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Cm Punk undergoes knee surgery, future in question

WWE Champion CM Punk shows his championship belt

WWE Champion CM Punk shows his championship belt during the WrestleMania 28 press conference Wednesday, March 28, 2012, in Miami Beach, Florida. (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT) (Credit: MCT/C.W. Griffin)

CM Punk’s historic year-plus reign as WWE champion could be headed for an unfortunate and untimely ending, as WWE.com is reporting that Punk has undergone emergency knee surgery that could put him on the shelf for a while.

According to WWE, after being put through a table at the conclusion of last night’s Raw, Punk flew out to Florida to visit with renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews. After examining Punk, Andrews determined he would undergo surgery immediately.

WWE reports that Andrews trimmed a cartilage tear in one of Punk’s knee. There are no details yet on how long he’ll be out. The Wrestling Observer reports that “he surgery was expected beforehand to be minor and he would spend a minimal amount of time out of action.”

Although WWE hasn’t announced it yet, this much is all but a certainty: Punk will not be defending his title against Ryback at the TLC pay per view in less than two weeks at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. If WWE think he’ll be back before The Royal Rumble, they may make the decision to keep the belt on Punk until his return.

But if Punk is, in fact, out for an extended period of time, it’s likely that Punk will have to give up the title and that WWE will fill the vacated championship at TLC. I could see WWE plugging Ryback into the John Cena-Dolph Ziggler bout to make it a triple threat ladder match with the title belt hanging above the ring.

And even with minor knee surgery, it’s possible that Punk would not be back in time for the Royal Rumble, where he was expected to defend his WWE championship against The Rock in what may have been the biggest match of his career.

In a worst-case scenario, it’s even possible that the surgery would keep Punk off of WrestleMania XXIX. It’s not clear who Punk was slated to face at the event, but he was almost certainly going to be slotted in a top match, perhaps against The Undertaker. There has also been speculation about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin coming out of retirement to face Punk, with whom he’s exchanged jabs on Twitter and during a heated face-to-face discussion on Youtube aimed at promoting WWE’s most recent video game.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but you have to wonder if WWE bookers are second-guessing their decision not to have Ryback take the title from Punk, either at the Hell in a Cell pay per view, where Ryback had lots of momentum, or at last month’s Survivor Series. If WWE does decide to put the title on Ryback now, his legitimacy as champion will be in question because he did not defeat Punk.

On the upside, Punk would be able to lay claim to never having lost the WWE title in the ring—something that should give him motivation when he returns.

But, for sure, this is very, very bad news for WWE, which could not afford to lose its second biggest star as television ratings continue to slide and the company approaches its annual “Road to WrestleMania.”

That said, at least WWE has elevated some wrestlers to top tier pushes in recent months, including Ryback, Ziggler and the debuting members of The Shield: Dean Ambrose, Seth Rolling and Roman Reigns. They will help soften the blow of Punk’s loss, and will likely benefit from being pushed faster than they otherwise would have been.

If nothing else, the unexpected loss of Punk from the roster should serve to light a fire under WWE’s creative team, which will have to move around a lot of pieces to figure out WWE’s main event picture for the next several weeks—and possibly beyond.

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