WWE: Why the CM Punk and Ryback Angle Is the Great Unknown

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

photo by wwe.com
photo by wwe.com

Cold chills.  No other way to say it.  Pure, unadulterated, cold chills.

No, I’m not talking about AJ’s referee gear from Monday Night Raw.  Well, no, OK, that too.

But the cold chills I’m referring to came a bit before that match, when Ryback power walked down the ramp, climbed into the ring and dared CM Punk to flinch.

“Go ahead, champ.  Go ahead, do something.”

Like many fans, I was waiting for something to happen, considering that one week ago Ryback stood over a fallen Mick Foley backstage and stared down the WWE Champion.  We spent seven days debating what we saw, what it meant and what could happen because of it this week.

I would say we more than got our answer.  Ryback is open for business.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that a grown man has no business getting all wound up over one small confrontation between CM Punk and a controversial—and in many ways unproven—talent like Ryback.

After all, I am a Featured Columnist, I write about the industry nearly everyday, been in the business on and off since 2001. At this point I should not be this hyped over one single instance on one program.

I’m too smart for that, right?

To be honest, that is the problem with too many of us these days.  We’re just so educated, aren’t we? We know so much about the business, about WWE, that it seems like too big of a chore to just sit back and actually enjoy the product.  

What happened to us, anyway?  Didn’t we all start off as fans?  Aren’t we still supposed to be fans?  

At what point did our internal critics completely take over and begin showering WWE, TNA, ROH or any other promotion with such heavy criticism that we just don’t have fun anymore?

When did we lose our way?

Don’t misunderstand me here; I’m not saying that WWE is perfect.  Not at all, far from it.  When they fall short of fans’ expectations, they deserve to be called out on it.  We are the paying customers, and when we’re not satisfied, we have every right to air our grievances.

But if you did not feel the electricity of the moment between Ryback and CM Punk on Monday night, then you have totally lost your capacity to enjoy the business of professional wrestling.

OK, that was harsh.  Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal.  But it was kind of cool, right?

For me, the real drama of this situation lies in the fact that Ryback standing in the same ring as the WWE Champion is the most pure form of “the great unknown” that we have seen in quite some time.  These two guys have never had any reason to cross paths in their current incarnations, and we have had no reason to believe they ever would.

But now we’re faced with it.  Now, the great unknown, a storyline swerve that we did not see coming, has happened, and for me, it’s exciting stuff.  Why?

Because it’s different.  It’s new, it’s fresh and in a company that is consistently accused of being stale and unimaginative, this it the type of angle that we should really be able to sink our teeth into.

So, now that it’s happened, where do we go from here?

I will say that I do not see this whole thing ending with Ryback becoming WWE Champion.  He may be undefeated and often accused of being Goldberg, but he is nowhere near as hot as Bill was back in WCW.

But while this storyline may not play out with Ryback upsetting Punk, it does have the potential to do something perhaps a little more important than that.  Let’s face it, title reigns come and go in WWE and if a guy is not ready for the responsibility, he may just fade out before he should.

Can you say Jack Swagger?

For Ryback, it’s about getting over.  And I don’t just mean receiving cheers from the crowd or hearing them chant “Feed me more” whenever he’s in the ring.  I mean getting over, as in he becomes such a must-see Superstar that fans cannot get enough of him.

This means that not only do the Goldberg chants fully disappear, but that his name is not even mentioned in the same breath as Ryback.  For Ryback, realizing his full potential as an individual is more important right now than getting a belt he is not yet ready to hold.

Just getting the rub from Punk could be enough to set Ryback on that very path.  It really doesn’t matter if he pins Punk in a match, or if he actually even works with him at all.  What matters is that he’s there.  He’s in the same atmosphere as the WWE Champion and just the fact that CM Punk is threatened by him at all goes a long way to making Ryback more important today than he was yesterday.

But having said all of that, I did write last week that I would not be surprised if the angle was just a work on the fans and Ryback actually joins forces with Punk, becoming his bodyguard against any who would oppose him.  And I am sticking to that.

Truth be told, that would be OK, too.

Imagine Ryback getting the vote of confidence from not only the WWE Champion but from Paul Heyman, who has the innate ability to take a Superstar and immediately get him over.  An alliance between these three could go well into next year, and when the time comes for Ryback to turn on Punk, it would mean more and possibly propel him to the very top of the company.

Or the whole thing could explode in our faces, then fizzle out with a sad whimper.  Not so good for Ryback.

Whatever happens next, I for one am ready for it.  As I said before, I am enjoying this because I am now—as I have been since before I could walk—a fan.  I still mark out like crazy.  And I always will.

Feed me more.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.