With CM Punk set to defend his WWE Championship against Ryback and John Cena in a triple-threat match at Survivor Series, it seems plausible that anything could happen. The chances of Ryback capturing his first WWE title are minuscule at best, however.
It's impossible to say for sure how the WWE is going to book a match of any kind, particularly one with such high stakes. Ryback has gained an incredible fan following over the past few months and is suddenly the fastest-rising star in the business, so conventional wisdom would seem to state that he is very much in the mix; however, there are too many other factors working against him.
Ryback may be the top up-and-comer in professional wrestling, but he'll have to contend with WWE's two biggest established stars on Sunday. WWE has gone off the board in the past and given the WWE Championship to guys who hadn't yet proven themselves fully, but I simply don't see the same thing happening with Ryback.
Here are the top five reasons why Ryback will not be the next WWE Champion on Sunday or at any point in the immediate future.
With regards to the WWE Championship, every booking decision from now until the Royal Rumble will be made with The Rock as the main deciding factor. Whoever holds the title heading into Royal Rumble will go one-on-one with The Great One, and that all but eliminates Ryback from contention as far as the Survivor Series triple-threat match goes.
From the moment The Rock announced on the 1,000th episode of Raw that he would challenge for the title at Royal Rumble, essentially every WWE fan figured his opponent would be either CM Punk or John Cena. Nothing has drastically changed since that announcement was made, so Punk and Cena remain the only logical choices.
Punk makes sense since he has held the title for almost a year, is the company's top heel and laid out The Rock to close that milestone Raw. Cena is obviously a top option as well since he lost to The Rock at WrestleMania and presumably wants another shot at him. A Ryback vs. Rock match would certainly be interesting, but it wouldn't have anywhere near the same impact as Punk vs. Rock or Cena vs. Rock.
Whoever wins at Survivor Series will have to defend the title at TLC, and it simply wouldn't be good booking to put the belt on Ryback. Punk and Cena need to face off at TLC in order to keep the drama and anticipation alive for Royal Rumble. If Ryback is defending against either Punk or Cena, then the outcome is obvious, but anything could potentially happen in a Punk vs. Cena contest.
Over the past couple pay-per-views, CM Punk has found unconventional ways to escape with the WWE Championship. He wrestled John Cena to a draw at Night of Champions and received help from rogue referee Brad Maddox against Ryback at Hell in a Cell. Now that Punk has to face his two main nemeses at once, however, he's going to need some divine intervention to retain the title.
That miracle will likely come in the form of Brock Lesnar. Many thought that Lesnar would help Punk defeat Ryback at Hell in a Cell and ultimately form a stable along with Paul Heyman, but that didn't come to fruition. Lesnar is being advertised for WrestleMania, so he'll have to return sooner rather than later, though, and Survivor Series would be the perfect time to make that happen.
Survivor Series is considered one of WWE's "Big Four" pay-per-views, meaning it wouldn't be considered a wasted date for Lesnar. Also, the fact that it is a triple-threat match makes it very easy for Lesnar to interfere. I anticipate Ryback hitting Cena with Shell Shocked, Lesnar appearing and taking out Ryback and then Punk sneaking in to cover Cena and retain the title.
Both Ryback and Lesnar need a feud to lead up to a WrestleMania match, and it makes a lot of sense to pit them against each other. They're both monstrous, physical freaks and top draws, so I feel very strongly about them doing a program together. That means, of course, that Ryback won't be winning the title, however.
While I realize that we haven't seen everything that Ryback is capable of as a wrestler yet, he hasn't proven to the audience that he can wrestle a match longer than around 10 minutes, and that is a real issue for a potential WWE Champion. To be fair, Ryback hasn't been asked to wrestle a long match yet, as most of his contests have been quick squashes, but I'm not convinced that he is even capable of doing so if called upon.
The perfect opportunity for Ryback to prove that he could work was at Hell in a Cell against CM Punk. They faced each other inside the cell and main-evented the show, but it was a very quick match that left most fans wanting more. Again, Ryback was only doing what he was told, but if the WWE brass isn't confident that he can go out and have a strong match, then I can't see him being the company's top champion.
Mediocre workers like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Diesel have won the WWE Championship in the past, but there is a much greater emphasis on wrestling now. Punk and Cena are perfect candidates to hold the title because they have each proven time and time again that they can perform on the big stage against essentially any opponent.
Ryback is a marvel to say the least, but he needs more substance if he is going to serve as the face of the company. Maybe Ryback will surprise us all at some point and prove that he is much more than five-minute fodder in the ring, but until he does that, the WWE is unlikely to trust him with the strap.
Fans of Ryback like to say that he had solid mic skills as Skip Sheffield, but the fact of the matter is that everything he did under that guise is irrelevant now that he is Ryback. The characters are totally different and have nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that the same guy plays them. With that in mind, Ryback's lack of mic skills will prevent him from becoming WWE Champion, particularly on the road to WrestleMania.
Ryback was allowed to show some personality as Sheffield because he was a fun-loving country boy, but he is very restricted as Ryback. He has only been allowed to speak on a couple occasions aside from his "feed me more" chant, and it hasn't been anything to write home about. Punk and Cena have a lot more freedom on the mic so they naturally come off looking better, but speaking is so important in the business today that it gives them a leg up.
It isn't incomprehensible that a poor promo guy could win the WWE Championship because it has happened in the past; however, it's much tougher to develop feuds without a champion that can handle himself on the stick. It's why Alberto Del Rio failed in his two runs with the title, while guys like Punk, Cena and even The Miz have thrived as WWE Champions.
Once Ryback's character ripens, he'll likely be able to expand his horizons and cut more intricate promos, but that time hasn't come yet. Ryback is still portrayed as more machine than he is man, and that doesn't make for a good WWE Champion. Whoever wins on Sunday is going to be in the WWE title mix for the foreseeable future, and they'll need to be good on the mic with WrestleMania approaching.
While I firmly believe in pushing the best talent regardless of how much experience they have, there is something to be said for paying your dues. John Cena and CM Punk in particular have done exactly that in WWE, and in the wrestling business in general. Ryback has been around for quite awhile, but he is still very much a beginner when it comes to WWE. His run as Skip Sheffield was brief before he got injured, and he has only been Ryback since the spring.
That shouldn't necessarily disqualify him from being WWE Champion, but there is inherent danger in pushing someone too quickly. Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger are recent examples, and while they were both heel and not as over as Ryback, they floundered once they won the title. It's impossible to say if the same thing would happen to Ryback, but it makes much more sense to continue building him.
The WWE often rushes things and forgets the proper way to build a star, but it has a chance to do it the right way when it comes to Ryback. Continuing his dominant run, implementing a feud with Brock Lesnar and having Ryback go over at WrestleMania would put Ryback in a position where he is ready for a world title. The fact that Ryback still hasn't beaten anyone of note makes him a very shaky candidate at this point.
Ryback needs to come out on top in a big feud and prove that he can captivate the audience on the grandest stage of them all. If the fan support is still as strong, or even stronger, after he potentially beats Lesnar at WrestleMania, then I would be in favor of possibly giving him a title run. Until that happens, though, Ryback simply isn't qualified enough.