It was quite clear from the start that the WWE would have to do something both drastic and creative in order to produce a satisfactory ending to the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Ryback at Hell in a Cell. While referee Brad Maddox's involvement was shocking, I give the writers high marks for the decision.
The WWE put itself in a lose-lose situation as it needed Punk to retain the title, but it also needed to make Ryback look as strong as possible. There was no way to have Punk retain and keep Ryback's undefeated streak alive since the match took place within the cell, but the finish didn't make Ryback look weak at all.
Many figured that Punk might be aided by a returning Brock Lesnar at Hell in a Cell, and while that would have made sense due to Lesnar's relationship with Paul Heyman, it almost would have been too predictable. The shock value would have been there for the casual fans, but many of the diehards considered Lesnar's interference to be the only logical ending.
Rather than settling for a more obvious conclusion, though, the WWE really went off the board. The use of Maddox was honestly masterful as absolutely nobody expected it. There are times when going for shock value can backfire as it is often used in favor of the correct booking decision, but I don't believe that was the case at Hell in a Cell.
Maddox was the official who didn't see Punk's foot on the rope when John Cena defeated him in a tag-team match last month, so he isn't new to controversy. Punk and Heyman proceeded to berate Maddox and former Raw general manager A.J. Lee even gave him a piece of her mind. Since that incident, though, Maddox has carried on as a normal referee and there hasn't even been a mention of him.
Clearly the WWE has been setting up something with Maddox since that time, but it did an excellent job of essentially making the fans forget that it happened. I didn't even give the fact that Maddox was officiating the match a second thought until he gave Ryback a low blow and I imagine that few, if any, other fans did either.
Whereas the Lesnar theory would have been satisfying and sensible, having Maddox screw Ryback opens up a world of possibilities. Since Vickie Guerrero is the managing consultant of Raw, she was likely in charge of assigning Maddox to work that match. That would seem to indicate that Vickie and Heyman are working together, but the WWE could go in a number of different directions.
As for Lesnar, I believe that his involvement is yet to come. Both Ryback and John Cena have a legitimate claim to the No. 1 contendership for the WWE Championship as Ryback was screwed over on Sunday, while Cena fought Punk to a draw at Night of Champions. Because of that, I anticipate a No. 1 contender's match between them to be scheduled for Raw.
Since Ryback still needs to be protected and I'm not convinced that Cena has actually been cleared to compete despite his claim last week, the match won't actually happen. After Cena's entrance, Ryback will be shown laid out in the backstage area with Lesnar standing over him to close the show.
That would set up Punk vs. Cena at Survivor Series as well as a five-on-five elimination match with Lesnar captaining one team and Ryback leading the other. The WWE has to find a way to get Ryback out of the title picture and this would be the perfect plan. The fact that the Hell in a Cell match lasted only about 11 minutes proved that Ryback is too limited to compete for the WWE Championship right now, but a feud with Lesnar would keep him relevant.
Had Lesnar taken out Ryback at Hell in a Cell, it would have been much more difficult to keep Ryback away from Punk. Not only would having Lesnar appear on Raw shift the WWE Championship focus back to Cena, but it would be a lot more shocking than had he appeared at Hell in a Cell as many were expecting.
I get the feeling that a lot of people disliked the finish between Punk and Ryback since a referee became so involved, but because of Maddox's past transgression, it wasn't a reach. The WWE may have painted itself into a corner with regards to the Punk vs. Ryback result, but one decision has officially given the writers an unlimited number of avenues moving forward.