Happy Wednesday TJR faithful! I know that I promised last week that my article this week would be an Angle Analysis of Team Hell No. I had every intention of posting that piece, until I watched Raw last night. I felt compelled to push back analyzing Team Hell No, in favor of discussing the WWE Championship match that was set for Hell In A Cell on the last episode of Monday Night Raw, and how WWE will fill the gap between now and Royal Rumble’s showdown between The Rock and CM Punk.

I look at the next three months or so in the WWE as the road to Royal Rumble. At the Royal Rumble, The WWE’s Main Event narrative has telegraphed that The Rock will compete for the WWE Championship, in all likelihood against CM Punk. Having CM Punk walk into The Royal Rumble having reigned as WWE Champion for 426 Days to face The Rock would be electric. I not only expect this to be the case come January, but also think it should be the course taken as dictated by the WWE’s sometimes heavy-handed foreshadowing. The question always was how are they going to fill the three months leading up to Punk and Rock’s Royal Rumble clash.

I do not intend to draw out any suspense as to my feelings on the main event bout set for Atlanta, Georgia on October 28th, so let me get that out of the way and say that I hate it. I have no intention of watching, nor do I feel any desire to. Not because it will be a bad match (which at this point is a 50/50), and not because I hate Ryback (in all honesty, I ironically hate being force fed a copy of a copy, but its not the reason I don’t want to see the match). The fact is that in my opinion, making this match for this specific PPV was a colossal mistake, and that regardless of the outcome the WWE is hurting their product. There are only two possible outcomes. Punk wins, or Ryback wins. Sure one outcome is better than the other, but it still has its own negative impact on the WWE at large. Let’s take a look at what each result would mean.

If Ryback wins, the negatives far outweigh the positives. For starters Ryback isn’t close to ready to hold the WWE Title, his reign will likely be short-lived, and more distressing than anything else, Ryback will be champion. The most important negative is the fact that Ryback winning the title robs us of CM Punk walking into the Royal Rumble with a 400+ day reign as WWE Champion. Even if Punk were to win the belt back before The Rumble, the match with The Rock has lost a significant amount of its luster. The only positive that I see out of Ryback winning the title is that it would be pretty shocking.

On the flipside, If Punk the narritive set up since Punk turned heel on Raw 1000 stays on course. We’ll likely get Cena vs. Punk at Survivor Series, some kind of filler feud for TLC in December, all leading up to Punk vs. Rock at The Royal Rumble. This scenario is better for storytelling as far as the WWE championship is concerned because it doesn’t betray the narrative you’ve been building for months (I’m a story guy) but because the match with Ryback is in Hell In A Cell, Punk would have to really beat Ryback. The purpose of Hell In A Cell match is to deliver a definitive winner, and having Punk definitively defeat Ryback would be a major blow to the “Big Hungry” (Seriously? That nickname sounds like a chocolate bar).

In many ways, this bout would have been better served at TLC, because you could have Punk beat Ryback “by the skin of his teeth” in a Table, Ladder, or TLC match, never pinning the dominant Superstar in all three cases. Beating Ryback inside Hell In A Cell will make Punk look fantastic, even if he egregiously cheats to do so, and it hurts Ryback significantly regardless of how it happens, because he will need to be pinned. If Ryback beats Punk, Royal Rumble loses some of its cache, but if Punk pins Ryback, Ryback loses a lot of steam, which is why I would not have rocketed Ryback into this position at this Pay-Per-View, and rode out his undefeated streak for at least the next two months.

Alas, an injury to John Cena has forced the WWE’s hand and they have decided the time for Punk vs. Ryback is now. Despite both outcomes having negative connotations, it’s obvious that Punk needs to walk into The Royal Rumble to face The Rock having spent the last 426 days as WWE Champion. Anything less cheapens a marquee matchup half a year in the making. That means that Ryback needs to suffer his first real loss inside the Devil’s Playground known as Hell In A Cell. I personally don’t know how Ryback can come out of this Sunday strong without the WWE Championship in hand, because the only way he doesn’t win it is by being pinned or made to submit, but WWE creative needs to be working hard to find a way. It’s a tough corner to write yourself out of in that sense, and I can only hope they rise to the occasion and find an entertaining way for Punk to keep the title in a match with No DQs, designed to deliver a winner at all costs, without derailing the freight train that has been Ryback. 

I’m excited about The Rock and CM Punk eventually squaring off for the WWE Championship, and sincerely hope that the WWE keeps the title on Punk till then. Punk needs to maintain his reign till then, so that despite all his vitriole and villainy, the facts are on his side going into the match with Rock; he's been the champ for 400+ days, and is for all intents and purposes The Best In The World. Knowing that Royal Rumble is the destination doesn’t make the next three months any less exciting to me as a fan. After Hell In A Cell, I hope John Cena and CM Punk can tear the roof off of Survivor Series. I hope they elevate a young guy like Kofi Kingston and give him a shot against Punk at TLC, giving him a taste of the Main Event picture and letting the viewers see that he’s on the cusp by coming oh so close to winning the WWE Championship (and to quote Barney Stinson, a CM Punk vs. Kofi Kingston ladder match has every opportunity to be legendary). If the ride from now to The Royal Rumble is filled with exciting matches, clashes of epic proportions, and compelling narratives, knowing the destination will be the last thing on anyone’s mind, mine included.

There you have it, but what do you think? Are you excited to see Ryback vs. Punk? Is it weird that the first match between Punk and Ryback is taking place in a structure usually reserved for the final match in longstanding personal feuds? Do you think Punk needs to hold the WWE Title from now until a match with The Rock in January? If so, could you still get yourself excited about the coming months despite knowing where it’s all headed?

Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying well-played Mr. Affleck, three for three. I guess you had more to do with Good Will Hunting than most like to give you credit for. Have a great week everybody!