It’s possible that Ryback might have to wait a while longer before getting that long-promised third crack at CM Punk and the WWE championship.
According to LordsOfPain.net, WWE may delay that match, set for the Jan. 7 Raw show, to an unspecified date. Part of the reason, according to the post, is that the company wants to make sure that Punk is fully healed from his knee surgery earlier this month.
It was that surgery that forced WWE to replace the Punk-Ryback championship match at TLC Dec. 16 with a six-man tag match—Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield.
But the post also may shed some light on the outcome of Punk’s championship defense against The Rock on Jan. 27 at Royal Rumble.
The post states:
There is strong talk that the match won't happen on January 7th because the idea is to milk Ryback vs. Punk for as long as they can without actually doing the match. Eventually it will happen, but officials really want Punk healed up because they have him set for a major WrestleMania 29 role. They want to make sure he doesn't come back and re-injure the knee, putting all Road to WrestleMania plans in jeopardy.
Notice that the post did not mention the WWE championship as part of that “major WrestleMania 29 role.” Nor did it mention anything specific about the Royal Rumble match, although that could have been hinted in the "Road to WrestleMania" option.
Speculation is that Punk will drop the WWE belt to Rock at Royal Rumble and possibly have a cursory rematch with him at February’s Elimination Chamber. That clears the deck for Rock to defend the title against John Cena in “Twice in a Lifetime” at WrestleMania 29—even though no such match has been made official.
It also frees Punk up to focus on his WrestleMania opponent, who is expected to be the Undertaker. The WWE Universe has made no secret it would like to see Taker attempt to raise his WrestleMania record to 21-0 at the expense of Punk.
On the other hand, it is also possible that this major role for Punk would be defending his WWE title against the Undertaker in a "Streak vs. Title" match. If that is the case, that has him defeating Rock at Royal Rumble.
That actually could happen, but it would combine possibly two main-event matches into one at WrestleMania. WWE has proven it will not support anything that could lessen the amount of hype for its No. 1 pay-per-view, nor will it do anything to short-shrift its top cash-cow in John Cena.
Cena in the main event at WrestleMania is as certain as the sunrise. If he can gain both revenge AND the WWE title at WrestleMania, then the sun will shine that much brighter.
Meanwhile, Ryback may be left hanging for a while longer. There is a two-week TV window between the original Jan. 7 scheduled match and Royal Rumble, and we all know that WWE would not set this rematch for a house show.
There has been no official comment from WWE about the possible delay. Right now, WWE’s stars are on a short Christmas break, and the next couple of Raw and SmackDown shows already have been taped. So anything about the status of the Punk-Ryback match would not be announced until after Christmas.
Bill Atkinson is a columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.