Topping this is the fact that the three men have been selected to make their in-ring debut on pay-per-view against the good guys mentioned above. That's a high profile position. It's come about because of a minor knee injury suffered by CM Punk. The WWE champion was scheduled to defend the belt against Ryback in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match on the show. He will now spend it on the sidelines so that he's healthy for his showdown with The Rock at Royal Rumble in January.
The situation puts me in mind of last year's TLC event. At the 2011 instalment WWE deliberately omitted John Cena from the card as part of a storyline that allowed Zack Ryder to challenge for, and capture, the United States championship after months of chasing.
That show also featured CM Punk defending his title against The Miz and Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to defeat Big Show for the World Heavyweight title. Neither man was as big a star at that point as they are now. While 'Long Island Iced Z's' push may have faltered Punk and Bryan benefited greatly from a show without Cena. WWE used TLC to solidify their pushes and allow them more time in the spotlight.
Night off at TLC. Bonus!
The radical change to this year’s main event provides the members of The Shield with the same opportunity. They are not only replacing Punk’s advertised match, they are competing on a show that will not feature him. As he’s one of WWE’s biggest stars this is a perfect chance for all three newcomers to establish themselves.
There’s talk of The Shield’s six man outing headlining TLC. I’m not sure we’ll see that. I can imagine WWE being happy to put Ryback and Kane in the final spot but I’m less sure they have that level of confidence in Daniel Bryan and the NXT three. Expect a tables stipulation to be added to this match, because of Ambrose and co’s hardware-related attacks on ‘Big Hungry’ since they first appeared, and for the bout to get the semi-final spot on the show.
John Cena v Dolph Ziggler strikes me as a far more likely main event. 'The Show Off' has been rising steadily up the card all year and his current rivalry with Cena is one of the most established on the roster. Couple with that the fact that 'The CeNation Leader' is WWE's top star and that the match is for a Money in the Bank briefcase and I think that would be a far more logical choice of headline bout.
On the subject of Ziggler and Cena: it’s possible the two won’t clash for the MITB contract. Ziggler, as the sneaky heel, could cash-in his case before the ladder contest. If he he to defeat the winner of the Sheamus v Big Show collision (which I expect to be on a little over halfway through the broadcast) bad guy logic would state that he wouldn’t have to defend his contract against Cena. Of course that could prompt a Vinnie Mac appearance (when did he last show up on PPV?) to announce that Ziggler will put his WHC on the line in place of the briefcase.
Of course another possibility is that Cena will win and reach some sort of agreement with Vince that he can cash-in the briefcase for a WWE championship match (it’s currently only valid for a World Heavyweight title bout). I don’t like it but it looks as though Cena is still very much a part of the world title picture (or should that be pictures?). Perhaps the unification idea I posted a month or so ago is still a possibility.
Back to The Shield. Wherever they appear on the card I think Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins have a perfect opportunity to solidify their spot on the card at TLC. It's encouraging to see WWE making the most of a bad situation and trying to use the show as a way of showcasing newcomers. With WrestleMania Season just a month away the timing couldn't be better. If things go right for them they could find themselves a part of a major storyline at WWE's peak time of year.