While it was announced on Monday that WWE champion CM Punk would defend his title against Ryback on the first episode of Raw in 2013, that is likely not the case anymore.
Punk is recovering from knee surgery (h/t WWE.com), and the company must treat his injury with extreme caution to avoid any further damage.
With the road to WrestleMania 29 almost upon us and Punk’s role being so important to the show’s build, the last thing the company could afford to do is lose the WWE champion for any extended period of time.
According to PWInsider via Wrestling Inc., as much as Vince McMahon and company want to tease the possibility of a championship bout on free television, there is no way the WWE would risk their long-term future plans for a Raw match:
PWInsider report that 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.
The big picture has always been that Punk would fight The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship—something Rock has teased on Twitter several times since he announced his return on Raw 1000—and that’s what the company is depending on.
As much as building Ryback to a main-event level superstar was a nice surprise for the WWE, the reason the company had a chance to shape the future champion was a benefit from the booking gaps left by The Rock’s limited appearances.
Now that the People’s Champion is coming back to the ring, it’s time to move Ryback away from Punk until the feud with The Rock is over.
Ryback versus Punk will be a feud we see in the WWE for years to come, but the plan right now is much bigger than just a simple championship feud. The company needs Punk 100-percent healthy to make the match with The Rock as great as it should be.
While the WWE Universe wants to see Ryback versus Punk on free TV, a predictable ending would not only further taint Ryback’s emergence as a star, but risk doing further damage to Punk’s knee.
It's frankly not worth the risk.
Until the WWE Universe gets to see these two stars battling again, just enjoy The Rock versus Punk in a feud for the ages.
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