WWE announced Wednesday night that its medical staff has cleared CM Punk and his surgically repaired knee for a third WWE championship title defense against Ryback.
The match, a Tables, Ladders & Chairs-style bout, will take place on next Monday’s Raw show, according to a report on WWE.com. The clearance became official in a tout from Dr. Michael Sampson, WWE’s chief physician, on WWE Main Event Wednesday night.
According to the report, Punk’s clearance means an immediate return to action. WWE.com already is billing him as taking part in Raw’s 20th Anniversary show Jan. 14 in Houston.
WWE had teased an announcement about Punk’s medical status since Dec. 30, when the Main Event episode that aired Wednesday night was taped in Richmond, Va. At that time, Michael Cole said that a major announcement about CM Punk was coming up at the end of the show, but the Richmond crowd was told nothing else.
The Sampson tout was edited into the program prior to Wednesday’s airing.
The announcement apparently ends the storyline from the Dec. 31 episode of Raw, where Punk’s personal physician claimed his patient would not be ready in time for the Ryback match. It also apparently means that a “substitute match” of Ryback against Paul Heyman will not take place.
The show, set for the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., also will feature the return of The Rock for the first time since Raw’s 1,000th show last July.
Punk was supposed to face Ryback in a TLC match at last month’s TLC pay-per-view in Brooklyn, N.Y. But surgery to repair a torn meniscus in Punk’s knee forced WWE to scrap that match. The company later promised that Ryback would get his chance against Punk on the first live edition of Raw in 2013.
As I mentioned in a previous Bleacher Report article, there was a possibility that WWE was going to postpone the Punk-Ryback match so Punk could continue recovering and be ready for a WrestleMania 29 push. That push will include a main-event match against Rock Jan. 27 at WWE Royal Rumble 2013 in Phoenix, where the WWE belt will be up for grabs.
It is rumored that Punk will drop the title to The Rock at Royal Rumble in order to focus on his part in next April’s WrestleMania 29 in New Jersey. He has been mentioned as a possible opponent for the Undertaker at the event.
Of course, there is always the possibility that WWE’s Creative Team will come up with a new storyline between now and Monday to keep Punk out of the TLC match with Ryback. That apparently will keep him safe for Royal Rumble and a highly anticipated promo battle with The Rock leading up to their match.
Bill Atkinson is a columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.