The untimely emergency surgery WWE champion CM Punk underwent on Tuesday, Dec. 4 forced World Wrestling Entertainment to shuffle around their card for the annual December pay-per-view event. Instead of a WWE Championship bout between Punk and Ryback, the show will be headlined by a six-man, tag-team "Tables, Ladders, and Chairs" match, featuring the aforementioned Ryback teaming with WWE Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan and Kane to do battle with the new, enigmatic trio, The Shield.
On paper, the match has the potential to be a great one. Bryan, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are highly skilled workers while Kane and Ryback are very popular performers. Roman Reigns will not appear out-of-place but a lack of "big match" experience in Florida Championship Wrestling makes his somewhat of a question mark.
Unfortunately, as much as the match has going for it, there is an inconvenient reality WWE must confront about this Sunday's featured bout: It simply cannot, and will not, end well.
The company enters Brooklyn, N.Y. having booked itself into a corner. With the stipulation stating that the match must end by pinfall or submission, either The Shield or Ryback will be on the losing end of the match.
Neither can afford it.
After losing two consecutive pay-per-view title bouts, a loss at TLC would be three-in-a-row for a superstar who entered October's Hell in a Cell riding a long undefeated streak. As the hottest babyface in the business, yet another loss could only aid in cooling down the first fresh main event star the company has had since Daniel Bryan a full calendar year ago.
Sure, there will be those that argue that Bryan or Kane could take the pinfall or submission loss but, at the end of the day, the casual fan will only see that Ryback lost a match—again.
The Shield, on the other hand, is a faction of young, talented stars from developmental, of whom WWE seemingly has a lot invested in. Having them debut in such a high-profile match proves the company's faith in them but what good is that if they lose their first televised match?
In 2010, Nexus rode a tidal wave of momentum into the SummerSlam event. They were booked in the main event, 10-man, tag-team match against a team of all-time great WWE superstars. A win would have put them over the top as the hottest new act in wrestling. Instead, they lost the match decisively and never managed to recapture the heat they had prior to that show.
The creative team has an unenviable task ahead of them this Sunday. They will be charged with the task of booking around two acts they cannot afford to have damaged coming out of the December show and heading into January's Royal Rumble.
Unfortunately, in a business where outcomes are predetermined, wins and losses were never more important for Ryback and The Shield than they will be in Brooklyn this weekend.