Even though he currently isn't the WWE Champion, John Cena is the focus of WWE's flagship program, Monday Night Raw, and his merchandise (i.e. t-shirts, hats) are the biggest sellers at the souvenier stands. However, the company is taking a risk by still promoting him for a title match against the current champ, CM Punk at the Hell in a Cell PPV on October 28, when in all reality Cena might not be ready that night.
Two weeks ago, Cena suffered a minor ankle injury in a match vs. Punk at Night of Champions, then had surgery two days later to remove some bone chips from his right elbow, a procedure that would require him to be out of the ring for 4-6 weeks, meaning there's not a 100% chance he'd be ready for the next PPV. That puts the much-maligned creative team in panic mode, scrambling to find someone that would be a reasonable challenger to Punk if Cena is ruled out of the PPV.
Last Monday on Raw, they teased that Ryback (Ryan Reeves), who has mowed down every opponent put in front of him, might be the guy when he confronted Punk at the end of the show, this after Punk had given special guest Mick Foley, who was chillin' backstage, a low blow just for speaking out against him earlier in the show. There are some who say Ryback, who'd beaten Intercontinental champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin earlier in the night, isn't ready, and that WWE would have to accelerate his rise. There are others who'd be more worthy........
The Big Show, who turned heel earlier this year, was used as a babyface challenger vs. Punk on the road the last two weekends. He has credibility as a former champion, and has feuded with Punk in the past. Miz is also a former WWE champion, and there've been teases that maybe, just maybe, the reality-TV alumnus might be moving toward the face side of the ledger as well. He's played the same obnoxious character for years, his persona created while he was on The Real World before coming to WWE in 2004. Show is locked into a match for the WWE World title vs. Sheamus on 10/28, but as of now, Miz has an empty dance card. WWE has four weeks to fill out the card and create a reasonable, legitimate substitute to be on call if Cena is not medically cleared to go.
What this requires is for Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon to swallow his pride and roll the dice, but not with Ryback. It's a certainty that Punk is meant to remain champion heading into the Royal Rumble at the end of January for a title fight with actor-wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and having Ryback lose to the champion at this juncture might kill his momentum. Saving Ryback for a later date is a better option, one more likely to be ignored due to panic.
This is exhibit A of why the creative team is in the dire straits it's in. When your creative staff is made up of failed Hollywood writers who are not being taught the basics of wrestling, and an emergency comes up like this, they're going to do whatever is needed to appease the big boss, and not do the smart thing, which is find a way to sell the audience on a more marketable matchup. Miz vs. Punk won't work because with Punk now a heel, fans will cheer for him over the more annoying IC champ. The downside with Ryback is that he rarely talks and there is no logical reason----yet----to put him forward as a challenger. If McMahon is as stubborn as I think he is, he'll stick with Cena, who will go into the match with one good arm and risking further injury to his surgically repaired elbow. Game, set, & match to Punk. What is needed is a challenger that the people can get behind and create some doubt about Punk's aura of invincibility. Doubt was cast two weeks ago, as Punk escaped with a double-pin draw vs. Cena, but he's been around the block with Cena enough times over the last year and change. He needs a fresh opponent. Ryback, as much as I like the guy, ain't the answer, and I'm sure McMahon knows that to be true.
Another solution is Smackdown Money in the Bank winner Dolph Ziggler, who's been stalking Sheamus. What would happen if he were to listen to an offer, without the advice of his parasitic manager, Vickie Guerrero, and cash in the briefcase vs. Punk, who turned back a challenge from Cena (who had the Raw MITB case) in July? There is a pocket of fans who've taken to Ziggler, and I'm sure those fans realize the widow Guerrero is holding hm down, leeching off his heat to call attention to her stale gimmick. Ziggler hasn't been tested as a babyface yet, and is overdue.
The ball's in your court, Vince. Don't dribble out of bounds. Just do the right thing.