Did anyone really think WWE was going to have a second consecutive pay-per-view without John Cena competing, much less headlining the event?
If Vince McMahon is anything, he is a shrewd promoter who knows what the people want and gives it to them. That’s why on the last episode of Raw, he essentially shuffled the deck and made a WWE Championship Triple Threat Match featuring Cena, champion CM Punk and the white-hot Ryback to headline WWE Survivor Series 2012 later this month in Indianapolis.
And in doing so, WWE may also have shuffled some existing storylines and created some potential new storylines as preparations are under way for future PPVs, including WrestleMania 29 next April.
Let’s take a look at the potential effects of this latest WWE swerve.
In announcing the shift in the lineup, McMahon brought Raw managing supervisor Vickie Guerrero out and “insisted” that she sanction the Triple Threat match for the title. That took Punk and Ryback out of the traditional Elimination Match and put them in a rematch of sorts from Hell in a Cell. This time, however, Cena was thrown in for good measure.
Guerrero, as you know, is the one who has been stirring the rumors of a Cena-AJ Lee romance by providing alleged evidence of a hotel rendezvous. Cena, who has been defending Lee, was expected to face Guerrero-backed Dolph Ziggler in a singles match.
Now, all that apparently has gone by the wayside. Ziggler has been inserted into the Elimination Match as Punk’s replacement, and the team that will face Team Foley now is Team Ziggler.
And also gone was any more talk of the Cena-AJ relationship, aside from some event recaps later in the show.
Let’s hope that storyline is down for the count.
It’s possible now that by the time Team Ziggler hits the ring for the Elimination Match, its captain may be the new World Championship titleholder.
Ziggler has either been thwarted from or teased a possible cash-in of his blue-brand Money in the Bank briefcase. With just a handful of pay-per-views left before WrestleMania 29, now would seem the perfect time to put the belt on Ziggler. Big Show, the champion and Sheamus are expected to be involved in a tough brawl for the title. So with Ziggler apparently now removed from the relationship storyline, he is back to being pushed for the belt.
And he will not disappoint, coming in at the end of that match to pin the exhausted winner.
At Survivor Series—one of the “Big Four” of WWE’s pay-per-views—Ziggler probably will come away from Indianapolis with gold around his waist.
When Raw opened Monday night, The Miz was in the midst of quitting Team Punk, claiming he did not trust Punk or Paul Heyman. With Ryback now in the Triple Threat Match, a spot is open on Team Foley. It’s quite possible that we could see Miz approach (or be approached by) Mick Foley about being on Foley’s team.
Since Miz returned from filming the latest sequel to The Marine, he has sported a new look, and his heel character, while still good, seemed like it was losing its edge. Sure, he won the Intercontinental Championship, but he held it for a short while before losing it to Kofi Kingston.
Now, once again, Miz is in search of a storyline. While he does have his detractors, he always has had supporters in the WWE Universe. A position on Team Foley and a decent showing in the match could signal a babyface run for Mr. Must-See.
Of course, that is just speculation. That final spot could be taken by someone who has history with Survivor Series, such as Triple H or even Foley himself.
On the other side, Survivor Series could also signal the long-speculated heel turn of Randy Orton. Orton has made no secret of his desire to return to villain status, and a five-man team gives him a good opportunity to turn on one of his teammates and walk out, only to return the following night aligned with someone like Punk and Heyman.
Let’s look at the possibilities of victories by Punk, Cena or Ryback in the Triple Threat Match.
If Punk wins, it would solidify his claim to being the “Best in the World” because by that time, he would have held the belt for a year. In this era of relatively short title reigns, that is almost unheard of.
If Cena wins, it puts the company’s top prize back around the waist of the company’s top star. Last year, when Punk beat him for the belt, Cena essentially was taken out of the title picture to focus on the run-up to his match with The Rock at WrestleMania 28. In the following months, Cena was worked back into a title run, but he lost a shot at Punk’s belt on Raw’s 1,000th episode last July.
Since then, Cena has been like a car circling the block looking for a place to park. He gave the prime parking spot to Ryback for Hell in a Cell, but this time he is going for the parking spot closest to the door.
If Ryback wins the belt, all bets are off. He would be the first untried WWE champion since Sheamus burst onto the scene a couple of years ago. And you have to admit that it would be worth the price of admission to see Ryback possibly get both Cena and Punk up for his Shell Shocked finisher.
But giving Ryback the belt almost would make it difficult to plug him into one of the most anticipated matches in a long while—the WWE title match against The Rock.
Speaking of Rock…
Rock definitely has history with Cena. And given what happened between him and Punk at the Raw 1,000th episode, the WWE Universe was looking forward to a program between them.
But what about Rock vs. Ryback for the title? It undoubtedly could be a good match, but it lacks the sizzle of Rock-Punk I or Rock-Cena II. The WWE Creative Team would have a hard time coming up with a solid storyline for this match, but that is not to say they could not.
Rock could take the title from Ryback at Royal Rumble, only to lose it at WrestleMania 29.
Several scenarios, however, naturally flow if either Punk or Cena win the match.
If Punk wins, he goes into the Royal Rumble with a score to settle against Rock. Rock would win the belt, successfully defending it against Punk at Elimination Chamber and setting up a rematch with Cena at WrestleMania 29. Then, Rock would drop the belt to Cena, giving Cena not only the title but also some payback.
Remember, Punk has held the title for a year. I don't think WWE would put the belt back around him so quickly, especially given the massive publicity for another Rock-Cena match.
If Cena wins, he gets some momentum going into Royal Rumble and a shot at Rock. Rock wins the belt at Royal Rumble, setting up Rock-Cena III at WrestleMania, where Cena still gets redemption on wrestling’s grandest stage.
I know it sounds like I am forgetting about the TLC pay-per-view in December. Maybe I am, because TLC is a second-tier PPV at best, and the WWE belt likely will not be won or lost at a second-tier event.
The Rock is one of two wild-cards, right? Then who is the other?
Flip to see.
When Team Punk was in place for the Elimination Match, I saw Lesnar coming in and affecting Ryback’s performance. With the Triple Threat, that possibility remains in place.
Lesnar could distract Ryback and/or Cena enough to let Punk keep the belt in Survivor Series. While there are some out there who would love to see another go-round with Cena and Lesnar, most of the others would love to see two behemoths like Lesnar and Ryback develop a program that could take them all the way to the uppercard of WrestleMania.
It also gives Punk and Lesnar (and possibly Orton) enough time to build up quite a heel stable over the coming months, giving them lots of exposure at WrestleMania.
I don’t see Lesnar getting into the title picture, though, because WWE already has a part-time wrestler (Rock) entered into the picture. Having a second part-timer could send the wrong message that WWE has little enough faith in its full-time Superstars to carry the load.
Bet you never thought that so many pieces would fall into place thanks to a little nudging from the WWE chairman. But Vince McMahon has never been one to just let things happen.
He not only is the straw that breaks the camel’s back., he is also the one who winds up putting that camel in traction.
And in the meantime, giving the WWE Universe something to care about from now until WrestleMania 29.
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Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.