Punk vs. Ryback
WWE Champion CM Punk will defend his title against Ryback in a TLC match on the first "Raw" of 2013 WWE.com

WWE has been promoting the Jan. 7 “Raw” more than usual, after a two week lull over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The first live “Raw” of 2013 is set to be a stacked show, with the WWE Title match between Champion CM Punk and Ryback, as well as the return of the Rock.

Punk defending his title against the Big Hungry in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match will draw viewers, but fans already know the outcome. The Straight Edge Superstar has bested Ryback twice before, both times with outside interference, and its near-definite that it will happen again.

Ryback’s hunt for the WWE Championship is a strange one; it only came about after John Cena was sidelined after having knee surgery before the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. WWE needed a man to fill the Cenation Leader’s spot and chose to propel Ryback from the midcard to the main event.

Before facing Punk, Ryback fought mostly lower card talents that made him look good by putting up little to no fight against the big man; that kind of match doesn’t work against the Second City Saint. Punk needs to hold the WWE Championship until the Royal Rumble to face The Rock because the match has been building since July, and Ryback vs. the Rock wouldn’t be the high profile bout WWE is looking for.

So Ryback can’t win the match because CM Punk needs to continue his 400 plus day reign as champion for the story to make sense, and Punk can’t win cleanly because that would ruin Ryback’s character as an unstoppable monster. Odds are that the Shield or the Rock will have something to do with the unfair loss for WWE’s rookie powerhouse.

The Rock’s interference would be strange, because Dwayne Johnson plays the ultimate face, and CM Punk is the WWE’s full-time top heel. The Great One would have to keep help out a bad guy, but that could be explained by having the Rock say he wants to take Punk’s title at the Royal Rumble.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has a long list of confirmed dates for WWE events, leading up to just after Elimination Chamber, reports NoDQ.com, which will allow him to take part in the show’s main storyline even more than he did last year prior to WrestleMania XXVIII.

Here is the full list of confirmed dates for The Rock:

January 7th RAW from Tampa

January 8th SmackDown tapings from Miami

January 14th RAW from Houston

January 21st RAW from San Jose

January 22nd SmackDown tapings from Sacramento

January 27th Royal Rumble pay-per-view from Phoenix

January 28th RAW from Las Vegas

February 11th RAW from Nashville

February 12th SmackDown from Little Rock

February 17th Elimination Chamber pay-per-view

February 18th RAW from Lafayette, LA

WWE.com is also teasing several other events for the 3-hour program.

Dolph Ziggler and John Cena will be continuing their feud after the New Year’s Eve prank the 10-time WWE Champion played on the Showoff. Last week’s show had a dismal ending for Ziggler, and he could be sending in his backup, Big E. Langston, to handle his Cena problems.

Alberto del Rio’s recent and confusing face turn has revolved around protecting his personal ring announcer Richardo Rodriguez. After Big Show’s match with the Mexican Aristocrat’s buddy, Del Rio is likely to be the next man to step up and challenge The Giant for the World Heavyweight Championship.

John Cena, Randy Orton and Sheamus have all announced that they will be participating in the Royal Rumble match on Jan. 27 to fight for a World Championship match at WrestleMania XXIX. With 27 spots remaining in the annual match, tonight’s show is likely to see more talent enter the fray.