It was clear that things would be turned upside down in the WWE heading into this week as Hell in a Cell took place on Sunday, and the event certainly didn't disappoint. CM Punk retained his WWE Championship against Ryback as many expected, but the person who aided Punk came as a shock to everyone.
Rather than a run-in from Brock Lesnar, Big Show, Mark Henry or someone similar, referee Brad Maddox delivered a low blow to Ryback just as he looked destined to win the title. Maddox then helped Punk pin Ryback's shoulders to the mat in what was a surprising turn of events.
While that has been the main topic of conversation this week, there have been plenty of other things going on as well. The main event has already been set for this month's Survivor Series pay-per-view, an accomplished Diva is on her way out of the company, while a beloved announcer is due back in the very near future.
With Survivor Series quickly approaching, the WWE is reaching its busy season, so things aren't likely to slow down any time soon. Here are the biggest news pieces and rumors regarding the WWE for the week beginning on Oct. 28.
With John Cena's elbow injury preventing him from facing CM Punk at Hell in a Cell, the WWE was faced with a dilemma. While putting Ryback in the match instead was smart from the standpoint of capitalizing on his momentum, the WWE had to try to book its way out of a phone booth. There are differing opinions about whether or not the ending of the match was done well, but it's tough to argue with success.
The goal all along had to be having Punk retain the title while still making Ryback look strong. That is precisely what happened as Ryback would have won the title if not for the interference from referee Brad Maddox. Punk won the match, but to hammer Ryback's dominance home, he tossed Maddox around the cell after the match and hit Punk with Shell Shocked on the roof.
I was certain that Brock Lesnar would be the one to help Punk win at Hell in a Cell, and while I still think that would have been a good way to go about things, I believe that the WWE did an even better job with the Maddox angle. Seeing Lesnar take out Ryback and align himself with Punk and Paul Heyman would have been great, but by the time Sunday rolled around, it had become a predictable result.
Although it's always better to book something predictably and correctly than unpredictably and incorrectly, the WWE managed to mix shock value with good booking. Despite the fact that Maddox had screwed up his first assignment back in September when he didn't see Punk's foot on the ropes during a tag team match against Cena, I didn't think twice about his involvement. Once he hit Ryback with a low blow, though, it made sense.
The WWE has created several different avenues for itself, but I think it will ultimately lead to the revelation that A.J. hired him to help Punk and that she has been working with him behind the scenes the entire time.
It had been speculated for quite some time that a traditional five-on-five elimination match would happen at Survivor Series this year, and that was confirmed on this past episode of Raw. Mick Foley confronted WWE champion CM Punk about the unfair manner in which he retained his title against Ryback at Hell in a Cell, and the two of them decided to settle the score at the November classic by pitting Team Foley against Team Punk.
Foley recruited Kofi Kingston, Kane, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and Ryback to compete for his side, while Paul Heyman brought in Punk, The Miz, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes and Alberto Del Rio. Punk figured that Foley himself would be taking part in the match, but the Hardcore Legend pulled the old switcheroo as he brought out Ryback and said that he would be in his team's corner.
I was hoping for a little more star power in this type of match with guys like Brock Lesnar and Triple H involved, but I can't complain too much since I love an old-school Survivor Series match regardless of the combatants. It seems pretty clear to me that this match is going to come down to Ryback vs. Punk at the end. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Kofi, Kane, Bryan and Orton were the first four guys eliminated, leaving Ryback to take on the entire Punk squad.
Ryback will inevitably mow down Punk's four partners in order to create a one-on-one encounter, but there will be more than meets the eye. Lesnar didn't interfere at Hell in a Cell, but it's only a matter of time before he joins forces with Punk and Heyman, so perhaps he shows up and begins attacking Foley on the outside. This would prompt Ryback to save his team captain, but he would be counted out, leading to a Team Punk win.
The only thing this match is missing is a stipulation, so hopefully one is added such as Ryback earning another title shot at TLC if his team wins. If Team Punk wins, though, Ryback can never challenge for the title as long as Punk is holding it.
