The fact that CM Punk needed help to retain his WWE Championship against Ryback on Sunday didn't come as a surprise to anyone, but the source of that help was shocking to say the least, as referee Brad Maddox struck Ryback with a low blow and fast counted his shoulders to the mat.
This isn't the first time that Maddox has come to the forefront during his brief tenure as an official. Maddox made a mistake in his first match back in September, as he failed to see Punk's foot on the ropes during a pinfall attempt by John Cena in a tag-team match on RAW. Maddox was berated by Punk, Paul Heyman and then-RAW general manager A.J. Lee, but he faded into the background after that.
Maddox carried on as a normal referee and was fairly anonymous, so most fans didn't think twice when he was the official for the Punk vs. Ryback Hell in a Cell contest. It didn't even register for me personally until he stepped in front of Ryback while he was in the process of delivering a decisive Shell Shocked that would have ended the match and Punk's lengthy reign.
Many are still puzzled with regards to Maddox's motives for helping Punk, especially after the WWE Champion ripped into him more than a month earlier. Because of that confusion, there is a misconception that the creative team simply threw this angle together on a whim. I contend that Maddox's involvement is a key piece to a much larger puzzle that will shift the WWE's balance of power, however.
The important thing to remember about Maddox is that A.J. hired him back when she was RAW's GM. The WWE made sure that it was mentioned on several occasions on Monday, and there is obviously a reason for that. Ultimately, I expect it will be revealed that A.J. has been working behind the scenes with Punk all along.
Their relationship came to an abrupt end when she agreed to marry Daniel Bryan, and there was never any real resolution to that angle. Punk and A.J. had their squabbles while she was general manager, but she is mentally unstable and could easily be strung along by Punk for his own personal gain.
It may seem odd since Maddox made a poor call that cost Punk in September, but that was all part of the plan. Losing the tag-team match to Cena didn't hurt Punk since the title wasn't involved, so he agreed to take the loss in order to make Maddox's interference at Hell in a Cell look like a situation where Maddox went rogue and acted on his own.
A.J. is no longer in power, so she couldn't assign Maddox to officiate the match at Hell in a Cell, but new RAW managing supervisor Vickie Guerrero did. Vickie and A.J. are in the middle of a seemingly heated feud as she forced A.J. into resignation by alleging that A.J. and Cena were having an affair.
Vickie presented evidence in the form of a photo from their business dinner and video of A.J. getting into an elevator with Cena, and while Cena has been defensive, it doesn't seem like anything has happened yet. After Cena gave A.J. a pep talk backstage on Monday, though, A.J. could be seen looking admiringly at Cena as he walked away. Also, Vickie watched from the background.
Because A.J. and Cena seem smitten with each other, I believe that they will ultimately become a couple in the coming weeks. A.J. will accompany Cena to the ring for his matches, including a WWE Championship match at TLC between Cena and Punk. At some point, A.J. will take a bump, which will cause Cena to tend to her.
This will give Punk an opportunity to scale the ladder and grab the belt. A.J. will then slap Cena, and it will be revealed that she was operating alongside Punk all along. Also, Vickie and Dolph Ziggler will be accomplices as well since they were acting to tear down Cena. This would signal the formation of a powerful heel group with Vickie and Heyman at the helm of RAW, Punk as WWE Champion and eventually Ziggler as World Heavyweight Champion.
Maddox may or may not be a part of that stable, but he does have plenty of experience as a wrestler, so he would be a logical addition. At the very least, he would be a pawn in the group's plot to gain power. His involvement could simply be explained as a referee who was paid off by A.J., Punk, Heyman et al for their own advancement.
There may seem to be a lot of moving parts when it comes to this theory, but it ties both the Maddox and A.J./Cena storyline together so seamlessly that I fully expect something along these lines to come to fruition. Much of the WWE's booking has been bare bones in recent months and even years, but a big angle is needed with the most important part of the calendar forthcoming.
Perhaps I'm giving the writers too much credit, but I have a hard time believing that the WWE had Maddox screw up in his first match with no intention of making him a factor again. This storyline's wheels have been churning since Night of Champions and I'm very intrigued to see if it leads down the path I expect it to.