wrestling / Columns

The Piledriver Report 10.27.12: Booking Ryback vs. Punk- What’s the WWE To Do?

October 27, 2012 | Posted by RSarnecky

This Sunday, October 28th, the WWE presents its yearly Hell in a Cell pay per view event. For the first time in the pay per view’s existence, there is only one Hell in a Cell match-up. That match will feature the WWE Champion CM Punk battling the undefeated Ryback. This match is very intriguing, as the WWE has been having a hard time coming up with an ending to the main event.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

The reason for the WWE’s dilemma is because they are having a hard time picking a winner in the match. If they have Ryback win the WWE title, then their plans of having CM Punk defending the WWE title against The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble in the middle of a year plus long title reign would be gone. Sure, the WWE could put the belt back on Punk before the Rumble. However, the big drawing card from a storyline standpoint of “Can The Rock end the long title reign of the man that has beaten all comers for over a year?” would be out the window. Instead, the drawing card would be The Rock facing the current WWE Champion in his first title match in over eight years. It would still draw money, but having The Rock face one of the longest reigning WWE champions in the company’s history would add a whole other element to their Rumble encounter.

Logic would say to have CM Punk go over Ryback. However, there is a problem with this logic. While putting Punk over would solidify the WWE’s “Road to WrestleMania” plans, a loss by Ryback could hurt the long term future for the former Skip Sheffield. Ever since the Ryback character debuted in the WWE earlier this year, he has been booked as a monster. He has destroyed everyone in his path in a Goldberg-like fashion. His intensity, stiff style, and domination has been so similar to Bill Goldberg’s rise in World Championship Wrestling that fans chant “GOLDBERG!” during Ryback’s very brief matches. Right now, Ryback is riding a tremendous amount of momentum. If the WWE put the WWE title on him at the Hell in a Cell event, there is a very good chance that a new star could be made as Ryback becomes the “next big thing” in wrestling. The risk for the WWE is that if they have Ryback lose, the mystique of the character would be over, and Ryback would become “just another wrestler.” A loss before it’s time could kill interest in Ryback the same way Goldberg’s defeat by Kevin Nash slowed down Goldberg’s momentum in WCW. Was Bill Goldberg still over after the loss? Yes, but he was never the same. He never had that same air of invincibility after the Starrcade event that saw Goldberg’s shoulders held down for the three count.

RUMORS, RUMORS, AND MORE RUMORS

The WWE has seemed to have backed themselves into a corner. No matter which option they go with, one of their major plans are going to be affected. The WWE has only two viable options. Either Ryback pins CM Punk, or CM Punk pins Ryback. Since the WWE has put this match inside of a Hell in a Cell, you can’t have a disqualification. Well, you could. At the 1990 WCW Capital Combat: The Return of RoboCop pay per view event, Lex Luger beat Ric Flair in a steel cage match by disqualification after the Four Horsemen interfered in the bout. The problem with going this rout is that the consumer would feel ripped off (as I did in 1990), and you have the possibility of killing the Hell in a Cell as a viable, money drawing gimmick match.

It seems like ever since the WWE announced Ryback vs. CM Punk, that every armchair wrestling fan has been trying to book the ending of the show. The Figure Four Weekly’s Bryan Alvarez came up with the following elaborate scenario to get the WWE out of their pickle. “Before the Cell drops on Sunday, Punk attacks Ryback, they have a big brawl outside, and Ryback lays out Punk. Ziggler’s music then hits and he runs down and cashes in on Punk, pinning him to win the title. Perhaps the Cell would have been lowered and Ryback was locked inside while this happened. Regardless, however you distract him, he’s not there to interfere in this. Since the main event never technically started, though, it is announced that Punk vs. Ryback will still take place, and geeks come down and throw Punk into the Cell for the main event. At that point they can do whatever match they want to do and Ryback beats him clean with his move, keeping the undefeated streak alive but not winning the title. On Raw the next day, Ziggler explains that, in fact, while he had the World title briefcase he is officially a Raw superstar, and therefore he is claiming the Raw championship. Of course, Heyman comes out and argues that no, you might be a Raw wrestler but your briefcase was exclusive to the Smackdown brand, so no, you’re not champion and the belt must be returned to Punk. Finally, Vince comes out and announces that the Board of Directors will decide this and there will be an announcement on Raw next week (in order to try to pop a rating). Of course, the decision comes back that, as it turns out, Heyman is right, Ziggler isn’t allowed to cash in on Punk, and that the belt must be returned. So in the end, Punk remains champion, Ryback remains undefeated, and you have a clean finish in the Cell that can at least be explained in storyline so it’s not a total cop-out that kills the concept of the Cell.”