As has been rumored for quite some time, it appears as though long-time WWE Diva Beth Phoenix has decided to retire, at least temporarily, from the company. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Beth's win over A.J. on Raw was her final match in WWE.
To explain her departure, the creative team ran an angle where she was fired by Vickie Guerrero. Beth initially lost the match as A.J. beat her with a roll-up, but Vickie restarted the match and Beth came out on top the second time. Later on, when Beth was talking to Vickie in the backstage area, Vickie canned The Glamazon for not taking care of business the first time.
As a fellow native of Buffalo, N.Y., I have always been a huge fan of Beth's and consider her one of the most talented Divas to ever grace the WWE. She could do things that almost nobody else could and she was a true wrestling fan to boot, so it was great to see her find so much success. At the same time, though, I can't help but think that the WWE could have done more with her. She had a few runs with the Women's Championship and a long run with the Divas Championship. However, she wasn't booked to be as dominant as she should have been.
I have no doubt that Beth could have been a modern-era Chyna, but perhaps with a bit more femininity. There were opportunities to have her feud with Natalya and Kharma, but the WWE missed the boat on both of them. I understand that the WWE is worried about looks more than wrestling when it comes to the Divas, but both Beth and Natalya are attractive and they had great chemistry in the ring. I'm not glad to see Beth go, but I can't blame her if there weren't plans to do more with her.
Jerry "The King" Lawler has been out of commission for the past couple months due to a frightening ordeal in which he suffered a serious heart attack during an episode of Raw. Many feared the worst, but the WWE Hall of Famer was able to pull through and has made a full recovery. Many fans have been itching for him to return to the announce table and that is precisely what will happen on the Nov. 12 edition of Raw.
It was announced on this past episode of Raw that Lawler would be back in two weeks, and that is certainly great news. Considering the fact that I and many others were worried about whether or not he would even live following the incident, the fact that he can return to his job so soon is fantastic. I'm sure every fan out there is eagerly anticipating his return.
Although I was admittedly critical of Lawler's commentary prior to his heart attack, there is no doubt that he deserves to be back doing the job he loves. After having some time to recover, I'm sure Lawler will be refreshed and I expect his commentary to be improved because of that. Even if it isn't, though, it will be great to simply see him in a familiar spot. In an effort to ensure that Lawler can get acclimated and doesn't have to shoulder too much of the load, I would keep Jim Ross in the fold along with Michael Cole.
While three-man booths haven't traditionally been a great idea in wrestling or any sport, Cole, Ross and Lawler can make it work. All of them have a ton of experience at the table and they can feed off each other. Lawler has a history with both Ross and Cole, and since Cole is back to being a clear babyface, there won't be any ridiculous squabbles. Lawler needs to be put in a position to succeed, so continuing to use Ross as a helping hand is the best thing the WWE can do.
The WWE held a conference call to discuss the third-quarter progress of the company with investors recently, and one topic that came up was the WWE Network. Plans for WWE Network were revealed last year, and the WWE built up a great deal of anticipation for it, but various bumps in the road have prevented it from being launched. A major announcement was made with regards to its format, as Vince McMahon said that it will be a premium subscription model similar to HBO, according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com.
Aside from that, no new information was released on the WWE Network front. The WWE got itself into trouble by pigeonholing itself and announcing possible launch dates in the past, so that is likely why the company is shying away from it now. WWE Network still appears to be far away from happening, but at least some progress has been made.
I realize that the popular thing to do is crack jokes about WWE Network and say that it's never going to happen, but I'm more optimistic than most. Whether it launches in six months, a year or even further down the line than that, it's only a matter of time. The subscription model seems to be best since, while wrestling has a huge following, it's really a niche audience. Regular sports fans won't want the channel, so it's smart to give people the option to purchase it.
McMahon also said that it would be the most interactive channel in existence, which is consistent with the WWE's desire to constantly involve the fans. The WWE has so much amazing footage and tons of possibilities for original programming that it would be an injustice if this whole thing didn't get sorted out. I understand that a lot of people are impatient, but the potential of the WWE Network is so great that I'm willing to continue waiting as long as it takes.