CM Punk is scheduled to return to WWE programming for the upcoming Payback pay-per-view, wherein he will face a former opponent of his in Chris Jericho.
Rumors about Punk's return have run rampant since his departure. Would he return as a face? Would he return any time before SummerSlam? Who is he going to feud with?
While nothing is set in stone and anything can happen in WWE, one thing we can be sure of is that there are a lot of wrestlers on the roster that could have an interesting feud with Punk when he does return.
Here is a list of 10 potential candidates that I would like to see Punk go up against in the rest of the year, broken down as five he could face while still being a heel and five he could face if he does indeed turn to the good side.
We've seen Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have matches together in the past, but I think it would be safe to say that the audience would like to see more.
The quality of their matches sells this concept itself, but there's also a different dynamic that could take place if the roles were reversed.
Previously, Bryan was the heel and Punk was the face, but if Punk goes into this feud as a heel and Bryan is the fan favorite, it could lead to a lot of fun promos as well.
Similar to the Daniel Bryan situation, CM Punk was a babyface for most of his interaction with The Miz.
Although he isn't as bad off as he used to be, Miz is still struggling to catch on with the crowd in his babyface role. Part of the reason for this is that Miz has yet to have a strong feud with a heel that could put over his new role in a better way.
Punk's silver tongue is a talent of his that can be utilized to help drive home some of the points that the WWE Universe isn't quite getting by other methods.
Perhaps Punk is the person that could fill that gap and truly get The Miz over with the crowd.
CM Punk vs. Christian is a feud that has never been truly showcased.
For one reason or another, these two have only crossed paths on Raw and Smackdown. There's yet to be a true program that spanned several pay-per-views between the two of them.
Both men have track records of being reliable performers, so there isn't a risk in putting these two together.
On top of this, there isn't a lot of time left to capitalize on both being healthy and active roster members. Now might be the best time to pull the trigger and let it happen.
Cody Rhodes has done wonders in the past with solo feuds including his program with Rey Mysterio, but they have all felt like upper-midcard placements at best.
With CM Punk, Rhodes could be given a challenger that brings him to the next level and helps showcase his true potential as one of the future big players in WWE.
This is all predicated upon a face turn for Rhodes, however, as a heel-against-heel feud would probably be disastrous for him and completely favor Punk, which would do Rhodes no good.
Rhodes could bring out something fresh in Punk that we haven't seen in a long time and in turn, Punk could bring out the very best in Rhodes that we might have never seen at all so far.
As far as other heels that could turn face and match up well against CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler would be another addition to that list.
While Ziggler is in no way being lined up for a face turn in the immediate future in any obvious fashion at the moment, there have been rumblings that the #Heel superstar could change alliances for quite some time.
If that were to happen, a continuation of the matches that he's had with Punk in the past could provide some great content for wrestling fans.
Ziggler turning face could be a situation where things are white-hot and Punk is the perfect person to not only capitalize on such an environment but also use his abilities to strengthen it that much more.
What better person to feud with the "Best in the World" than the "Show Off"?
While there are some superstars that would be interesting to watch feud with CM Punk if they turn babyface, who are some of the people that would do well against Punk if he were in fact the one to turn instead?
Antonio Cesaro was rumored to be a potential "Paul Heyman guy" but that has yet to materialize. Reports have surfaced that claim that Cesaro is looked at as boring and bland despite his in-ring talent.
Punk could be given free reign to dictate the ins and outs of a feud with someone like Cesaro to play up both of their strengths. This could be the feud that Cesaro needs in order for his career to take off, as Punk could take him under his wing and show him the ropes (so to speak) as far as improving his character.
When you're working with Punk, you have to step up your game. Punk and Cesaro could tear the house down.
Ambrose is a name that is brought up in almost every conversation when talking about wrestlers with a lot of potential.
A feud with CM Punk could boost Ambrose into the upper midcard and lower main event from where he currently stands.
Another aspect of this feud that could play well is that both men are Internet darlings. While The Shield gets cheered against babyfaces, the best way to counteract that is to put those types of guys up against others that get the same reaction.
Punk may be one of the only people in the company that could get cheered by a certain section of the audience over Ambrose at this point.
Damien Sandow is one of the most underutilized members of the roster in my opinion and he is just screaming for a push and a meaningful storyline.
Some say that he may be getting it now with a potential feud working alongside Sheamus, but I tend to disagree.
CM Punk is the true person that I feel could bring out the best in Sandow and, I think that Sandow could bring out a different side in Punk as well.
When you look at the roster, there are a lot of physical challenges for Punk such as Mark Henry, Big Show, John Cena and even someone like Alberto Del Rio, but there aren't many wrestlers that have gimmicks and styles that rely more on brains rather than brawn.
Sandow could provide a great opposing force for Punk's intelligence, which doesn't get showcased often enough.
This one, I will admit, is a bit of fantasy booking on my part.
I have long said that I hope Wade Barrett is one of the winners of the Money in the Bank briefcases coming in July. He has waited long enough and I think he is ready.
If that were to happen and if CM Punk were to turn face, Punk could be looking at another WWE Championship title reign and he would need new challengers for that title.
That is where Barrett comes in.
This would be a feud that hasn't had a proper spotlight put on it and I'm incredibly intrigued to see what these two would do with each other if they had the right backing from the powers-that-be in WWE.
The biggest factor in a CM Punk face turn would be a departure from working with Paul Heyman.
If that were to happen, though, it presents two great opportunities as far as opponents for Punk: Curtis Axel and Brock Lesnar.
Obviously, Lesnar vs. Punk is the money feud between those two, which could serve as a main event for a big pay-per-view like Survivor Series or perhaps even a match at WrestleMania XXX. When trying to think of matches that could incorporate these two men that don't include The Rock vs. Lesnar, Undertaker vs. Lesnar, or Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Punk.
As a stepping stone to Lesnar, Punk could face Axel, which as long as it wasn't a squash feud, would do nothing but help Axel in the long run. The son of Mr. Perfect facing off against someone like Punk sounds like something I wouldn't want to miss.
Who are some of the people you're looking forward to CM Punk facing off against when he returns?
Would you be interested in seeing these feuds?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.