone public with a real-life relationship with fellow WWE superstar (we can't call them Divas any more...Steph said so...) Emma, who also came back to TV recently after a spell in the wilderness caused by a misunderstanding at a Wal-Mart that saw her accused of shoplifting, fired, then re-hired after Wal-Mart declined to press any charges.
Many fans were happy for Ryder, not only was he back on TV but seemingly happy in his private life, he looked good onscreen but he never had a hope of beating out Owens, Zayn, Ziggler, Stardust, The Miz or Sin Cara right?
Beat them he did and he walked out of Mania 32 the Intercontinental Champion after a memorable version of his "Woo, Woo, Woo...you know it" catchphrase atop the ladder. Life is good for Zack Ryder right?
In fact there is very little chance he will leave Monday Night RAW with the title, much less survive a week. Because some very ominous challengers are circling.
Baron Corbin made his full roster debut and impressively won the Andre Battle Royal. This would you think put him into immediate contention for a title, although it is perhaps more likely he will target US Champion, Kalisto and perhaps get involved with the Lucha Dragon's 'Mania opponent Ryback - definitely a fight people will want to see.
Owens is going to be smarting, and he has a rematch clause he can invoke, as all titleholders have in WWE. He could smash Ryder like he has so many others and take the title for a 3rd time.
Sami Zayn is likewise someone who could conceiveably take the title quickly from Ryder.
However two other clouds are looming over the Intercontinental title picture that I think might be more likely.
Perhaps the other "shock" result at Wrestlemania 32 was Chris Jericho defeating popular newcomer AJ Styles in their "rubber match". Everyone thought this was the beginning of a big push for Styles. However Y2J has had somewhat of a renaissance of his best work - his heel character of 2008 that tore down the house with Shawn Michaels and took him back to the World title in recent weeks. THIS Chris Jericho could easily be facing Roman Reigns, but it's far more likely he will take his TENTH IC title from Zack Ryder.
Why would this make sense and be a big thing for WWE?
One other debut took place this weekend, at NXT: Takeover, someone who Jericho has already engaged in some Twitter banter with and who he is scheduled to face in the not too distant future. Shinsuke Nakamura... in Japan!
With WWE's recent policy of airing bigger level house shows and events from Japan - like Brock Lesnar's "Beast In The East" show then a match between the first ever Undisputed World Champion in the US and Japan's top star would not only sell, but be big business indeed. It can't be for a World title, but it COULD be for the Intercontinental title!
Many will remember the last time the Intercontinental belt was the selling point of a show overseas at Summerslam, where 80,000 saw The British Bulldog defeat Bret Hart. WWE drawing a massive crowd and Network viewership to see Nakamura face and potentially beat Jericho would have a massive buzz around it. Far more than a Zayn v Owens match might or sadly for our current champion, Zack Ryder vs anyone.
Even if Jericho only held it a short time, the resulting feud is something WWE can base much of 2016 on and include Zayn and Owens along the way. It's natural Owens and Jericho might team up as both are Canadian and nasty, Zayn just lost to Nakamura but they clearly have respect. This could go throughout the year with those 4 guys being involved, each chasing Nakamura - Jericho could even tour for a while, THEN come back to take his rematch on his own turf.
So suddenly, it doesn't seem so much like WWE getting behind Zack... more getting the belt onto someone else.
But don't feel bad for Ryder, he is back on WWE TV, he got a Wrestlemania moment no one ever thought he'd get and he is clearly in good standing with the company again. He doesn't need the IC title to be popular or successful in WWE, but he might by dropping it do them a very big favour that sees him in a job for the long haul, rather than released.