The vast majority of WWE fans expected CM Punk to retain his WWE Championship against Ryback and John Cena at Survivor Series, but the manner in which it happened could potentially change the landscape of the WWE in the coming months.
Punk had found a way to hang onto the belt for 364 days prior to Sunday, and his victory over Ryback and Cena ensured a year-long reign. Many of Punk's title defenses were of the fair variety, but his past few have happened under questionable circumstances, and that was the case at Survivor Series.
At Hell in a Cell, it took interference from rogue referee Brad Maddox for Punk to escape with his title.
At Survivor Series, it was Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns from NXT Wrestling who helped Punk leave victorious. They attacked Ryback and powerbombed him through the announce table before he could pin Cena. Punk capitalized on Ryback's Shell Shocked to Cena by scoring a pinfall win over the leader of the Cenation.
I predicted that Brock Lesnar would be the one to help Punk at Hell in a Cell, and while that didn't come to fruition, I figured it had to happen at Survivor Series. The presence of Lesnar's biggest fan in the crowd gave me plenty of confidence, but the creative team tricked me again. Ultimately, I'm happy I was wrong, though, due to the possibilities it creates.
Lesnar can come back any time, and it will be a big deal, but having the NXT guys debut at one of the "Big Four" pay-per-views in such a high-profile position is only going to help them in terms of getting over. Much like the original Nexus takeover a couple years ago, fans are reinvigorated by the new infusion of talent and will be talking about their involvement for weeks to come.
From a big-picture perspective, though, this result probably cements a Punk vs. The Rock main event at Royal Rumble. I realize that TLC still has to happen between now and January, and an audible could conceivably be called, but it makes a lot more sense to have Punk as the WWE Champion for well over 400 days facing The Rock rather than a newly-crowned title-holder.
Does Punk's victory guarantee that he will face The Rock at Royal Rumble?
Additionally, the only other person who could realistically face Rock is Cena. Because of that, a Punk vs. Cena match at TLC is almost a given.
The WWE made it very easy on itself to book that because Ryback figures to be involved with the NXT wrestlers moving forward. It was important to find a way to get Ryback out of the title picture since he doesn't factor in as a possible opponent for The Rock, and everything appears to be solved on that front.
While the situation with The Rock is going to be in the back of every fan's mind moving forward, Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns figure to rule the day in the immediate future.
Most people want to know why they interfered and what, if any, involvement they have with Punk and Heyman. If it leads to a potential stable led by Punk and Heyman, then it's only going to create more intrigue as the road to WrestleMania draws near.
The fact that three NXT Wrestling superstars helped Punk should lead to more developments when it comes to Maddox as well. Maddox said that he made the decision to screw Ryback at Hell in a Cell on his own, but most fans believe Heyman had something to do with it. Heyman spoke to Maddox prior to his match against Ryback last week, and that only fueled speculation with regard to Heyman's involvement.
If he brought in talent from NXT to take out Ryback at Survivor Series, then it stands to reason that he enlisted Maddox, another NXT superstar, as an ace in the hole to help out Punk. The WWE has had some issues with utilizing and pushing new talent in recent years, but if there is one guy who knows how to build up young stars, it's obviously Heyman.
This storyline has Heyman's fingerprints all over it, and that should be viewed as a good thing. As much as Heyman lacks from a business standpoint, he has an incredible mind when it comes to booking. Heyman loves to mold young superstars into the next big thing, and Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns are all in very good hands.
The result of Sunday's main event confirmed a lot of things we already suspected, but it also created entirely new questions. The next couple of months will center on Punk vs. Cena with The Rock getting mixed in following NXT, but Ryback's potential feud with the "NXT Three" is going to captivate the WWE Universe as well.
It wasn't an easy task to book in a manner that would satisfy everyone, but it's hard to argue with how things played out on Sunday. A Punk vs. Rock match is still in the cards, Cena is still involved in a main-event feud and three new wrestlers should breathe new life into the product. All in all, it was a pretty good night for WWE.