In one of the most talked about matches of the year, Brock Lesnar defeated CM Punk in a No Disqualification contest at WWE SummerSlam 2013. Lesnar and Punk fought a brutal match, with both sides scoring near falls.
The question is, what's next for Punk after losing to Lesnar?
If the WWE were to schedule a continuation of the feud between Punk and Lesnar, few would oppose. The feud between Punk and Paul Heyman still has ground to cover, especially after a dirty finish at SummerSlam.
With that being said, Lesnar and Punk could move on after their instant classic, finding new rivalries to enter.
If that is the case, WWE will need to do a close examination of both superstars to determine the perfect foe. Even if they are to wait, both wrestlers will need to find a new path once the rivalry inevitably comes to a close.
With Punk's versatility, there is no shortage of options. The question is, who is the best possible opponent for Punk to feud with?
Let's begin with a continuation of the Punk vs. Heyman feud.
Rob Van Dam
Before Rob Van Dam was every fan's favorite high-flyer, he was one of the most arrogant wrestlers in the history of the industry. Working as a heel in ECW, the Whole F'n Show was as over as you could be, working superbly as a heel.
Due to his ablity to get over so quickly with a crowd, however, we're far-removed from the last time RVD was heel. Fortunately for the WWE, there is a perfect lane to enter in order to turn RVD heel and begin a feud between he and CM Punk.
Reunite Van Dam with Paul Heyman and continue the feud with a new wrestler to focus on.
Strictly from a wrestling perspective, Van Dam and Punk are dream opponents. They're two of the most respected in-ring performers of their respective generations, competing against some of the best in the world and emerging as legends on their own fronts.
Just as Van Dam ruled ECW, Punk was the King of the Indies before arriving at WWE.
There is the undeniable possibility to use Punk as a heel and RVD as a face, but in this scenario, the feud would work just as well. WWE is short on dominant heels, and by turning either man, they'd instantly improve their main event scene.
In the short term, they'd also continue the feud between Punk and Van Dam.
The rivalry could begin a variety of manners, specifically in tag team fashion with Punk and RVD facing Lesnar and Curtis Axel on Monday Night Raw. Towards the end of the match, Van Dam would turn on Punk, re-align himself with Heyman and the feud would go from there.
Regardless of how they do it, a program between RVD and Punk is a must at some point in the near future.
Once CM Punk left the independent ranks to join WWE, a new generation of wrestlers took center stage. Superstars such as Bryan Danielson, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Nigel McGuinness, The Briscoe Brothers and many others became the biggest names on the independent circuit, all attempting to take the title of King of the Indies.
Two of the wrestlers who came closest are Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, who at the time went by the names Jon Moxley and Tyler Black.
Today, Ambrose and Rollins are members of The Shield with Roman Reigns. The Shield is, arguably, the biggest thing to hit WWE since Punk, re-defining what it means to be in a faction and defeating the top stars on the roster.
So why not bring Punk into the mix in a full-time feud?
Punk, Ambrose and Rollins are three wrestlers who everyone from the average fan to the self-proclaimed marks would love to see hit the ring. With Ambrose bound to lose the United States Championship at some point and in need of a direct route into the main event, Punk could be the wrestler to provide that opportunity.
The only question at this point is whether or not there's a better option—you know, like the other King of the Indies.
During the mid-2000s, John Cena and Randy Orton became the kings of the WWE and AJ Styles became TNA's franchise wrestler. Other rising stars emerged and legends remained active, but the top draws in the two main companies were unquestioned.
Down on the independent ranks, no two wrestlers were as loved and respected as CM Punk and Bryan Danielson.
Today, Punk and Daniel Bryan are two of the biggest names in the entire professional wrestling industry. Both are main event talents in the WWE, competing for the WWE Championship, and each has headlining ability.
So why not answer every fan's prayers and have them work a full-time feud while working in the title pitcture?
Bryan versus Punk is the type of feud that could carry a WrestleMania, and that may be reason to put a pause on making this war happen. Furthermore, Bryan has just won and lost the WWE Championship and may now feud with Randy Orton.
In that same breath, he and Punk are destined to meet again.
If developed in the right way, that could be the type of feud that carries WWE into their new generation. They're two of the most skilled in-ring performers in the world today and have developed new legions of fans.
It's bound to happen, the only question is when?