WWE champion CM Punk has twice been helped by NXT Wrestling stars Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, but it is still unclear if they are working for Punk or if they have ulterior motives.
When push comes to shove, the "NXT Three" figure to be revealed as Punk's insurance policy.
Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns burst onto the scene at Survivor Series as Ryback appeared to be on the verge of winning the WWE championship. He had already taken out Punk with Shell Shocked and had done the same to John Cena, but the promising trio stormed the ring dressed entirely in black and powerbombed Ryback through the announce table. This allowed Punk to pin Cena and retain the title.
Ryback attempted to crash Punk's year-long title reign celebration the next night on Raw, but he was once again foiled by the "NXT Three." Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns powerbombed Ryback through the announce table for a second time and ended the show standing tall in the ring while Punk stood over Ryback with the WWE championship in his grasp.
Punk appeared to be surprised by the "NXT Three" attack on Monday night as he looked at Paul Heyman and they exchanged a shrug, but the evidence is clearly pointing toward a partnership of some kind. Punk has been lucky to escape with the title at each of the past three pay-per-views, and it seems likely that Heyman enlisted the help of some young upstarts to make it possible.
One clue in favor of that theory is that Heyman essentially tricked Ryback into showing up at Punk's celebration. Earlier in the night, he invited Ryback to attend, which seemed odd since both he and Punk are generally afraid of the monstrous man. The only way that would make sense, though, is if Heyman had set up the attack ahead of time and knew that Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns would be there.
Also, the rumored name of the NXT triumvirate is "The Shield," which is what the Spanish announce team called them at Survivor Series. Many fans are upset about the proposed name and think it's stupid, but it makes perfect sense. If Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns are aligned with Punk, then they are basically acting as a shield to deflect Ryback and prevent him from getting to Punk and taking his WWE championship.
Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns are scheduled to be interviewed by Michael Cole on the upcoming edition of Raw. While the interview may reveal the true intentions behind their actions, it's entirely possible that they'll deny any involvement with Punk and Heyman. Brad Maddox said his reasoning behind taking out Ryback at Hell in a Cell was so that he could become a star, and "The Shield" may say something similar.
Are Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns working with CM Punk?
Even so, I'm still convinced that Maddox is working with Punk and Heyman as well. Heyman spoke with Maddox prior to his $1 million contract match against Ryback a couple of weeks ago and the nature of that discussion has yet to be revealed. Either Heyman was already working with him at that point or he used that conversation to set up something down the line, such as Maddox joining "The Shield" in the near future.
As things currently stand, it appears very likely that Punk will defend the WWE championship against Ryback in a tables match at TLC. Ryback has been put through a table twice in the past eight days and that is more than just a coincidence.
If that is the case, look for Vince McMahon to ban "The Shield" from the match. He could put forth a stipulation that states if Rollins, Ambrose or Reigns interfere in the match, Ryback automatically wins the WWE championship.
That would seemingly put Punk and Heyman in an impossible situation, but it could lead to the return of Maddox and perhaps even the long-anticipated return of Brock Lesnar at TLC.
On the ensuing Raw, a heel stable of Punk, Heyman, Rollins, Ambrose, Reigns, Maddox and Lesnar would be revealed and the odds would suddenly be stacked against The Rock at the Royal Rumble.
The WWE has waited for a very long time to debut Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns, and I doubt that they would be thrust into the spotlight without big plans already in place.
Allowing "The Shield" to go off on its own without the tutelage of Punk and Heyman would be a big mistake, as the fans likely wouldn't care enough about the group in that situation.
With Punk and Heyman doing the talking for them, however, it would be impossible for Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns not to get over. There have certainly been some instances in the past where the WWE has squandered young talent, but these guys are considered can't-miss prospects and won't suffer the same fate.