One of the biggest issues many fans have with the upcoming TLC pay-per-view is the fact that the result of the match between WWE Champion CM Punk and Ryback is obvious. While that may be true, there is no question that Ryback deserves to headline the company's December event.
I'm admittedly not a fan of Ryback because he's limited in the ring and on the mic, but I understand what some people see in him. He's similar to The Ultimate Warrior in a lot of ways, as they both have incredible physiques and frenetic energy that gets the fans involved. Neither Ryback nor Warrior has ever piqued my interest, but I'm not the type of person the WWE is targeting.
The general audience is made up of younger fans and those who don't know or care about the particulars of the business, and they tend to be entertained by larger-than-life figures. They don't often take into account how good of a speaker someone is or how technically sound they are in the ring, and that is why Ryback is suddenly over as a top face.
I was resistant to Ryback's big push at first, and I still don't necessarily view him as world champion material, but I can't deny that the fans want to see him. The WWE utilized him brilliantly on Raw, as he was saved for the final segment rather than having a squash match earlier in the night. He chased off The Shield and put Punk through a table, resulting in thunderous applause from the crowd as they chanted "feed me more" in unison.
In a lot of ways it seems like Ryback is over almost solely because he has an infectious catchphrase, but even if that is the case, it doesn't matter. Vince McMahon doesn't care how a guy generates a crowd reaction. He simply cares about making money, and thus far it appears that Ryback has been beneficial to the company's bottom line.
Ryback has main-evented the past two pay-per-views, and initial numbers are promising. According to PWTorch.com, Hell in a Cell generated 200,000 buys, which was up from 182,000 in 2011. There are many potential contributing factors, including the fact that last year's Hell in a Cell took place during a stretch in which there were three pay-per-views over the course of five weeks.
Also, the pay-per-view buys in general have been up in 2012 when compared to last year, so the hike may just be part of the overall trend. With that said, the WWE was without John Cena for Hell in a Cell 2012, as he was nursing an elbow injury. Increasing pay-per-view buys without the top draw in the company is impressive regardless of how it happened, and Ryback is being viewed as one of the big reasons for the improvement.
It isn't yet known how Survivor Series 2012 did in terms of buys, but it will have to beat the 281,000 buys that the event did in 2011, according to 411mania.com. Despite The Rock's in-ring return, last year's Survivor Series numbers were considered disappointing, so it's possible that Survivor Series 2012 could match or exceed it with Ryback vs. Punk vs. Cena as the main event.
Whether it's true or not, Ryback is now being viewed as the WWE's next big cash cow, and it's difficult to argue with the success he has had to this point. Because of that, he was the correct choice to challenge Punk for the WWE Championship once again at TLC.
I have assumed for the past couple months that Punk would face Cena at TLC due to the looming match against The Rock at Royal Rumble. The only logical opponents for The Rock are Cena—due to their obvious past and previous WrestleMania bout—and Punk—due to his run-in with The Rock on the 1,000th episode of Raw, which led directly to his heel turn.
Punk vs. Cena has been done several times already, and Punk still would have been favored in the match, but there would have at least been some doubt about who would come out on top. The possibility of Cena vs. The Rock would have been looming, and that would have added a great deal of intrigue to the match.
Ryback obviously isn't going to face The Rock at Royal Rumble, as he hasn't established himself as a top guy yet and he has no issues with The Rock. That may cause interest to wane in the TLC main event, but there is still some mystery surrounding it. Ryback has been thwarted by surprise attackers at the past two pay-per-views, and there is no doubt that something big will happen once again at TLC.
At Hell in a Cell it was Brad Maddox who went rogue and at Survivor Series. The Shield took him out of the equation. Either Maddox, The Shield or some combination of them could come into play at TLC, or it could be somebody totally different. My money is on Brock Lesnar returning and setting up a feud with Ryback that will ultimately culminate in a WrestleMania match.
It's understandable that some fans are worried about Ryback and concerned that three straight pay-per-view losses will ruin him, but he is at a high point in terms of popularity, and I doubt another unfair loss will change that. Having a program with Lesnar and beating him at WrestleMania would launch him to even greater heights, and the best way for that to happen is through interference at TLC.
Although it's unfortunate that the winner at TLC isn't going to be a surprise, everything else favors Ryback. The WWE has no choice but to capitalize on the immense popularity of Ryback, and even though the match may not be the best, the WWE brass made the right decision.