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Precap to the Jan. 7, 2013 episode of WWE 'Monday Night Raw', or the one where The Rock returns

Previewing the Jan. 7, 2013 episode of WWE "Monday Night Raw"; featuring CM Punk vs. Ryback in a TLC match for the WWE Championship, the return of The Rock, and The Shield's continued sneak attacks on the WWE roster

Punk! Heyman! Ryback! The Shield! The Rock! Tables! Ladders! Chairs! WWE Championship! This! Is! What! We've! Been! Waiting! For!

Things are about to get real complicated in the WWE Championship picture, so this is the last chance you have to get caught up. Luckily for you, dear Cagesiders, it is my job to make sure you know exactly what is going on.

So let's give this baby a whirl, shall we?

First, we have WWE Champion CM Punk. He has held the title since winning it at Survivor Series 2011, a full 413 days ago. He has a number of clean wins under his belt against The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, Kane, and Daniel Bryan. Punk also has a few dirty victories against John Cena, The Big Show, and Ryback. It has been a spectacular run, but things might be winding down soon.

Punk missed TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, due to the fact that he required surgery to repair a cartilage tear in his knee on Dec. 3. This was explained away by having Ryback powerbomb the champion through a table, which is a pretty clever way to use the story to cover up a real-life injury. has reported that Punk's knee is ready to go, meaning that the scheduled TLC Match between Ryback and Punk for the WWE Championship is on. If, for whatever reason, Punk cannot fight tonight, it will be his manager Paul Heyman who will be taking his place.

There have been conflicting reports on how stable Punk's knee really is. WWE is certainly hedging its bets by adding the Heyman stipulation in. If I had to guess, I doubt that Punk sees any real action tonight. The man is merely a month removed from surgery; he is part of the future of WWE.

To risk further injury in a TLC match on the eve of the promotion's biggest season is not just stupid, but downright criminally negligent.

Perhaps the most popular assumption is that The Shield will somehow play a role in the proceedings. They first appeared at Survivor Series, helping Punk retain the championship in his match against Cena and Ryback. Since then, The trio of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have been running rampant through WWE. They have taken out Ryback, Randy Orton, Brodus Clay, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Tommy Dreamer, and Ric Flair via sneak attack. The NXT Trio also defeated Ryback and Team Hell No at TLC, solidifying their in-ring prowess.

This is a group that proclaims to be battling injustice within WWE, and have found themselves -- or perhaps have forced themselves -- into the lives of the WWE Champion and his challengers. A run-in tonight by The Shield is not only possible, but I would say highly probable.

Finally, we have the return of "The People's Champion," Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. At Raw 1000 (July 23, 2012), The Rock told the WWE Universe that he will be facing the WWE Champion for a title shot at Royal Rumble (Jan. 27) How he received that shot was never fully explained, but the assumption that he earned it by beating Cena at WrestleMania 28 is not the worst of reasons.

With only three episodes of Monday Night Raw left until the Rumble, Rocky is here to hype up his match. All signs are pointing to a collision course between The Rock, the star of the Attitude Era, vs. CM Punk, the leader of this New Revolution.

The question remains, though, on where things go from there. Does Punk drop the championship to The Rock? Will he be able to win it back? Does he get pushed out of the main event entirely?

If The Rock does become champion, who will challenge him for the title?

But we mustn't get ahead of ourselves, dear Cagesiders. Lets take things one night at a time. Things are once again interesting within WWE. There will be action. There will be drama. There will be chaos. There will be twists and turns that will surprise us all.

Most of all, there will be excitement back in our Monday nights.

Everything Else! Bullet Points!

  • I really do hope the John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler, AJ Lee, & Big E Langston thing is over. While dumping a pile of crap on Ziggler and AJ was an incredibly dumb segment, it was a fitting end to the entire feud. Everyone accomplished what they needed to: Ziggler and AJ got some heat on them... Big E has been made as an imposing body guard... Cena got his revenge... and everyone is free to go their separate ways. There is no reason for this to continue, and I'm praying to the pro wrestling gods that this is done with.
  • We may finally find out what direction the World Heavyweight Championship will be heading. Sheamus and Randy Orton seem to be entering a long feud, so they look to be out. That leaves either Ziggler cashing in soon, or Alberto Del Rio getting a shot at the giant. I'm good with either case, because that means more AJ and/or Ricardo Rodriguez.
  • Wade Barrett won the Intercontinental Championship from Kofi Kingston last week (Dec. 31) on Raw, and then successfully defended the title on Friday's (Jan. 4) SmackDown. What new challenger will step up to the plate? (Hint: it will probably be Kofi again).
  • Antonio Cesaro is YOUR United States Champion, and he is awesome. That is all.

Hopefully, this has prepared you for the night's festivities. Leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to, and please join Geno, myself, REX IVANOVIC taking over - -

and the entire CSS Monday night gang in the live blog right here!

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