With the 2012 WWE Hell in a Cell main event set for champion CM Punk defending his title against Ryback, much of the focus has been on whether or not Ryback deserves the sudden thrust to the top. But main event status and WWE Championship aside, he has to be ready to take on an incredibly talented foe.
CM Punk is no local jobber.
Besides being the reigning WWE champion for over 330 days, a cult hero and a slick talker on the mic, Punk is one of the best, if not the best, technical wrestlers in the company.
This reign began with defeating Alberto Del Rio at Survivor Series. Since then, Punk has retained in Elimination Chamber matches, Chicago Street Fights, Triple Threat matches, No Disqualifications and enduring singles matches such as Over the Limit's bout with Daniel Bryan that lasted 23:48. At Night of Champions, Punk and John Cena fought to a draw after 26:54.
Clearly, Punk can go the distance.
Then there's the matter of his style. He's quick and technical. He can utilize the corners, come flying off the top rope or take an opponent down to the ground with vicious kicks. Once there, Punk can then utilize an arsenal of submission maneuvers.
So what can Ryback do?
Well, the WWE Universe has repeatedly received the viewing pleasure of Ryback's feats of strength.
He's Shell Shocked Tensai. He's even completed the finisher on two men at once, strutting around the ring prior to delivering a final blow as if he were wearing two grown men as nothing more than shoulder pads. He's clotheslined people so hard they backflip. He's even chucked a couch over the top rope.
It's all impressive, no doubt about it.
But there has to be more to his arsenal. To hoist Punk up, he'll have to catch him first. Ryback hasn't shown much in mobility and speed.
Furthermore, what happens when the fight goes to the ground?
Against a gifted fighter such as Punk, Ryback must have counters and ground attacks of his own. As a professional wrestler, it's easy to assume he possesses these kinds of tactics. Unfortunately, we've yet to see them.
Then there's the matter of Punk's status.
Thus far, Ryback hasn't faced much opposition. He started with embarrassingly small "local jobbers." He progressed through the lowest of the low on the WWE roster, until he finally made his way to men like Dolph Ziggler and The Miz.
However, even against those two, it was more of the same—the opponent snuck in some quick attacks that hardly appeared damaging before Ryback became hungry. Once this happened, the match was a clothesline and finisher away from the end.
He cannot simply take two minutes of beatings at the hands of CM Punk, then will away the pain and replace it with aggression. It won't happen. It can't happen.
He's going to have to spend time being beaten.
This is also something fans have never seen before. Ryback is seemingly never injured. Jinder Mahal has put a move on Ryback—the camel clutch—that has finished other men off. Instead, Ryback easily stands up, declaring Mahal's "stupidity" before annihilating him.
It's difficult to imagine Punk's arsenal of kicks, takedowns and submissions will be rendered ineffective so easily.
Then there's the matter of stamina.
Not only have Ryback's opponents offered little in terms of power, none have ever lasted more than 10 minutes. In fact, during his bulldozing of jobbers, the matches rarely lasted more than two minutes (I physically timed them).
This is quite the contrast to a typical Punk match.
In all likelihood, WWE will take advantage of anything and everything they can to have Punk and Ryback's contrasting styles effectively coexist. It'll be a meeting in the middle of sorts.
First, there's the Hell in a Cell cage-like structure. Punk will plausibly exploit the cell's chain-link walls to gain a leg-up. The idea is, if Punk can't do enough harm to Ryback on his own authority, the cage should stop—or at least hinder—Ryback's surge.
Of course if Ryback lasts two minutes while Punk maintains 25 minute bouts, you can bet this one may last around 15 minutes. And that's with a lot of stare downs, standing over downed opponents and taunting.
Assistance to Punk at some point (looking at you Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar) wouldn't be a shock either.
In one corner, the WWE champion. A master manipulator, smooth talker and one of the best in the world at pure wrestling. He'll go nearly half an hour and still have something left to give.
In the other, the challenger—a beast of a man who demolishes opponents with three or four impressively powerful moves in under five minutes.
Perhaps the WWE should have not only considered whether Ryback is ready for this type of spotlight, but whether he was ready for this type of opponent.
If he matches Punk move-for-move, even a loss would make Ryback look strong.