Ryback was scheduled to challenge for CM Punk’s WWE Championship at the TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs) pay-per-view until Punk’s knee surgery rendered him unable to compete. Ryback should be thankful because it is borderline impossible to make him a believable contender.
It’s not Ryback’s fault. He’s actually a very legitimate contender for the WWE Championship.
There’s a difference between believability and legitimacy, though. Ryback looked like a monster after getting past the Shield and laying out Punk on the Dec. 3 edition of Monday Night Raw.
The fact of the matter is that it was almost impossible to make any challenger seem like he could believably dethrone Punk.
The Shield debuted at Survivor Series and immediately made an impact by beating down Ryback and powerbombing him through the announcer’s table—effectively removing him from the match.
Since then, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have popped up on a few occasions to protect the WWE Champion.
Even though both sides claim a lack of affiliation, it’s hard to believe that the Shield wouldn’t take advantage of the no disqualification nature of the TLC match.
Sure, Ryback managed to get around the trio and get his hands on Punk. However, he was only able to do so with the help of Kane and Daniel Bryan.
There’s always a possibility that the WWE Tag Team Champions could have intervened on Ryback’s behalf during the TLC main event, but they haven’t established a relationship between them like they have Punk and the Shield.
Perhaps that’s all the WWE could have done when it came to Ryback getting the best of the Shield. After all, it would have been tough for him to finally get revenge on the group on Raw without putting a screeching halt to its momentum.
The other major factor that was working against Ryback, or any other Superstar challenging Punk, was The Rock’s imminent WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
In this regard, John Cena may have been a more believable challenger for the WWE Championship at TLC. Cena vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble is a viable option.
Ryback vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship isn’t. He’s definitely climbing the ranks of the WWE quickly, but he’s far from the level of wrestling The Rock on PPV.
The WWE could have had Ryback win the title at TLC and have Punk win it back before the Royal Rumble. It’s a foolish possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.
In the same vein, they have far too good a story going on between Punk and The Rock. Between the GTS he gave The Rock in July and his lengthy title reign, Punk vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship has all the makings of a blockbuster match.
So, while there are other options the WWE could have pursued, having Punk retain the WWE Championship and defend it against The Rock at the Royal Rumble is the best route.
Given the current storylines surrounding the WWE Championship and the unfolding plans for the Royal Rumble, it would have been hard to make anyone challenging Punk a legitimate threat to his reign.
Maybe Ryback isn’t the only one that should be thankful.
TLC would have featured Punk defending his championship in what would have been, more or less, a buffer match between now and his epic defense against The Rock next month.
With him unable to compete, the WWE is able to pursue much more unpredictable angles between Ryback and the Shield.
Not having a WWE Championship match on the card could be detrimental. That said, more people may be enticed by an unpredictable main event pitting Team Hell No and Ryback against the Shield than they would by a predictable title match.