With Ryback on a long pay-per-view drought, he was one more loss from his ship sailing in the eyes of WWE fans. How could one be a money-drawing babyface or heel if he loses every meaningful match he's booked in?
Ryback winning wouldn't have been much better. John Cena and the WWE would have virtually wasted the last year of Cena's career. That was a year spent trying to seek redemption in winning the WWE Championship from The Rock. The end of that match at WrestleMania XXIX, where Cena would find said redemption, saw The Rock pass the proverbial torch to him.
That iconic, and somewhat poorly received, moment needs a bit more time to breathe before Cena drops the title.
A Cena-Ryback draw on paper sounds worse than both options. But the execution was so magnificent, the WWE bought itself more time with the once-floundering Cena-Ryback rivalry.
Ryback speared John Cena through the Extreme Rules setup in a visually stimulating spot that ended the match. Ryback walked out on his own power with help from referees. John Cena was stretchered out. The title didn't change hands, but Ryback was kept strong.
WWE's next pay-per-view is aptly named Payback. With what fans just saw, Ryback suddenly appears as a threat to beat John Cena, which he virtually did by being the last man standing. No phony Achilles injury will be needed to sell this rematch.