A WWE pay-per-view is ultimately judged by how the top stars in the company perform in high-pressure, big-match situations.
For nearly 10 years, John Cena and Randy Orton have competed in matches against the top stars professional wrestling has to offer. They have battled beside one another as the most popular stars in the company and have also squared off in some of the most competitive championship bouts in company history.
They will do so once more when they meet in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships December 15 at TLC.
Former WWE and World Heavyweight champions CM Punk and Daniel Bryan will have their wills tested as they compete in handicap matches against The Shield and the Wyatt Family, respectively.
A number of other top stars, such as Big Show, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio, have yet to be announced for the card but will likely play a big role in the night's festivities.
With that many stars potentially playing a role at a single event, how they are booked becomes that much more paramount.
With just over a week until the annual December pay-per-view, let us now take a look at some of WWE's top stars and the best way to book them on the show.
The current World Heavyweight champion is unlike other babyfaces in that he functions much better as champion rather than challenger. He is also at his least hated as champion, contrary to to what one would assume.
There is something about watching Cena chase after a championship and knowing he will eventually win it (because that's what he does) that makes watching less enjoyable. As champion, there is hope that exists among his most passionate detractors because they know that, eventually, he will have to lose.
But that loss should not come at TLC.
There is a lot of prestige that comes with winning the undisputed championship. Cena is a huge star, the biggest of his generation, and it would be fitting that he leaves Houston with both the WWE and World Heavyweight titles in his possession.
It's such a historic moment that the top guy in the industry should have the opportunity to accomplish the feat.
Especially when his opponent is a character that has been as badly booked as Randy Orton has in recent months.
The Viper needs to lose the TLC match this Sunday night. He needs to lose it more than he could ever possibly know.
Orton has spent weeks being paranoid about his place as the face of the WWE and whether or not he has the full support of The Authority.
This, despite the fact that the power group clearly provided a distraction that allowed him to beat Big Show.
Yet somehow, as the huge Tables, Ladders and Chairs match against Cena rapidly approaches, he still continues to exhibit signs of intense paranoia.
If the creative team decides that is an element it wants to preserve in this new version of WWE's supposed Apex Predator, he needs to lose the match and his title. Otherwise, he looks like a total moron for being so paranoid when, for the second time in as many months, The Authority again helps him out of a bind.
For the paranoia angle to work, Orton has to have said paranoia validated at some point.
In 2001, Stone Cold Steve Austin filled the role of paranoid heel and pulled it off as well as he did because he had a sense of humor that fit the character to a tee. Orton, despite being an outstanding in-ring worker, is not as strong a performer.
He cannot simply fall back on his ability to make the audience laugh.
Orton's character is one that has been booked so poorly that he needs clear motivation and justification for doing something. If those two elements are not there, the result is the jumbled mess that has been the Orton heel character since August.
If long-term plans call for him to be champion, he can always regain the title down the line. But for now, he needs to undergo and complete rewrite, beginning with having his suspicions proven correct next Sunday night.
At this point in his career, CM Punk is bulletproof.
He can overcome any loss merely by picking up a microphone and cutting a promo the following night. He has gathered a great deal of goodwill over the last three years and established himself as one of the elite performers in the business.
That means he is in a position to put over talent without many repercussions.
A loss to The Shield, in what is already a three-on-one handicap match, would do nothing to hurt Punk. A strong performance against the most dominant trio in WWE history would allow him to look resilient and earn him the sympathy of the audience without having him overcome the odds and win, something fans of today's WWE have grown bored with.
A strong verbal performance the following night on Raw would instantly help him recover while The Shield could tout another huge pay-per-view victory.
Bryan finds himself in the same position as Punk does in that he is faced with a significant numbers disadvantage.
Unlike Punk, however, Bryan is not quite bulletproof. He does not have the luxury of being able to cut a promo to make up for the fact that he lost another match. He is not a strong enough interview for that to benefit him.
With that said, Bryan will not suffer any significant drop-off by losing to three much larger competitors in a handicap match.
If anything, he will come out looking better than he went in if he can simply put up a valiant effort against the Wyatt Family.
Unlike the Punk-Shield conflict, which feels more like a wrestling angle, the Bryan-Wyatt feud is entertainment-heavy, and their match will likely play up the story more than the in-ring action.
With that said, Bryan should lose the match at TLC and allow the angle to play out in the weeks that follow with the storyline culminating in January at the Royal Rumble.
Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio
Neither man has been officially added to the TLC card, and with such a short amount of time until the show, the likelihood of a strong feud suddenly developing is nearly nonexistent.
With that said, the Superstars have history with one another, and if a single writer on the creative team can remember that, they can easily pitch a quick vignette or angle for Raw that would bring the two wrestlers together for a match December 15.
Del Rio has lost two straight World title matches to John Cena while Mysterio has only wrestled one pay-per-view bout since returning a few weeks back. Neither needs a win, and a loss would not hurt either of them.
Rewarding Mysterio for fighting through multiple knee injuries and surgeries to return to the ring with a win over former World champion Del Rio seems like the right thing to do.
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