In what came as extremely surprising news, WWE.com announced that John Cena would be out of action for two to three weeks while recovering from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. While fans obviously wish for Cena to have a speedy recovery, it will be interesting to see what this means for WWE champion CM Punk.
Punk retained his title over Cena at Night of Champions on Sunday in a controversial draw. It appeared as though Cena had won with a German suplex off the top rope, prompting him to celebrate with the title, but referee Chad Patton reversed his decision and ruled it a draw as both men had their shoulders down on the mat.
That finish was obviously used as a way to further the feud between Punk and Cena so they can have another match at Hell in a Cell, but the injury complicates things a little. Hell in a Cell is six weeks away and the initial recovery timetable was four to six weeks, so that would have been cutting it close, but the revised timetable suggests that Cena should be back in plenty of time.
Bone chips tend to develop over time and don't just happen, so I tend to believe that Cena was fully aware of them and had been wrestling with them for quite some time. He and the WWE likely were looking for a window of opportunity in which the surgery could be done without him missing anything significant while rehabbing.
Since there is a large chunk of time between Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell, now would seem to be the perfect time for Cena to step away for a few weeks. He fought Punk to a draw on Sunday night and pinned him controversially in a tag-team match on RAW as Punk's foot was on the rope, so there will be plenty to talk about during his absence.
It is unclear whether Cena will make appearances on RAW while recovering, but WWE.com is reporting that he has gone home for rehabilitation. With that in mind, I would guess that he'll be absent from WWE programming. It could be for as little as two weeks, but Punk needs to do something during those couple weeks.
If Cena isn't going to be at the RAW venue, then my preference would be for him and Punk to cut promos on each other via satellite. It's ironic since Cena constantly got on The Rock's case for appearing via satellite, but having Cena do the same thing would keep the feud alive while he's gone.
I'm actually a bit surprised that the WWE didn't do an angle where Punk attacked Cena on RAW with a foreign object due to lack of respect so his absence could be explained that way. It would have helped Punk get over even more as a heel, but I'm guessing that the writers thought that it would make Cena look weak if Punk put him out of commission.
How should the WWE deal with Cena's absence with regards to Punk?
Whatever the case, the WWE is already too far along with Cena vs. Punk that all Punk can really do is wait for Cena's return. The lack of top faces is alarming as outside of Cena and World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, the only guy who can realistically go toe-to-toe with a 300-plus-day WWE Champion is Randy Orton.
It's unclear if Orton is still feuding with Dolph Ziggler, starting a feud with someone like Alberto Del Rio or fading into the background as he prepares to film 12 Rounds: Reloaded, but having a couple matches with Punk would be a good way to remain relevant. It isn't an ideal situation for Punk by any means, but he has had great matches with Orton in the past and can keep looking strong with another win or two over him.
If Cena is, in fact, left off RAW for the next few weeks it will certainly be strange since he's the face of the company, but it won't be the end of the world. The initial reaction to Cena's injury was shock and panic from the WWE Universe, but in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn't be a big deal.
It affects Punk more than anyone, but he has done excellent work on the mic as of late and has his relationship with Paul Heyman going for him, so I don't expect him to lose any momentum. All WWE has to do is find a way to keep things interesting for the next two or three weeks when Cena is expected to return.
Luckily there will still be plenty of time to build toward Hell in a Cell as long as Cena progresses as expected. If nothing else, it will give the WWE time and reason to invest more in the midcard scene and perhaps we will see a better overall product because of it.