CM Punk has been removed from the WWE TLC main event, as he recently underwent knee surgery. With the story emblazoned on WWE.com, such grave news was subject to skepticism by many. Yet later reports, namely by PWInsider, confirmed the startling developments.
Luckily for the WWE, Punk will not be away from the ring for long. He still appears to be on track to make his generational showdown with The Rock. In fact, there was reportedly some talk of him working TLC following surgery before the Punk-Ryback rematch was ultimately scrapped.
The apparent short-term nature of CM Punk's injury is good news for a host of reasons. Some obvious, some not.
It's good news for Punk's semi-historic WWE title reign. Punk is set to return sooner than later. Therefore, the WWE will be able to continue an investment in a title reign that has slowly reached the top of WWE storylines. Furthering that storyline, John Cena recently commented, through Twitter, on CM Punk passing his 2006-07 reign of 381 days:
— John Cena (@JohnCena) December 5, 2012
Ryback will now be slated in a main event with less luster. This will be the first time in two months Ryback will not be competing for the WWE title at a pay-per-view. However, Ryback should consider Punk's knee surgery a blessing in disguise.
Despite connecting with fans, who now routinely chant "feed me more" at Ryback's beckoning, Ryback was vaulted into the WWE title picture prematurely. The Rock was already booked in a WWE title match at next year's Royal Rumble. A Ryback win wouldn't have set up a blockbuster main event come January.
As the Hell in a Cell main event for Punk-Ryback approached, reports began to surface of WWE officials being in a jam while trying to decide a finish.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
"[WWE Officials] don’t want to have Ryback lose but also do not want to switch the WWE Title before the Royal Rumble in January. They also don’t want to end the pay-per-view with a screwjob and obviously can’t do a DQ finish inside the Cell. Officials also do not want to end the show with Big Show vs. Sheamus so it appears they are going to end up having to do something that they do not want to do."
Ryback beating Punk would have ended a streak that the WWE had spent considerable time promoting. Punk beating Ryback would curtail a push that the WWE had been similarly invested in.
The move was understandable from a creative standpoint, but then came a second screw-job finish at Survivor Series. These finishes surely would not have gone unnoticed by paying customers. The pattern continued throughout RAW as The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) continued to disrupt the WWE title picture through run-ins.
The previously advertised Punk-Ryback main event was set to be a TLC match with no disqualification. Ryback's previous WWE title matches were of the same variety. With the recent introduction of The Shield, it's not difficult to do the math on how that TLC match would have ended.
Instead, Ryback will benefit from storyline reasons for CM Punk's surgery, which credit Ryback's most recent attack on RAW.
Ryback will now team with Daniel Bryan and Kane to take on The Shield. A pinfall victory for Ryback will keep him relevant. The WWE would also avoid the headache of booking a cheap, elaborate finish. Vince McMahon's letter regarding CM Punk's knee surgery stated that Ryback would receive a WWE title shot in the "very near future."
Hopefully, the Chairman reconsiders. This is an opportunity to quietly phase Ryback out of the WWE title picture until Ryback and WWE Creative are ready.