One of the more popular suggestions centers around Brock Lesnar. Most fans believe that Punk should retain the title. However, Ryback should not job cleanly to the champion. Instead, many feel that the ending of the match should involve Brock Lesnar breaking into the cage, ala Kane at the first Hell in a Cell match, and lay out Ryback for CM Punk to pin. This makes perfect sense from a storyline standpoint. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar are good friends in real life. In the world of the WWE, Heyman acts as Lesnar’s mouth piece. Obviously, Brock Lesnar is a “Paul Heyman guy.” Currently, Paul Heyman is managing CM Punk, who is an admitted “Paul Heyman guy.” Having Lesnar interfere would have one Heyman guy helping another. This makes perfect sense. Punk keeps the belt, but doesn’t truly beat Ryback. Ryback loses the match, but keeps his momentum, because he lost to two men. Plus, this helps set up a future Ryback vs. Brock Lesnar showdown. As simple as this seems, life in the WWE could never be that easy.

According to the rumor mill, the WWE seems to be against a Brock Lesnar appearance for a couple of reasons. First, Lesnar is scheduled to appear on a very limited number of dates for the WWE. The WWE already used a bunch of these appearances building up his Extreme Rules match with John Cena, and his SummerSlam contest with Triple H earlier this year. The WWE is very reluctant to “waste” a Lesnar performance on a pay per view that will not further any Brock Lesnar storyline when the WWE wants him to work as many dates as possible on the “Road to WrestleMania” early next year.

The second reason is that Lesnar “quit” the WWE in his storyline with Triple H. They want Brock to return following Triple H dropping another challenge to Lesnar. This time, for a battle at WrestleMania XXIX. I think the WWE is wrong here. WrestleMania XXIX is supposed to already feature a John Cena vs. The Rock rematch. Do we really need a second main event match that is built around a rematch of a big 2012 pay per view match at WrestleMania? No. WrestleMania is supposed to give us fresh and exciting match-ups, and not rematches that we already saw fought on a big stage less than a year before. Who cares if Triple H gets his win back? Been there, seen that. A better idea would be to use the Hell in a Cell ending with Brock Lesnar costing Ryback the match as the first seeds planted in a Ryback vs. Brock Lesnar match at WrestleMania XXIX. If the WWE went this route, they would not be wasting a Lesnar appearance, and it would be an early tease for the fans to get excited about a now very possible Lesnar-Ryback match at the biggest show of the year.

WHAT WILL THE WWE DO?

In the end, it all comes down to what the WWE feels is more important at the moment. Is it more important to keep the WWE’s “Road to WrestleMania” plans intact, or is it more important to keep Ryback’s momentum going and creating a new main event star?

Earlier this week, the WWE’s plan was for CM Punk to successfully defend the title against Ryback. While they feel that ending the Ryback winning streak isn’t the most ideal situation for the Ryback character, it is a hurdle that they can overcome. Unlike Goldberg’s WCW winning streak, the WWE never promoted Ryback’s winning streak. The feeling is that they could quickly rehab his character by having him destroy more wrestlers in quick squash matches. Whereas, if Punk drops the title, there is no going back to the “I’ve been the WWE Champion for over a year” storyline that the WWE is in the middle of with Punk.

While the WWE has been going back and forth recently over who will eventually win the match, I think the WWE will go with their original plan of having CM Punk retain the title. Of course, by the time Sunday comes, Vince McMahon could change his mind fifty more times. Whether they go with Punk or Ryback, one thing is certain, this will be one of the most intriguing decisions that the WWE has ever had to make in recent years. A decision that could affect the WWE for months, or even years to come. It all comes to a head this Sunday night. Who will the WWE go with? Not even Vince McMahon knows for sure. Stay tuned.

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