With WWE champion CM Punk set to defend his title against Dolph Ziggler at next Sunday's Royal Rumble and Raw GM John Laurinaitis tapped as guest referee, one can't help but wonder if Punk will escape the event with his WWE championship.
Following storyline developments on Raw, it appears less likely. After the program's main event, Mick Foley demanded to know whether or not Laurinaitis would "screw" Punk in his upcoming title defense. The Raw GM was vociferous in his response, exclaiming, "You're damn right I will!"
Cameras caught up with both men for WWE.com moments after Laurinaitis' admission for their comments. Punk was ultimately not surprised by what he heard:
"Look, John Laurinaitis finally coming out and admitting he's going to screw to me at the Royal Rumble—I don't think is a big surprise to anybody. I mean, I've known it. The fact that he finally had the balls to admit it to the world... yeah, good for you. Pat on the back for old Johnny 'Ace in the Hole' Laurinaitis."
The WWE champion continued to say that despite the development, he remains confident:
"Is there a chance I'm coming out of the Rumble as champion? Absolutely. I don't care who the referee is. I obviously have a problem with authority. So, the fact that he's the referee doesn't phase me one, single bit."
Laurinaitis was more cryptic in his response. He remained silent for several seconds as cameras followed him through the arena concourse. Finally, he stopped and offered the following statement:
"Listen, everybody loses their cool once in a while. OK? Bottom line is, at the pay-per-view, I will do what's right for business."
How this angle will play out at the Royal Rumble remains to be seen, but the Laurinaitis/Punk feud has been gaining more steam each week, and after months of indirect and implied animus, this is the first overtly negative statement made by the Raw GM concerning CM Punk.
If Punk loses the title at the Rumble and Laurinaitis is to blame, the feud could continue through Wrestlemania and reach Austin/McMahon proportions.