Chicago's Allstate Arena was set to be a firestorm of fan vexation for the March 3 edition of WWE Raw, but if CM Punk returns, it will instead be a place of celebration.
It's not Aaron Paul (of Breaking Bad and Need for Speed) appearing on the episode that has fans talking and backstage reports zipping around the Internet—it's the possibility that Punk could emerge from his "sabbatical."
The March 3 episode promises to be intriguing for other reasons as well. The Shield and The Wyatt Family will meet once again, WrestleMania matches will get more hype, and, as Zeb Colter suggests, there should be a number of surprises to enjoy.
Punk to Return Home?
After Punk's abrupt exit post-Royal Rumble, it was unclear whether he would be back at all, much less in time for WrestleMania XXX. It now appears that his fanbase can rejoice and that the upcoming pay-per-view will boost its star power.
Punk is reportedly likely to return on Monday's Raw. Wrestling Observer Radio, via WrestlingInc.com, reported that "there is a good chance that CM Punk will be on RAW tomorrow night in Chicago."
Jim Ross later shared his thoughts on the odds that will actually happen:
Should Punk come back, you can expect not only one of the most memorable crowd reactions in WWE history but also some major shifts in the WrestleMania XXX lineup. The biggest change looks to be coming for the WWE title match.
F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, reported the following: "If Punk does return at RAW he will either replace Daniel Bryan in the match with Triple H or go into the WWE World Heavyweight Title match with Batista and Randy Orton. Punk likely isn't winning the title unless he plans on signing a new contract in July and that impression wasn't given."
Chicago fans would love to see Punk slide into the title picture, but that result wouldn't please Bryan's fervent fanbase.
It's hard to imagine Punk coming back to the exact place he left, though. Punk was reportedly "not happy about facing Triple H at WrestleMania," according Dave Meltzer, via WrestlingInc.com. If that's true, what would have inspired him to agree to come back if his position hadn't improved?
Vince McMahon promising Punk his first WrestleMania main event could have caused Punk to come out of hibernation.
Whom Punk seeks out should he make his return on Monday's Raw will determine plenty about what to expect at WrestleMania. A showdown with Triple H pushes Bryan into the championship match, and a confrontation with Batista or Randy Orton assures Bryan stays put in the program with Triple H.
Hints from the Five-Point Preview
Anthony Benigno's Raw preview on WWE.com asks two pertinent questions regarding three of the principal players in the lead-up to "The Show of Shows."
About Batista, Benigno asks, "Who will the No. 1 contender target next?"
That refers to "The Animal" clashing with Dolph Ziggler on Friday's SmackDown. He will be hoping for added momentum and a way to shake off more ring rust. Does that come against Alberto Del Rio once again, a new challenger or perhaps Punk?
Should he go with that last option, go ahead and pencil in a Punk vs. Orton vs. Batista title match come April 6.
Another of the preview's questions also has WrestleMania implications. Benigno writes, "Bryan clearly wants to play The Game; will Triple H oblige?"
For now, it sounds like Bryan vs. Triple H is still on, but that could have been written before Punk's return was confirmed. Bryan may also go after Triple H in the short term, with a championship opportunity waiting for him later.
What Else to Expect
Last Monday, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar collided to end the show. Count on Lesnar responding in violent fashion in Chicago.
Both Undertaker and Brock Lesnar are scheduled to appear, per WWE.com.
WWE will have to cram a good amount of that story into Monday's Raw, as Lesnar isn't booked for either the March 10 or March 17 edition of Raw. That narrative will be one of Monday's highlights, as will a match between WWE's two dominant factions.
Triple H demanded that The Shield and The Wyatt Family hold off on tearing into each other on Friday's SmackDown. The COO then booked them in a six-man tag match for Monday's Raw instead.
If this rematch delivers a fraction of the intensity the teams produced at Elimination Chamber, that bout alone will make tuning in a must.
Aside from the hard-hitting action these men regularly produce, the match will benefit from the increasing tension between the members of The Shield. Their bickering and infighting will eventually lead to an explosion.
Waiting for that moment has created a wealth of suspense.
The Wyatt Family's other recent target will feature prominently on the show as well.
Bray Wyatt's clan hobbled John Cena last Monday. Cena and WWE did such a good job of selling his resulting injuries that there was major doubt about whether the damage was real or scripted.
Body feels like an old rusty pedal bike with a broken wheel. Get the grease gun and some fix a flat..time to get it done #evenstronger— John Cena (@JohnCena) March 2, 2014
According to Dave Meltzer, via WrestlingInc.com, "there is no real injury to Cena, with his groin or his knee." That means there will be no need to protect Cena, but one should expect WWE to continue selling the injury.
Cena will appear to bark at his bearded foes, even if he has to do so on crutches.
That confrontation will be just one of many on a night when WWE fans will be most interested in whether a certain tattooed member of the roster will a part of all the fighting.