CM Punk: Ranking Best Possible WrestleMania 29 Opponents for Former WWE Champion

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

CM Punk: Ranking Best Possible WrestleMania 29 Opponents for Former WWE Champion

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    CM Punk may no longer be the WWE Champion, but he is still arguably the most talked about superstar in professional wrestling. Although Punk must worry about a rematch with The Rock at Elimination Chamber before anything else, many are wondering where he'll fit in at WrestleMania as the WWE's biggest spectacle is a mere two months away.

    The beauty of Punk is that he can be placed in almost any situation and he is essentially guaranteed to excel. His in-ring skills are undeniable and that allows him to do battle with a vast array of opponents. Also, he is so polished on the mic that he is able to single-handedly develop feuds, even if there is little rhyme or reason behind them.

    Because of that, Punk is somewhat of a wild card heading into WrestleMania. After holding the WWE Championship for a modern era record 434 days, he is unquestionably a main-event guy for the duration of his career, so he will be in one of WrestleMania XXIX's feature matches. Who that match will be against is still quite uncertain.

    Here are the top five options for Punk in terms of WrestleMania foes. Some are obviously better and more realistic than others, but all of them would be able to put on a great show alongside The Second City Saint.

5. Sheamus

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    It certainly doesn't seem as though there are grounds for a CM Punk vs. Sheamus match at WrestleMania, but it wouldn't be too difficult to put together if other options fall through. Punk and Sheamus do have some, albeit brief, history together. When Punk was WWE Champion and Sheamus was World Heavyweight Champion, they went head to head on the first episode of Main Event. It was a highly entertaining match and it left many fans thinking that a Punk vs. Sheamus rivalry could be fun.

    There aren't any connections between them currently; however, the fact that The Shield has attacked Sheamus on several occasions could be a jumping off point. It hasn't yet been revealed if Punk was in on The Shield's interference on his behalf as it could have been a case of Paul Heyman orchestrating things without telling Punk, but that can be changed for the sake of a storyline.

    If it is revealed that Punk had The Shield go after Sheamus, then that could ignite a feud between them. It wouldn't be the ideal feud for Punk as no title or streak would be on the line, but it would be absolutely huge for Sheamus. In terms of full-time roster members, Sheamus is currently the No. 2 face in the company behind Cena. Doing battle with the unquestioned No. 1 heel in the form of Punk would do wonders in terms of establishing himself.

    The only way this feud would work is if Sheamus goes over Punk at WrestleMania. Even though Sheamus had a seven-month world title reign, a lack of credible challengers hurt his stock a bit. Beating Punk at WrestleMania would rectify that and I can't imagine that Punk would be hurt by it with a 434-day reign already to his credit.

4. Daniel Bryan

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    If the Internet Wrestling Community had its way, then CM Punk would still be WWE Champion and he would likely be en route to facing Daniel Bryan in a 60-minute Iron Man match at WrestleMania. The odds of all that happening are incredibly low, but a normal match between Punk and Bryan at 'Mania is totally out of the question yet. Bryan is still one half of the Tag Team Champions alongside Kane; however, there has been plenty of turmoil between them and they could conceivably drop the titles before the build toward WrestleMania ramps up.

    While that would likely lead to a Bryan vs. Kane match at WrestleMania, that would necessarily have to be the case. The WWE probably wants to capitalize on Punk's momentum as much as it can at WrestleMania by putting him in a big-money match. If those options are exhausted and Punk doesn't fit in, though, Bryan would be a nice consolation prize. They already feuded this pat summer and there is no doubt that they would deliver a virtuoso performance in the squared circle.

    Bryan has acted like a tweener since forming Team Hell No with Kane, but he is much closer to being a face than a heel. Even though many of his actions are heel-like, the fans seem to love him and don't allow him to be a heel. John Cena is obviously locked in as the top face in the company, but there is room below him. Both Sheamus and Randy Orton rank higher than Bryan at the moment; however, I would argue that Bryan is better in the ring than both of them and has more personality to boot.

    If the WWE wants to put Bryan a notch below his potential future brother-in-law (Bryan and Cena are each dating a Bella Twin), then having him face Punk at WrestleMania is the obvious way to do it. It wouldn't be the sexiest matchup as far as the general wrestling audience is concerned, but if Bryan has a strong showing against Punk on the grandest stage of them all, they'll embrace Bryan as a top star.

