With booking Ryback into the WWE Championship picture, WWE creative had seemingly backed themselves into a corner last night in Indianapolis.
On the one hand, CM Punk is doing a fantastic job as WWE Champion, and there's no good reason (in my opinion, and many other WWE fans' opinions) for the Second City Saint to drop the title just yet.
This will likely be the defining title reign in CM Punk's legacy, a turning point in his illustrious career. To have it end prematurely would be a disservice to CM Punk and the legions of fans who have been on board for the last year or longer.
On the other hand, Ryback is one of the rare WWE products that a large portion of the fans have embraced and fully support. But without his seemingly unstoppable need to feed, his ability to destroy every opponent he's faced, having Punk go over cleanly would eliminate all credibility Ryback has earned in his short tenure thus far.
Throw in Super Cena, who has previously endorsed Ryback and is on a mission to end Punk's reign, and you've got quite the conundrum.
To make matters worse, WWE has had to come up with questionable endings for the last two pay-per-views already.
They can't end the match with an indecision or draw as they did at Night of Champions, nor can they end it with a referee screwjob like they did at Hell in a Cell, which by the way, would also be not that dissimilar from the infamous ending to the Survivor Series 1997 main event in Montreal.
But I must say, what they came up with, given the circumstances, was about as good as you could have asked for. Allow me to provide seven reasons that I think demonstrate that WWE booked this match perfectly.
Like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin before him, as the biggest money-maker on Vince's roster, Cena is often booked to overcome obstacles that no other superstar could hope to repeat.
Among smarks and the IWC as a whole, the term "Super Cena" is derogatory in nature, pointing to the fact that Cena's character is regularly allowed victories that just don't make sense, even by professional wrestling's outrageous standards.
But I thought the way Cena was booked in last night's match was right on. In a singles match between Cena and Punk, it wouldn't have surprised me if the NXT crew made an appearance but they simply couldn't stop Cena.
Last night, however, Cena didn't stay down until after Ryback's Shell Shocked and the NXT invasion. It was believable enough for the Cenation to accept that their hero would stay down, and controversial enough that they will be outraged.
From Hogan to Austin to Cena, it's always hard to find the right way to book a loss without taking away the divine nature Vince bestows upon his biggest stars. But WWE creative came through at Survivor Series 2012.
On top of that, there was the tiniest seed planted that could eventually be part of a long-term plan for a Cena heel turn.
The commentary team did an excellent job drawing attention to the fact that Cena and Punk had to work together to put Ryback through the table in an attempt to eliminate him from the competition.
How huge of a swerve would it be if six months down the road, we find out that Cena has been working with Heyman, Punk and Lesnar all along?
What if Cena ends up screwing over AJ in her scandal with Vickie?
I know, it's not very likely, and I'm almost certain they didn't have anything like that in mind when they booked the double-team spots. But a guy can dream, can't he?
So Ryback doesn't have an undefeated streak as massive as Andre the Giant's supposed streak in the early years of WWF, or Goldberg's infamous streak in WCW. Heck, he didn't even match Tatanka's undefeated streak.
But that's not important. I mean, he already appeared in WWE once as Skip Sheffield, so an undefeated streak of real significance would forever be accompanied by an asterisk.
The fact that he's technically not undefeated hasn't slowed him down; in fact, it may have helped.
It still remains that no one has figured out a way to stop Ryback all on their own. Even in a match that saw Punk and Cena team up on him, Ryback refused to stay down long enough to be pinned.
Ryback's character is still as monsterous and untouchable as ever.
The fact that he's been screwed out of the WWE Championship two pay-per-view in a row only means his fans are more irate and the storylines are that much more dramatic.
It took Cena, Punk, Heyman and an entire NXT invasion to stop Ryback this time.
What's it going to take if he gets another shot at TLC?
Ever since Punk turned heel and aligned with Paul Heyman, the WWE Universe seems to be as equally split on how they feel about Punk as they do about Cena.
Some of Punk's fans will remain true to the straight-edge superstar no matter which direction his character goes. Some of his fans were simply those who cheer for the faces and jeer for the heels.
Punk's reign is reminiscent of JBL's lengthy World Heavyweight Championship reign: it lasted much longer than anyone expected, it's a reign relying heavily on the "by any means necessary" adage and the longer he holds the belt, the more convoluted his schemes become to hold on to the belt.
