Vince McMahon shocked many fans on Monday when he announced that WWE champion CM Punk would defend his title in a Triple Threat match against Ryback and John Cena at Survivor Series.
The odds may seem stacked against the current titleholder to retain his prize, but Punk has some tricks up his sleeve that will allow him to come out on top.
Punk was originally scheduled to lead a five-man team against Mick Foley's team in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, but that was nixed by McMahon. Punk and Ryback were pulled from the match, with Dolph Ziggler stepping in for Punk and Ryback yet to be replaced. Clearly, that match will no longer headline the card.
McMahon's decision to change things so drastically from one week to the next was interesting, and it's unclear why Punk and Ryback were put in the elimination match to begin with.
My best guess is that Cena wasn't cleared to compete until a couple of days before the most recent edition of Raw. Therefore, once McMahon got the go ahead, he put together the big Triple Threat match.
Punk vs. Ryback couldn't have been done again since it just happened at Hell in a Cell, and screwing over Ryback in another singles match would have been overkill. Throwing Cena into the mix makes things feel fresh, though, and opens up several possible avenues for Punk to win without making either opponent look bad.
Obviously, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that either Ryback or Cena could win, but I would be thoroughly surprised if it happened. I honestly don't believe that Ryback is ready to be "the guy" in the company, and while Cena already is "the guy," I would much rather see Punk retain the title heading into the Royal Rumble and face The Rock. I believe the WWE brass feels the same way.
I wouldn't put it past the WWE to do Cena vs. The Rock again at the Royal Rumble, but having Punk vs. Rock with Punk having held the title for well over 400 days would be much more compelling. That is why I thought the WWE had the perfect recipe originally as Punk wouldn't have had to defend the title in the elimination match, but matters have certainly been complicated.
Punk obviously isn't going to win cleanly at Survivor Series, but the triple-threat environment allows for some crazy things to happen. The main thing to understand is that Ryback isn't taking the fall no matter what happens. The WWE was already forced into having him get beat at Hell in a Cell due to Cena's elbow injury, and I can't see the creative team allowing him to get pinned again.
With that in mind, it will have to come down to Punk pinning Cena.
There are a number of ways this can potentially happen, but my best guess is that it will involve Brock Lesnar. I really thought that Lesnar would be the one to help Punk beat Ryback at Hell in a Cell, and while it was referee Brad Maddox who interfered instead, Survivor Series is the perfect event for Lesnar to make his return.
Survivor Series is considered a "Big Four" pay-per-view, so the WWE will want to do something huge, and Lesnar appearing would suffice. Perhaps Ryback can hit Cena with Shell Shocked, but as he is about to go for the cover, Lesnar shows up and begins brawling with him. That would allow Punk to slip into the ring and cover Cena for the slimy victory.
Punk, Lesnar and Paul Heyman would then stand tall to close the show, signaling the beginning of a new power group in the WWE. While Ryback would technically come out on the losing end, he wouldn't be pinned and it would be clear that he got screwed yet again. Cena would be pinned, but he's so entrenched as the top guy that it wouldn't be any skin off his back. He'll look strong no matter what.
The WWE just has to find a way to book Punk well for the next couple of months so he can be the champion heading into the Royal Rumble. Having him win thanks to Lesnar's interference at Survivor Series is a start.
Not only would that allow Punk to retain, but it would start a potential feud between Lesnar and Ryback. A lot of parallels can be drawn between them and having them face each other at WrestleMania would be huge for Ryback's development. Many people figured Lesnar would play a role at Hell in a Cell and that didn't happen, but it seems very likely that he'll return at Survivor Series.