3. Brock Lesnar

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    All signs seem to be pointing toward Brock Lesnar facing Triple H at WrestleMania, but wrestling fans know by now that nothing is set in stone until it actually takes place. A series of events could potentially lead to a CM Punk vs. Lesnar bout at WrestleMania instead, although the odds certainly aren't in favor of it right now. If it does happen, though, it would most definitely be one of the marquee events on the card and could potentially be an all-time great match.

    The fact that both Lesnar and Punk are heels at the moment makes this a tough proposition, but Paul Heyman holds the key to all of this. Heyman is still technically Punk's manager; however, he was on the brink of being fired by Vince McMahon on Raw. This prompted Lesnar to return and hit McMahon with an F-5. Heyman is now in an interesting position because it is unclear if he will manage Punk, Lesnar, both or neither.

    Should Punk and Lesnar compete at WrestleMania, the storyline writes itself. Perhaps Heyman will attempt to make things work by aligning himself with both Punk and Lesnar. It would likely go swimmingly for a little while, but a power struggle would inevitably ensue with each man believing that he should be the dominant member of the trio. That would ultimately lead to a match at WrestleMania with the winner retaining Heyman's services.

    I like the potential of a match such as that one because it could lead to a number of different scenarios. Either man could turn face, both could turn face or both could remain heel depending on what they do with Heyman. I could easily see Punk winning, but declining Heyman's services, which would then turn him face or tweener at the very least. I'd rather both Punk and Lesnar stay heel since they're great in that role, but going over Lesnar could constitute the face push that Punk never really received in the past.

2. The Rock & John Cena

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    By the time Elimination Chamber reaches its conclusion, we should know whether or not a triple threat between CM Punk, The Rock and John Cena at WrestleMania is still a realistic possibility. Punk dropped the WWE Championship to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, but he will receive a rematch at Elimination Chamber and could still figure into the title picture at 'Mania. Should Punk regain his WWE Championship against The Rock at Elimination Chamber, then a triple threat is all but certain as The Rock would be entitled to a rematch and Cena has already announced his intention to chase the title.

    For those fans who are dreading The Rock vs. Cena II, Punk winning at Elimination Chamber is the only potential saving grace at this point. I wouldn't bet on Punk coming through, but it is a distinct possibility if the No. 1 option on this list can't be secured over the next two weeks. The Rock and Cena are obviously big enough for main event WrestleMania themselves and draw a huge number of pay-per-view buys, but Punk would add another dimension to the match.

    I have supported The Rock vs. Cena II because of how much financial sense it makes for the WWE, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by what the inclusion of Punk could mean. Cena would almost certainly win the match regardless, but Punk could easily steal the show and set himself up for even greater success down the road. It is well documented that Cena isn't the greatest in-ring worker and The Rock isn't the same as he used to be, so Punk would be tasked with controlling the match and making it a success.

    On top of that, what Punk managed to accomplish over the course of his 434-day title reign should be rewarded. An easy way to do that would be to include him in the main event at WrestleMania, with two of the biggest stars the business has ever seen. Putting Punk, Cena and The Rock in one match would definitely hurt the depth of the card, but it would be an awesome main event nonetheless.

1. The Undertaker

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    It has been rumored for quite some time, and barring any unforeseen issues, CM Punk is likely to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIX. One quick look at the WWE roster should tell you that Punk is the prime candidate to take on The Phenom. Unless Punk gets involved in a triple threat with The Rock and John Cena as I mentioned previously, there isn't a clear and obvious opponent for Punk who wrestles regularly. The Undertaker has become synonymous with WrestleMania, so he needs a big-time opponent, and Punk fits the bill.

    The only realistic opponents for The Undertaker this year are Punk, Cena and Brock Lesnar. Since Cena will likely be challenging The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania and Lesnar vs. Triple H seems likely as well, that leaves only Punk. The one stumbling block would be the possibility of Taker not wrestling at WrestleMania XXIX. There has been some talk about The Undertaker taking the year off due to injuries, but I don't see that happening.

    People doubt The Undertaker's health and ability to wrestle every year, but he always manages to be prepared for WrestleMania. It is his signature event and I have to believe that the allure of facing a guy who is coming off a 434-day WWE Championship reign will be too much for The Deadman to resist. He has had a full year to rest his injuries and will have another year after WrestleMania to rest again, so I feel very strongly that he will be part of the event.

    The only thing that would be bigger for Punk than competing for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania is going toe to toe with The Undertaker. Taker is an incredible 20-0 at the show of shows and Punk would pose a very serious threat to the streak. Many believe that there is no way the streak will ever fall, but if The Undertaker handpicks Punk to win, then it could very well happen. Whatever the case, the build and subsequent match would be unreal, and it's something almost every wrestling fan would love to see.

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