On two consecutive pay-per-views, Ryback was prevented from feasting on WWE Champion CM Punk, but at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, the brawny challenger will get another chance to devour the main course he’s long salivated for.
And this time, some of the ring’s most dangerous implements will be available for use, as the championship battle will be contested as a Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match.
The juggernaut owes his Dec. 16 bout against The Second City Saint, as well as its TLC stipulation, to Raw Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero. The Queen Diva announced the match on Nov. 26 in an attempt to quell Ryback and regain control of WWE’s flagship program.
But how will the new dynamic of legal weaponry affect the title bout — Ryback’s third WWE Title match in as many months? Though the stipulation appears to benefit the challenger and his smash-mouth style, the truth is that the added insanity of tables, ladders and chairs might not lend a clear-cut advantage one way or the other.
Logic dictates Ryback will only be empowered by having such tools of destruction at his disposal. The nearly unstoppable Superstar has shown a knack for upping the intensity of his already-vicious offense when the occasion calls for it. (See the destruction of Brad Maddox, for example.) Add in the obvious hostility he harbors toward Punk, and it would seem the WWE Champion is in for a long night of being smashed through tables, cracked with steel chairs and launched off ladders on Dec. 16.
Yet, Ryback must not neglect Punk’s vicious skill in specialty matches, or his perfect 2-0 record in TLC Matches. The Second City Saint’s debut in the match format, against Jeff Hardy at SummerSlam 2009, ended with him winning his third World Heavyweight Championship. Punk’s more recent TLC Match, against Alberto Del Rio at last year’s WWE TLC, also ended in victory for the tattooed titleholder.
Both of those matches came long before Punk brought master strategist Paul Heyman into the fold, never mind the controversial outcomes of Punk’s two title defenses involving his ultra-intense No. 1 contender.
It was during a critical moment in October’s Hell in a Cell title match between Punk and Ryback that rogue referee Brad Maddox famously low-blowed Ryback and fast-counted his shoulders to the mat. Maddox received his receipt weeks later on Raw, when the bald bruiser bounced the wannabe Superstar’s skull off every conceivable surface ringside before sending him off in an ambulance. (WATCH)
Ryback was also on the verge of winning the WWE Title Triple Threat Match against Punk and John Cena at Survivor Series when the little-known trio of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns mysteriously struck, planting Ryback through a table and ruining his chance at victory.
Punk and Heyman insist they’re blameless, and they portray the actions taken by Maddox and the NXT triumvirate as autonomous. Whether the outcomes of those title bouts were caused by unwanted intrusions, as the champion proclaims, or attacks orchestrated by Punk and Heyman, is still unclear. But with round three of his conflict with Ryback just around the corner, it’s safe to assume the champion isn’t simply coasting to Dec. 16 without a care in the world.
Will Punk, the longest reigning WWE Champion in years, be able to outperform Ryback decisively and free of outside influence — finally validating Punk’s argument that he is fearless and “The Best in the World”? Might the sage veteran’s experience in the TLC match type mean all the difference between a win and a loss, and if not, will Punk’s resourcefulness be his saving grace?
Or, could WWE TLC mark the end of the Punk era and the beginning of Ryback’s time atop the mountain? And if Ryback is successful in his quest to win the WWE Championship, what is the likelihood the polarizing Punk will escape WWE TLC with his body intact?
Be it a feeding frenzy for Ryback or a convincing title defense for Punk, the WWE Championship TLC Match on pay-per-view Dec. 16 will be must-see viewing for the WWE Universe. (HOW TO WATCH)