John Cena should be considered the overwhelming favorite in his return match at WWE Hell in a Cell, given the standard protocol of professional wrestling.
He is WWE's biggest star, and it is virtually unheard of for a star of his stature to suffer a loss of any kind in a return match. Triple H, Steve Austin and Cena have all enjoyed return-match victories multiple times in their careers.
Few, if any, wrestling fans expect him to lose to Alberto Del Rio at WWE Hell in a Cell. In fact, the only way many can imagine him lying down for a three count is after he first defeats Del Rio. Then, the door may be open for Damien Sandow to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
But there are money and intrigue long term in Cena taking a shocking loss to Del Rio next Sunday.
It was originally announced that Cena would miss four to six months of action. With his comeback occurring two months early, announcers are already asking whether he is coming back too soon.
If WWE tells a story of Cena struggling with his elbow throughout the match and Del Rio capitalizing on the injury to beat him, it would make Cena's return storyline more believable.
In reality, even elite athletes hardly ever perform up to their standards coming off serious injuries.
This time last year, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was the toast of Washington, D.C. After tearing his ACL and LCL in last season's playoffs, he has struggled to find his 2012 rhythm. The Redskins are currently 1-4 as a result.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has set the standard for quick recovery in the NFL. After suffering an ACL and MCL tear in 2011, he bounced back the next season to average 131 yards per game and six yards per carry en route to winning the MVP award.
In his first six games in 2012, however, he only averaged 83 yards per game and just over four yards per carry.
Yes, the results are predetermined in pro wrestling, but if Cena is truly being rushed back, booking him to lose would limit his workload. He could primarily be used in training montages.
The videos could feature a newly focused Cena attempting to heal for a revenge match against Del Rio, who would now be presented as a legitimate threat.
The underwhelming announcement of Cena's return makes it appear as if he's being called up on a rehab assignment. Losing to the better man in an upset would restore interest in WWE's secondary world title.
Del Rio is healthy and has been wrestling routinely at the world championship level in Cena's absence. In any other sport, Cena would walk in as a tempered favorite at best.
Cena should lose because he doesn't need the win. A loss would also extend his quest to become a world heavyweight champion. WWE officials likely booked him in a world championship situation to allow Daniel Bryan time to develop as a top star.
Cena's valiant chase of the world championship would do just that. There would be no better way to begin such a chase than with a clean loss to the world champion.