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Whether Interim Raw General Manager and Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis intended it or not – CM Punk stood tall over Dolph Ziggler in the WWE Championship Match at Royal Rumble, proudly showing off the most coveted prize in WWE.

Rather than risk seeming biased in light of his upcoming performance appraisal by WWE COO Triple H, Mr. Laurinaitis excused himself from officiating duties in the WWE Championship Match. This ultimately allowed Punk and Ziggler to do what they do best in an evenly- officiated contest.

The sold-out WWE Universe inside St. Louis’ Scottrade Center witnessed the two Superstars lay everything on the line, highlighting the importance of the WWE Championship and The Grandest Stage of Them All waiting on the horizon in Miami.

The contest began with each Superstar trying to get a feel for each other’s in-ring abilities. Momentum swings were fairly even, both ring warriors trading blows and trying to make each other tap out. There were unforgettable moments and near-pinfalls that could have crowned a new champion, but ultimately these did not seal the deal for either competitor. At one point, Ziggler lined up Punk for his signature face-crusher, but Punk countered with a sit-down powerbomb. Although CM Punk had Ziggler defeated on a few separate occasions, the referee was knocked out for two of those moments and Mr. Laurinaitis was checking on the officials condition, leaving no one call the match. Finally, The Voice of the Voiceless took control of the match, hoisted the Dolph Ziggler over his shoulders and put him to sleep. As the referee made the count, Mr. Laurinaitis slipped inside the ring and joined in on the three-count.

Leading up to the official start of The Road to WrestleMania, Dolph Ziggler had built a fair share of momentum against the WWE Champion. Although CM Punk managed to have The Show-Off’s cohorts, U.S. Champion Jack Swagger and Vickie Guerrero, banned from ringside, Ziggler had the potential to capture the title with Mr. Laurinaitis as special referee. But when Raw’s Interim General Manager announced he would not be in that role, the news seemed to have served a crucial blow to all of the momentum Ziggler had built heading into Royal Rumble.

However, with the battle underway, The Show-Off proved he did not need the screeching sounds of Vickie Guerrero’s voice, nor the extra muscle in the form of U.S. Champion Jack Swagger. Perhaps the prospect of going into WWE Elimination Chamber, and ultimately, WrestleMania as WWE Champion helped light a fire inside of Ziggler, giving CM Punk one of the greatest challenges of his championship reign.

The Voice of the Voiceless leaves St. Louis with the WWE Championship intact, but has to get through WWE Elimination Chamber to remain on top heading to WrestleMania. Watch all the fallout – and the Interim Raw General Manager on Monday Night Raw.

Debbie Wiseman Jan 30, 2012