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WWE 'Hell in a Cell' Preview: CM Punk vs. Ryback for the WWE Championship

WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Ryback in a Hell in a Cell match

CM Punk puts his 343-day reign as champion on the line against Ryback's undefeated streak as these two men enter into "The Devil's Playground" for the WWE Championship.

The road to Hell in a Cell

CM Punk started his second reign as WWE Champion at Survivor Series 2011, gaining his title back from Alberto Del Rio. Since then, he has beaten Del Rio, The Miz, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, The Big Show, and John Cena to remain champion. In that time, though, he was constantly playing second fiddle to Cena, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, and Triple H. Punk never felt he was getting respect he felt he deserved. So he "turned his back" on the WWE Universe, picked up Paul Heyman as a manager, and has been holding the blinged out title high above his head with pride.

Ryback has been on a path to stardom since debuting. While he began his tenure defeating local legends such as Benny Camer and Stan Stansky, he has quickly moved up the ranks. After taking out The Miz and Tensai, Ryback has now set his sights on the highest of prizes: the WWE Championship. John Cena's recent elbow surgery created a void at the top of the main event. It is a void that only the largest of men could fill.

It is a void that is the perfect size for Ryback.

On the Oct. 15 episode of Monday Night Raw, both Cena and Vince McMahon put their faith in Ryback to finally end Punk's reign. The rookie has proven he deserves the opportunity by twice beating down Punk to close the show. The WWE Champion, who had looked so strong during the past year, has been overshadowed by the monster named Ryback.

What's at stake?

This is a matchup between the unstoppable force and the immovable object, with only one able to leave Atlanta as our WWE Champion. Punk has been champion for almost a year. For that run to continue, however, he will have to go through one of his toughest opponents yet. A win against Ryback will help prove that Punk deserves the respect he demands. A loss here, and he will have to go back to Chicago with his tail between his legs.

Ryback, on the other hand, is in a win-win situation. No one expected him to be in this position so early into his career. Losing to Punk is nothing to feel ashamed about. As long as he goes in there and tries his hardest, he will look strong in the eyes of the fans. If he wins, though? He will become WWE Champion, a goal which every pro wrestler dreams about; nevertheless, one which most fail to achieve.

And he will have accomplished it in just a few short months into his career.

Can CM Punk retain his WWE Championship, or will Ryback prove to be too much to handle? The only way to find out is to watch Hell in a Cell tonight or check back here to Cageside for all the minute-by-minute coverage you desire.

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