WWE No Way Out 2012 Results: Kane and the Top 9 Challengers for the WWE Title
Another WWE pay-per-view gone by, and CM Punk is still the WWE Champion.
Despite having the odds stacked against him at last night's No Way Out pay-per-view, Punk managed to successfully defend his WWE title in a Triple Threat Match against Kane and Daniel Bryan.
Since winning the belt back at Survivor Series last November, Punk has now walked into and out of seven straight PPVs as the WWE Champion.
But the longer that Punk's impressive title reign goes on, the longer his list of potential challengers gets.
After the events of No Way Out, here are the top 9 challengers for Punk and his WWE Championship.
9. Jack Swagger
Do I think that Jack Swagger has even a decent shot of challenging for a World title anytime soon?
No, not really.
But the fact remains that CM Punk is running low on fresh heel challengers, and Swagger is a heel who has never had an extended feud with Punk.
While Swagger tends to be booked more like a glorified jobber than anything else lately, you never know what the creative team is thinking.
Perhaps Swagger could somehow earn a shot at Punk's title, which would play a role in his impending breakup with Dolph Ziggler.
I certainly think Swagger's a long shot for any type of World Championship match within the next year or so, though.
8. Brodus Clay
After what transpired at last night's pay-per-view, it looks like Brodus Clay is headed for a feud with The Big Show.
But as we've seen over the last few weeks, Clay has gotten more over as a bit more serious character, and he's also developed a little mean streak.
He appears to be benefiting from the WWE's lack of star power at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that he played a huge role in the main event at No Way Out.
The only question is how far Clay's current push will take him.
A feud with CM Punk seems improbable because they're two of the WWE's most popular baby faces at the moment, but if Clay continues to get over, that might not matter.
Clay could end up challenging for the WWE Championship anyway.
Had Tensai not struggled so much to get over with the WWE fans, I think he would have already had (or currently be in) a WWE Championship feud with CM Punk.
But Tensai's current WWE run has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.
He received a massive push right out of the gave, quickly found himself relegated to Superstars and is now in the process of a complete gimmick makeover.
It's that gimmick overhaul that makes me think Tensai might work his way back up to main event status, though.
There's no doubt that Tensai flopped miserably early on, but he's dropped his mask, his robe, the green mist and now, Sakamato, which means his career could be back on track.
Might he be headed to a WWE title feud with Punk that many think was already supposed to happen?
I could definitely see it happening in the not-so-distant future.
6. Big Show
Big Show lost in the main event at No Way Out, but he was protected in the process.
It took outside interference from a handful of guys to lead to Big Show's loss, and even though his sidekick John Laurinaitis is now "fired," I don't think that means the end of his push as a monster heel.
It was only about a month ago when Big Show turned heel, and he's been wreaking havoc on the WWE ever since.
I don't see a controversial loss to Cena chancing that very much.
Big Show will likely continue to be booked as a main event level heel, and that could very well lead him to a WWE Championship feud with CM Punk.
In fact, there already appear to be plans in place for Punk vs. Big Show at SummerSlam.
5. Cody Rhodes
I've got Cody Rhodes penciled in as the winner of a Money in the Bank match at next month's pay-per-view, whether there are one or two MITB matches on that show.
But if there aren't plans to have Rhodes win one of those briefcases, then why not put him in a World title match instead?
It's classic WWE booking to have an up-and-coming mid-carder drop a mid-card title and then almost immediately find himself competing for a World title.
Heck, not that long ago, Dolph Ziggler lost the United States title at WWE TLC and then wrestled for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble next month.
I definitely think we could see something similar happen with Rhodes, especially with the current roster depth issues.
Although I think it's more likely that Rhodes steps up as Sheamus' next challenger, a WWE Championship feud with CM Punk would be both fresh and potentially epic.
4. Dolph Ziggler
Even though Dolph Ziggler lost a World Heavyweight Championship match to Sheamus last night at No Way Out, that doesn't necessarily mean he can't become the next No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship.
Just look back to what happened with Chris Jericho earlier this year.
He lost three consecutive WWE title matches at Elimination Chamber, WrestleMania 28 and Extreme Rules, but at the next pay-per-view, Over the Limit, he competed in a Fatal 4-Way for the World Heavyweight title.
This leads me to believe that we could see Ziggler do almost the exact same thing by following up his No Way Out World title loss with yet another World title match at Money in the Bank.
Ziggler and CM Punk feuded earlier in the year, but they only got one PPV match, and that feud centered largely on Punk's beef with Laurinaitis at the time.
Who knows, maybe we can get a re-do of a Punk/Ziggler feud that would be sure to produce some great matches.
Kane took the pin in the Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship last night, but it's how that finish went down that matters most.
AJ interfered at the end of the match and played a big role in its finish, and in fact, you might even argue that she actually caused Kane to lose.
I'm not really sure what's going on with AJ, Kane and CM Punk, but it appears that there's still more to this storyline between the three.
Exactly what that is, I don't really know. But after all the time they've invested in AJ's love triangle (I mean, square), there's going to have to be some sort of payoff.
I'm not sure what that payoff will be, but it could very well require Kane to somehow stay involved in the WWE Championship picture.
Even though Kane took the loss and the pin at No Way Out, that doesn't definitively indicate that he's done as a No. 1 contender to Punk's WWE Championship.
2. John Cena
John Cena beat Big Show in No Way Out's main event, just a short while after CM Punk successfully retained his WWE Championship in a Triple Threat match.
See where I'm going with this?
Since Cena defeated Show in such a big match and Punk successfully retained his title again, both men might indeed be moving on to new feuds.
But could they be moving in to a feud with each other? I think so.
There aren't a ton of must-see feuds that are possible right now (due to injuries and suspensions), but another Cena/Punk feud could be really intriguing.
It was just a year ago that they put on the best match of 2011 at Money in the Bank, so it could be fun to see them go at it at Money in the Bank again to celebrate the one-year anniversary of one of the best matches in recent WWE history.
You'd have the WWE's two biggest stars facing off in a fantastic face-to-face battle that, although it recently happened, might be awesome to see given that Punk is now right on par with Cena in terms of popularity.
1. Daniel Bryan
I know, I know, Daniel Bryan's now lost two consecutive WWE title matches on pay-per-view.
But let's consider exactly how those two losses played out.
At Over the Limit, Bryan made CM Punk tap out just a split second after the ref counted the 1-2-3 for Punk, and last night at No Way Out, he wasn't involved in the finish whatsoever.
At least to me, that means that the WWE is really high up on Bryan and wants to protect him by making him looking strong even in defeat.
Sure, Bryan didn't win either of those matches. But he was about .5 seconds away from winning one while Kane technically lost the other one.
That leads to me believe that Bryan is far from done as a WWE title contender, that we'll see Punk vs. Bryan again in the very near future and that Bryan may very well be calling himself the WWE Champion within the next month or two.