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Moments after CM Punk reigned supreme in an ultra-intense matchup against WWE’s “young gun” Big E Langston – turning back the up-and-comer’s Big Ending to hit the GTS – Paul Heyman congratulated his former friend on the victory over a “marginally talented rookie, barely out of the NXT division.” While Punk had already won the right to face Ryback & Heyman in a Handicap Match inside Hell in a Cell at the pay-per-view in nine days, the “mad scientist” hurled another 2-on-1 situation in the direction of The Straight Edge Superstar – sending The Human Wrecking Ball and Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel storming to the ring.However, some surprising assistance would soon even the odds, as a revitalized Big E suddenly rose to join in The Second City Saint’s fight and help send the Heyman Guys packing!
CM Punk def. Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel in a Beat the Clock Challenge
Axel’s task was relatively simple: Survive five minutes against the former WWE Champion and give Ryback the home field advantage at Hell in a Cell. But Punk came into the match like a man possessed, immediately peppering Axel’s sternum with strikes and chops against the turnbuckle. The titleholder gave as good as he got, bringing Punk to the precipice of the time limit with the Perfect Plex, but The Second City Saint countered with the Go to Sleep with seconds to spare.
Punk’s stipulation? Not only would he meet Ryback inside Hell in a Cell, but Heyman would join Ryback inside the Cell against him.
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Ryback called out CM Punk
The only thing Ryback and Paul Heyman like less than “bullies,” as it turns out, is “cheaters.” The mad scientist and his monstrous man-at-arms came to Pittsburgh in a huff over the events of WWE Battleground, where CM Punk took advantage of the referee’s distraction to low-blow Ryback into defeat.
With great indignation, the ECW mastermind ascended his personal pulpit and ran down his onetime champion’s ethics, even going so far as to demean Punk to his face when The Straight Edge Superstar showed up in person. But Punk’s open rematch challenge slightly backfired when Ryback invited the former WWE Champion to back up his famous talk in Pittsburgh. With Punk at a 2-on-1 disadvantage, the situation didn’t look all that great. Happily, though, R-Truth was on hand to offer his hand and even the odds.
CM Punk & R-Truth def. Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel & Ryback
It was a rough night in Pittsburgh for Paul Heyman’s minions when Curtis Axel & Ryback fell to the combined efforts of CM Punk & R-Truth in an impromptu tag match on Raw. With Punk and Ryback circling each other for the majority of the bout, Axel felt the brunt of Punk & Truth’s offense at the outset when they isolated him from his monstrous partner. The Intercontinental Champion turned the tide for his team only when he tagged in Ryback, freeing “The Big Guy” to control the pace of the match.
With Truth now alone in the ring and unable to reach The Straight Edge Superstar, Ryback and Axel alternated offense against the former U.S. Champion while Heyman screamed instruction from the outside. Ryback’s showboating backfired when Truth lashed out with a heel kick and tagged in Punk, who made quick work of a freshly-tagged Axel with the Go to Sleep. Yet Punk allowed Truth to do the final honors and avenge his devastating loss at Battleground with a “perfect” scissor kick to Axel’s head.
CM Punk def. Ryback
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Brutalized for weeks at the hands of both Paul Heyman and his “big, bad, beautiful” protector, Ryback, CM Punk turned not to his fists but his mind to claim a hard-fought upset over the Superstar Heyman seems to have hand-picked his latest acolyte.
With Heyman positioned safely behind the man-mountain, Punk had no choice but to engage “The Big Guy” head-on and leave Heyman — whose “win” over Punk at Night of Champions has yet to be repaid — for another day. What Ryback lacked in technical precision he made up for in pure brute force: a man fighting not just for his own bragging rights against an old foe but the approval of a benefactor whose influence has already begun to poison Ryback’s mind. It was, after all, Heyman who planted the idea of Punk-as-bully into Ryback’s head, despite the fact that The Human Wrecking Ball has doled out harrassment to Superstars and civilians alike over the last several months.
The strategy went about as well as one would expect for The Second City Saint at the outset when he found himself muscled into the defensive by his much larger foe. With Heyman whispering words of encouragement into his guardian angel’s ear to reinforce their mission — “he’s a bully” — Ryback deployed a monstrous combination of power moves that all but turned Punk into a splatter.
Even though Heyman instructed his protégé to “hurt” the staggering Punk, The Second City Saint found his second wind, writhing free of Ryback’s rear chinlock and raining elbows upon the big man’s skull. Punk next planted Ryback with a swinging neckbreaker and signaled for the Go to Sleep, though Heyman cut the attack short by deploying the most efficient weapon in his arsenal: His mouth. With Punk moments from victory, the mad scientist seized a microphone and reiterated (in great detail) his ill-gotten victory at Night of Champions, distracting Punk long enough for Ryback to level him with the Meathook Clothesline.
As the bout neared its fever pitch, both men reached deep into their caches to put the other away, and Punk, again, hung just tough enough to keep it close. Ryback turned to the powerbomb as his maneuver of choice, and The Straight Edge Superstar transitioned into a hurricanrana to counteract it. Ryback answered by muscling Punk chest-first into the ropes, and that’s when Heyman lost his cool.
Unable to resist a chance at humiliating his prodigal son, Heyman slowly skulked toward the prone Punk with a Kendo stick while Ryback occupied the referee. But the intent — while appropriately vindictive — wasn’t exactly subtle, and with the ref now distracted by Heyman, Punk performed the match’s brutal coup de grace by mule-kicking Ryback right in the groin. As Heyman realized his folly, Punk quickly covered the shell-shocked “Big Guy” with a smile and completed his win with the 1-2-3.
So, to recap: in one fell swoop, CM Punk outsmarted Paul Heyman, defeated Ryback, and left his former mentor stewing on pay-per-view. It was a textbook win that proved true everything CM Punk has said about himself, and left Heyman to sit and ponder what might have been had he truly acted like the mastermind he calls himself. For Heyman, it was a missed opportunity. For Punk, it was mind over muscle, strategy over brutality, student over teacher. It was big, it was bad and it was beautiful.
As for Ryback? Well, now he knows what happens to bullies.