The Intercontinental Title has a big problem in how it is sold. It's represented as both a belt meant for WWE's most talented wrestlers as well as the competitors most likely to make a shot towards the world title. One potential problem with this: the belt is therefore seen as a stepping stone and something meant to be acquired and then discarded quickly, leading to a quick turnover of champions as WWE searches for their next Big Thing.
The other problem with that being that the IC belt has not recently proved a great way to actually find their next WHC. Here are the IC belt holders since the beginning of 2015: Wade Barrett (who is currently displaying how little it means to be King of The Ring anymore), Daniel Bryan, Ryback (it's the only championship The Big Guy has ever won), and currently NXT newcomer Kevin Owens.
Rebuilding the stature of the belt is a multi-step process, and step one of that process is attaching it to a talented in-ring performer like Kevin Owens (or Cesaro) and having them hold it for a significant period of time with a significant amount of defenses ending in clean victories for the current Intercontinental Champion, and though the match itself needed more time to feel more significant, WWE made a smart decision in booking Owens to go over Ryback clean at Hell in A Cell to start that process. (As much as I'd like to support more time for the women on the roster, they got more time than the IC belt contenders for a feud that's way less over than Owens himself.) That belt has to be the prize, not what it means in relation to a WHC shot, and you can make that belt more of a prize by keeping it attached to a prize-winning fighter.
When the opportunities the belt presents mean more than the belt itself, the belt itself is devalued, and that's exactly what WWE did by embroiling Kevin Owens in the tournament for this shot at the WHC. Instead, in a separate segment, he should've come out and told the crowd what he did to Ryback at Hell in a Cell (beat him cleanly in a quick, concise, pretty match) and say that he is ready to accept challengers, and then out walks Cesaro, Neville, or whoever. (Hint: it also makes a lot of sense to attach Europeans to the belt that Vince doesn't want as WHC so that they can have a position of comfort and guaranteed importance on the card!)
Instead, WWE chose to push Owens himself as a competitor, towards his inevitable loss in that night's main event in a defeat in the fatal four-way match for the #1 contender's spot. Nevermind that, instead of beating Cesaro, Owens could've beaten, I don't know, Bo Dallas or The Big Show or some shit in a squash match. The real purpose of that tournament wasn't to make Owens look good, it was to make Reigns look good. It did, (it really did) but WWE wasted a lot of talent to make it that way.
As a result, yet again, down goes Cesaro, who is one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster, puts on great matches every time he goes out, and continues to make the best of his spot in the company despite barely having one to speak of.
Part 2: Cesaro Is Becoming Continuously Victimized By The Booking He's Given
This one is pretty simple and really, really hurts to write.
Cesaro cannot get a shot at the WHC because he cannot win the IC belt and he cannot win the US belt and he cannot beat the Big Show. It does not make any sense to put him anywhere near the big belt unless he's proven in a kayfabe sense he can compete on that level, which, in a kayfabe sense, he simply has not. In kayfabe, he could lose to R-Truth tomorrow and it would be totally believable.
This is entirely WWE's fault and it's something WWE can fix easily.
Start slow. Have him beat Mark Henry, or Bo Dallas, or take revenge on the Big Show for all I care. Give him a mic, let him tell his rabid fans "I've been letting you all down, but starting tonight, I will start working to become the great wrestler you know I can be." (And yes, those are the guys he has to beat because right now, Cesaro's status as a competitor is that of someone on the absolute bottom of the card.) Put him in a small face stable of guys he works with well. (Hey! they already did that! and they already scored victories on lowcard heels at Hell in A Cell!)
After maybe a month of that low-level rebuilding, it'll make perfect sense to shoot him straight to the moon, and the fans will eat it up big time because they'll have seen their guy work his way up from the absolute bottom.
From that point, all that needs to be decided is whether KO gets to keep holding the IC belt, or whether Cesaro will be it's new face who gets to have the historic privilege of rebuilding it just like he rebuilt himself.
Hey, that's a pretty good idea for an angle I'd figure . . .
From Olympia, WA, Play is Labor, I'm Austin C. Howe.