CM Punk vs. John Cena or Ryback: Weighing the WWE Champion's Options
What do you say we get back to talking about wrestling?
As the chaotic ending to Monday Night Raw played out, the WWE Champion was given an ultimatum by the man with whom he had just brawled for 10 minutes. The 67-year-old WWE chairman, Vince McMahon, glaring at Punk through a fresh cut underneath his left eye, told Punk that his options at Hell in a Cell would be John Cena or Ryback. If Punk doesn't make a decision, McMahon will do it for him.
The desperate "What do I do?" expression on Punk's face told the story. With his back to the wall, Punk now has to seal his own fate or let the boss do it for him. He has beaten and/or escaped John Cena several times, but his only way around Cena will be coming face to face against a monster who has yet to lose since he returned earlier this year.
Things looked pretty set in stone for Punk and Cena to clash once again inside the sadistic structure, with both Mick Foley and Jim Ross telling Punk he needed to cement his legacy, define his career and get his moment inside the cell in order to earn the right to call himself the "best in the world." Of course, none of us knew just how bad John Cena's elbow was until Dr. James Andrews opened him up.
Nobody can be more disappointed about not being in the ring every week than Cena, save maybe for his potential Hell in a Cell opponent. If Cena's elbow was bad enough to put him on the bench since Night of Champions, I can only imagine how long that arm as well as whatever other ailing parts he has were causing him pain throughout every match he wrestled. The amazing thing is that everyone thought Cena's ankle would be a bigger issue, having rolled it minutes into his match against Punk and still wrestling for almost half an hour.
If Punk chooses Cena, I imagine it will be their final confrontation for some time. I have no doubt they can put on another classic, whether one or both of them are 100 percent or nearly crippled. They have become the feud to watch for over a year, something that will be discussed years from now in roundtables as one of the all time greats.
Punk will indeed have to make his mark at Hell in a Cell, a show in which he historically has not enjoyed one iota of success. He lost the World Heavyweight Championship to The Undertaker in 2009, the first time a championship ever changed hands inside the structure. He sat out 2010 with a hip injury and failed to regain the WWE Championship in 2011. Defeating Cena inside the cell will unequivocally make Punk the absolute best...at least until January, when The Rock gets his shot.
Now, let us address the 300-pound gorilla in the room.
Anyone who has been watching Raw for the past couple months has heard it. Ryback's reactions and chants have been getting louder and louder. In Sacramento, they were quite literally shaking the arena with the amount of noise they generated when the big man hit the ring to chase off CM Punk at the end of the show.
Most recently, Ryback has stormed out of the gate when CM Punk has been going into bully mode. Ryback stopped Punk from taking his assault on Mick Foley any further than it already had gone. Ryback came to the defense of Jim Ross during the Oklahoma City native's appreciation night. This past Monday, just as Vince McMahon was about to receive a GTS, Ryback once again came after Punk and chased him away.
Let's say that Ryback is chosen by CM Punk and Ryback ends up winning the WWE Championship inside the cell. WWE would have a brand new face for their anti-bullying campaign, something that Cena has been a huge part of since day one. They would also have a new feud for CM Punk, something different than the last few months of dodging Cena.
If Ryback holds on to the title, John Cena could come back only to find that his loving fans have found someone new to get behind. This isn't an attempt to see Cena turn heel, but having him question the loyalty of his fans and wonder where all their support went while he was out of the ring while the new guy came in and stole his territory and title would be the foundation for a great fight between the two. CM Punk can continue to get in the heads of both men, especially Cena, adding to Cena's paranoia about what happened to the adoration and, oddly enough, respect that people used to show Cena.
Then, you have the option of making this a triple threat affair, which would be an encore of last year with Alberto Del Rio replaced by Ryback. This would be an interesting mix of styles since Ryback would still not yet be truly tested for his stamina in a one-on-one situation. Furthermore, if Cena were to pin Ryback or the other way around, Punk could use the classic excuse that he was never beaten and get his rematch.
WWE is approaching an interesting crossroads with multiple paths ahead. CM Punk has a little more than a month to go before he will pass the one-year mark as WWE Champion. If he clears Hell in a Cell, I don't know what other obstacle could get in his way before The Rock comes back for his Royal Rumble opportunity. I really can't see John Cena regaining the title either with his health situation, so it comes down to whether or not WWE wants to give it to the new guy. Whether you like it or not, nothing is too predictable at this moment in WWE programming.
All we can do is stay tuned.
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