Because of surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, John Cena was unable to face WWE champion CM Punk at Hell in a Cell as most expected. That forced Punk into a feud with Ryback, and although that feud will continue at Survivor Series, the Punk vs. Cena rivalry is very much alive.
With Punk leading his team against Mick Foley's team at Survivor Series, Cena has definitely been pushed to the back burner. He is wrapped up in an alleged storyline affair with former Raw general manager A.J. Lee, and all signs are pointing toward a potential match with Dolph Ziggler in a couple weeks. So it's easy to see why a lot of people are forgetting about Cena right now.
Punk's program with Ryback was never meant to be anything more than temporary, though, and I'm confident that it will come to an end at Survivor Series. If the goal was for Punk and Ryback to have an extended feud over the title, then they probably would be having a singles match at Survivor Series. Instead, they'll be involved in a five-on-five elimination match without the title on the line.
While Punk's win over Ryback at Hell in a Cell was tainted due to referee Brad Maddox's improper conduct, it doesn't necessarily mean that Ryback will get another title shot. He is probably entitled to one, but it can easily be circumvented.
All the writers have to do is institute a stipulation at Survivor Series that states if Ryback's team wins, he gets a title shot at TLC. If Punk's team wins, though, Ryback cannot challenge for the title as long as Punk is champion.
That makes booking the Survivor Series match quite easy. Ryback's four partners can be eliminated, leaving him against Punk's entire team. Ryback would dispose of Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, The Miz and Alberto Del Rio one by one until it is down to him and Punk. Just as Ryback looks poised to win, however, the tables will turn.
I would have Brock Lesnar make his long-awaited return by attacking Foley outside the ring. This would prompt Ryback to exit the ring in an effort to help his team captain, but it would ultimately result in Ryback getting counted out. Punk would get the better of Ryback yet again through unfair means and it would pave the way for Cena to get back in the title scene.
Regardless of what anyone else says, there is no question that Cena will be facing Punk for the WWE Championship at TLC. As soon as it was announced that The Rock would be facing the WWE champion at Royal Rumble, it was blatantly obvious that either Punk or Cena would be his opponent. Putting Punk against anyone other than Cena at TLC would make the result obvious.
The odds are overwhelmingly in Punk's favor to hold the title for well over a year and enter the Royal Rumble event as The Rock's toughest test in a long time, but Cena can never be counted out of the equation. Cena can potentially beat Punk and that would ensure that TLC is at least intriguing. There simply isn't any rhyme or reason behind Ryback facing The Rock, so it would be pointless to put him in the title match at TLC.
Cena may not technically be involved with Punk at the moment, but I feel very strongly that everything he is facing as far as A.J., Vickie and Ziggler go, are directly related to the WWE champion. The circumstances surrounding A.J.'s courtship of Cena and Vickie's accusations are shady and they'll likely be exposed at TLC.
Since A.J. was the one who originally hired Maddox and she decided to resign from her position rather than be removed by the board of directors, she appears to be an accomplice of Punk and Vickie. In an effort to further herself and those she is involved with, A.J. will forge a relationship with Cena over the coming weeks and accompany him to the ring for his match with Punk at TLC.
A.J. will ultimately cost Cena the match, though, and it will be revealed that she and Punk were together all along behind the scenes. Ceding power to Vickie had to be done in order to deceive Cena, but A.J., Vickie, Ziggler, Punk and Heyman will be equals in terms of decision-making and will essentially control the WWE.
Cena continuing to feud with Punk is more about getting Punk over even more as a top heel than giving Cena a rub, but his involvement is extremely important. If Punk pulled that type of stunt against anyone else, it wouldn't be a big deal. But to trick the face of the company so thoroughly and to make him look incompetent would be huge for the champion.
It may seem like Cena has moved on from WWE Championship contention on the surface, but as soon as Survivor Series ends, he'll be right back in the mix.