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If there’s anyone who wants a little payback in the WWE locker room, it’s got to be Chris Jericho. Only months after his cryptic return in January 2012, The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla mounted two monstrous challenges against then-WWE Champion CM Punk, the first and most epic unfolding under the hot Miami night at WrestleMania XXVIII. And despite an all-time effort on behalf of the original Undisputed Champion, Jericho walked away empty-handed when The Show of Shows folded up its tents.

Jericho brings “the end of the world” | Photos of their WrestleMania clash

But given that Jericho was unable to reclaim the WWE Title on The Grandest Stage of Them All, it makes sense that Y2J threw the gauntlet one more time at the feet of The Straight Edge Superstar, laying down a challenge for his recent rival on the May 27 edition of Monday Night Raw. On paper, the plan is perfect: A tailor-made rematch for two of the ring’s premier competitors, staged under the banner of a pay-per-view whose very name promises Payback.

There is, of course, only one problem with this strategy: CM Punk is not here.

Nor has he been for some time, since walking off into the sunset after suffering his own WrestleMania defeat to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29. Punk’s whereabouts have been one of the hot topics of conversation; even took a stab at figuring it out. But despite The Second City Saint’s absence from the squared circle, Jericho still found a way to make his challenge to the absentee Punk stick by manipulating Paul Heyman into accepting on his client’s behalf during an intense session of “The Highlight Reel.”

Full match: Jericho & Punk get “Extreme” | Punk’s 15 greatest moments

So now, for the first time in a long time, CM Punk – wherever he is – finds himself backed into a corner. With Jericho competing (and winning) on a weekly basis, the MIA “Best in the World” finds himself facing a Hall of Fame-caliber Superstar who’s riding high off his second win. And with that rhythmically-gifted, figurative monkey finally off his back, Jericho’s confidence is about as high as it’s ever going to be (it doesn’t bode well for Punk that their last, one-off encounter nearly ended with Y2J victorious as well).

As for Punk … who knows? Maybe he’ll show up at Payback. Maybe he’ll show up before then. And, of course, maybe he won’t. Maybe Jericho’s counting on that, of exposing the man who humbled him on the highest pedestal of their shared profession as a broken man; of being able to defeat him simply by way of his absence.

Imagine that, if Chris Jericho could beat CM Punk without throwing a single punch. Now that would really be payback.

Debbie Wiseman May 30, 2013