The dastardly, cowardly way Punk has managed to keep the title for the last few months makes the haters hate even more, and the IWC smarks mark out even stronger.
In wrestling circles, people brings up things like Y2J defeating Austin and Rock in the same night, Miz wrestling Cena to a draw at WrestleMania and then following that up by pinning the leader of the Cena, and JBL holding the record for the longest WHC title reign in SmackDown history.
Rarely is it mentioned that both of Jericho's victories were anything but clean or that The Miz had more than a little help from The Rock or that JBL had too many cheap title match conclusions to count.
Just like Punk's year-plus reign, all that matters is the bottom line. I watched Survivor Series with someone who loves Ryback and hates Punk. The conclusion to their match only fueled both of those sentiments.
Well played, WWE. Well played.
As a fan who also watches such products as NXT and TNA, I have often presented ideas or written fantasy booking articles about bringing in guys that are unfamiliar to most of the WWE Universe.
It never fails that at least one person will make a comment along the lines of "Vince doesn't care about the IWC, he's not going to book something just for them."
It looks like "Vince" finally happened upon a scenario that will give the IWC something to talk about for weeks to come, while the "marks" in the WWE Universe are equally as interested.
If you're a true smark, names like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns are not unfamiliar. Rollins and Ambrose have been a part of the IWC conversation for so long, people were starting to lose hope that they'd ever make it to regular WWE programming.
Now those hopes have been revived and quenched.
If you're a more casual WWE fan, then you probably have no idea who these guys are and why someone from the WWE "developmental league" would be crashing the party to make the save for Punk. You need to know more.
Both parties are paying attention. For the first time since Punk dropped a pipe bomb or Daniel Bryan won Money in the Bank, the IWC has something on WWE programming they can be pleased with.
Every week, I have been posting a review of what happened on NXT, Main Event, Superstars and Saturday Morning Slam. I write these articles because few fans have time to watch all of that programming on top of Raw, SmackDown and monthly pay-per-views.
But those who have watched NXT since FCW merged with WWE's failing pseudo-reality show have generally been very pleased with the NXT product.
From the "Wyatt Family" to Kassius Ohno to The Ascension to the seemingly endless number of second- and third-generation wrestlers, the product is a brilliant change of pace from WWE programming and provides a glimpse at WWE's future.
When NXT was still a less-than-mediocre product, almost no one paid any attention. A lot of people have completely forgotten what NXT was; new fans may not have ever even heard of it.
WWE made NXT/FCW more accessible through Hulu Plus. There is no way this plays out bad for NXT. Free publicity for the underdogs. More exposure to future prospects. Another WWE program for fans to get hooked on.
Could this lead to NXT rising from the ashes to be the number three WWE show?
I'm a big fan of tradition when it comes to WWE. It was hard for me to adjust to Money in the Bank being its own pay-per-view rather than a WrestleMania staple.
I couldn't stand the idea of WWF changing their name to WWE.
I was in utter disbelief when Triple H won the main event of WrestleMania 2000, marking the first time the main event was won by a heel.
Specific to the Survivor Series, I long for a day when traditional Survivor Series elimination matches are the norm, not the gimmicky exception.
Until that day, at least I can rest with the knowledge that Vince still wants the Survivor Series to end in controversy.
By the time you read this, Monday Night Raw will have already started. If I was guessing, I'd say you were interested enough to tune in this week.
If you're a smark, this is the episode of Raw you've been waiting for. One can only assume that the three members of the NXT invasion will officially be introduced to the WWE Universe tonight. It's been a long time coming.
Like the debut of Y2J, you know to expect something, you just don't know what.
If you're not a smark, then you probably have no idea who those guys were or what purpose NXT serves these days.
There's a good chance that you're a fan of both Cena and Ryback, that you hate Punk and Heyman and that it doesn't really matter how much these NXT'ers deserve to be on WWE programming.
You hate them, and you want to see Ryback and Cena destroy them.
Will Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns take the WWE by storm like Nexus or the Corre?
Or will they simply be jobber-fodder for Cena and Ryback before being sent back to Florida and into obscurity?
Will they be aligned with Heyman and Punk? Are they in cahoots with Brad Maddux?
Or will they also claim to be working on their own?
Admit it, you want to know.
If feels almost wrong to say this about a WWE Championship match that headlined one of WWE's big four pay-per-views, but WWE made a great call in the screwjob ending.
Let's hope they do as good a job with the fall-out.