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Bleacher Report featured columnists Mike Chiari, Donald Wood, Brandon Galvin and Michael Cahill give the lowdown on all things going on in the wrestling world.
With another unpredictable episode of Ring Rust Radio in the books, you can't afford to miss another second of the action. Catch us live every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET (some language NSFW) or follow us on Twitter @RingRustRadio.
Some Language NSFW.
Feb. 11: Former WWE manager, booker and announcer Jim Cornette
Feb. 18: New Generation Era Fantasy Draft
CM Punk Saga Takes Wrestling World By Storm
It's been over a week since CM Punk supposedly walked out on WWE, and there are still more questions than answers. WWE's actions to this point would seem to suggest that it is in fact legitimate and not a work, but little else is clear. There is no telling when or if Punk will return to WWE, but there is no question that his sizable and vocal fanbase will continue to let WWE hear it until he is back on television.
Question on Everybody's Mind: When Will Punk Return to WWE?
As is the case with many behind-the-scenes wrestling situations, it's impossible to know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to Punk. There have seemingly been hundreds of unsubstantiated reports released on the Internet claiming myriad reasons for Punk's departure. Whether it is due to unhappiness with his utilization in storylines, a lack of transparency in terms of compensation or perhaps even an injury, it's difficult to take Punk's side in this situation.
If Punk walked out without previously notifying WWE management, it was a selfish maneuver on Punk's part. Being unhappy with his place within the company is one thing, but there is a certain level of professionalism that needs to be exercised. Leaving during the build toward WrestleMania isn't consistent with that. Punk has received widespread support, but he is failing to fulfill contractual obligations if reports of his departure are true, and that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
Regardless of the details surrounding the Punk situation, conventional wisdom suggests that WWE will do everything possible to bring Punk back. Even if his attitude isn't ideal, Punk truly is one of the best in the world in the ring and on the mic, and he is an obvious asset to WWE.
There has to be a sense of urgency on WWE's part due to the fact that the March 3 edition of Raw will take place in Punk's hometown of Chicago. If Punk isn't back in the fold by then, it is almost certain that the Chicago crowd will hijack the show with Punk chants throughout.
That isn't something WWE wants leading up to WrestleMania, so the clock is ticking. Returning to WWE makes sense for Punk, too, since bypassing a WrestleMania payday would be an ill-advised move.
On Ring Rust Radio, Donald Wood speculated that Punk could test the waters in TNA, assuming he is given a fat contract and creative power, but that seems like the longest of long shots. TNA is struggling to keep its own talent and can't afford to remain on the road, so signing Punk is essentially an unattainable goal.
With that said, it's pretty much WWE or bust for Punk at this point.
Is CM Punk Nursing a Concussion? (per PWInsider Elite, via WrestlingInc.com)
Elimination Chamber Main Event Set
Following a disappointing Royal Rumble pay-per-view, WWE desperately needs a strong effort at Elimination Chamber in order to right the ship on the road to WrestleMania XXX. Early indications are that Elimination Chamber should be an improvement, especially after it was announced that Randy Orton will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the Chamber against John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and Antonio Cesaro.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Are These the Proper Participants?
Many fans seemed to have delusions of grandeur regarding the potential Elimination Chamber participants, and while it may not contain as much star power as many initially hoped for, there is still plenty to speak of.
Five out of the six men involved have been world champion at one point or another, and five of them have held the WWE Championship. In addition to that, all six competitors know how to work a match, and yes, that includes Cena despite the obvious anti-Cena sentiment that continues to exist.
One complaint that seems to be present is the lack of Brock Lesnar in this match. Adding Lesnar obviously would have boosted the star power considerably while maintaining the level of competition, but it wouldn't have made sense for Lesnar to enter. He and Paul Heyman have maintained that Lesnar deserves to be No. 1 contender, so he wouldn't have any interest in battling five other wrestlers for the title from a storyline perspective. Because of that, it's probably a good thing that Lesnar wasn't included.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
There is no doubt that Cesaro's inclusion came from out of left field, but that may be the most exciting aspect. Most wrestling fans seem to agree that Cesaro has a ton of potential, and he has all the tools necessary to be a main event star down the line. Cesaro is an absolute marvel in the ring, so putting him in a match with five future WWE Hall of Famers will only help his profile. Even if he gets eliminated in the early going, Cesaro can acquit himself well by mixing it up with the faces of WWE.
Perhaps the one drawback is the lack of potential winners. Cesaro, Christian and Sheamus can all be counted out immediately, and it's tough to imagine Cena winning either with a Bray Wyatt feud brewing. That leaves just Orton and Bryan, with Orton as the overwhelming favorite. Orton is the likely winner even though having him carry the title into WrestleMania would be the wrong decision. Having Bryan win would energize the WWE fanbase, though, and it would make for an interesting angle that could lead to a Batista heel turn ahead of 'Mania.
Brock Lesnar's Possible Chamber Involvement (per PWInsider Elite, via WrestlingInc.com)
Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio Likely for Elimination Chamber
Saying that Batista's WWE return has fallen flat thus far would be a severe understatement. WWE officials likely expected fans to go wild regarding the prospect of Batista coming back, and while it was a fun idea at first, fans haven't been given anything to get excited about. Batista clearly wasn't the sentimental favorite to win the Royal Rumble, and the WWE Universe has been against him ever since he came out on top.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Is This a Logical PPV Match?
Based on the events of Raw, a match between Batista and Alberto Del Rio at Elimination Chamber seems like a near certainty. Batista needs something to do between now and the stretch run to WrestleMania, but there is reason to question this decision.
The animosity between Batista and Del Rio made no sense from the start, and it's still impossible to grasp why this is happening. Rather than coming up with some reasoning behind Del Rio hating Batista, the fans are expected to care organically.
Batista constantly telling Del Rio that he had no problem with him on Raw didn't help matters, either. It's clear that Batista is going to win at Elimination Chamber no matter whom he faces, but it would nice to have him go up against someone who looks like a credible threat. Batista hit Del Rio with a powerbomb upon his return and eliminated him in about a minute in the Rumble match. Add in Del Rio essentially running away from Batista on Raw, and Del Rio looks like a joke with Elimination Chamber approaching.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
If WWE truly wanted to make Elimination Chamber a special pay-per-view, having Batista put his WrestleMania title shot on the line against a guy like Lesnar would have been an ideal move. Since Lesnar believes he is deserving of the No. 1 contender spot, the angle would have written itself.
If there was concern regarding having one of them enter WrestleMania coming off a loss, that could have easily been navigated around. Assuming Lesnar is in line to face The Undertaker, perhaps a supernatural Undertaker distraction of some kind could have been the reasoning behind Lesnar losing to Batista.
Even if WWE didn't want to go that big, choosing someone other than Del Rio is obvious. The fans couldn't care less about him, and he certainly won't help energize Batista's already stagnant character. WWE seems to truly believe that this match is a big deal and that it will draw pay-per-view buys, but it won't be viewed as anything more than filler by most with the Chamber match as well as The Shield vs. the Wyatt Family taking center stage.
Alberto Del Rio Leaving WWE Soon? (per PWInsider Elite, via WrestlingInc.com)
RRR Season 4 Fantasy WWE Standings
1. Mike Chiari: 142.5
2. Brandon Galvin: 95
3. Donald Wood: 80
4. Michael Cahill: -20
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