Curtis Axel (c) vs. Big E Langston
It's been four months since the re-packaged son of Mr. Perfect won the belt that his father famously held twice in his illustrious career. Curtis Axel's ability to come anywhere close to the 400 days Curt Hennig is in serious jeopardy after his manager insulted a man capable of deadlifting nearly 800 pounds.
The Road to Hell in a Cell
The Intercontinental champ has spent almost as much time handling (or attempting to handle) his advocate's business with CM Punk as he has defending his title. Since making a big splash on the WWE stage as Paul Heyman's first Guy since the Second City Saint himself, Axel seemed to learn quickly at the heel of the Godfather of Extreme. It was less than a month after the NXT season two alumni and former Nexus member was introduced by Paul E. under his new name that he won the white and gold belt in a triple threat match by pinning Wade Barrett.
Since then, Heyman has gotten more and more embroiled in a beef with his former protege Punk - costing him a shot at the WWE championship at Money in the Bank and siding with Brock Lesnar against the Straight-Edged Superstar at SummerSlam. Through it all, Axel has been a loyal if not particularly effective associate. But the lack of focus from the ECW founder, including recently taking on a second charge in Ryback, may be hindering Curtis' development.
Big E Langston had made quite a name for himself in WWE's developmental system in Florida. There, he became the second NXT champion and defeated all comers...until his focused shifted after being included on the main shows as muscle for AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler. He later sided with Lee in her break-up with Ziggler, then AJ began to go her own way as well once she was Divas champion.
Langston was now a small fish in a big pond. Losses and frustration started to mount. Then, on the October 18th Smackdown, E was defeated by Punk in one-on-one action. Heyman came out to run down the longest reigning WWE champion of the modern era and included in his tirade that Punk shouldn't be proud of beating "a marginally talented rookie barely out of the NXT division".
The Big man had heard enough, and he rushed to the aid of the Pipe Bomber. His assistance in fending off Axel and Ryback that night lead to another altercation on the last episode of Raw, and now this match on Sunday's kickoff show.
What's at stake?
Axel has had a lengthy but unremarkable title run. He has his fans, in the locker room and among fans, due to his prowess as in-ring technician. But even with one of the best talkers in the business in his corner, he's been unable to really connect with the WWE Universe.
Langston's look and athleticism draws eyes to him regardless of the character he's playing, but the personality he shows on social media and in public relations appearances is what has made hardcore fans extremely excited about a face run on the main shows.
Could Sunday see the IC belt change hands and, perhaps more importantly, the birth of the next "Big" babyface for pro wrestling?
Find out on every web service the WWE is affiliated with - including the site you're reading this on right now! - Sunday, October 27th at 7:30ET/4:30PT.