Love Is A Battlefield

By Jean-theGuardian & Maizeandbluekid

Summary: In the midst of his battles with Paul Heyman, a reluctant CM Punk finds himself trying to stay out of the war between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton and the McMahons. So, how does an old flame with troubles of her own end up drawing him into this mess? Punk/AJ, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, Stephanie, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler and more!

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by WWE, and are not the property of the writers of this story.

Love Is A Battlefield

WWE RAW – Sept. 16, 2013
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
One night after Night of Champions 2013
Backstage – Triple H's office

Watching intently at the large screen plasma TV that hung on his wall, Triple H stared at the carnage left that was solely the orchestration of his charming wife, Stephanie McMahon.

Around her, the hungry pack of dogs—their dogs—known as The Shield.

To her left near the entrance of the ring, a tearful and distraught Big Show.

And at his feet…the cold-cocked, unconscious body of "The American Dream", Dusty Rhodes.

The scene should have made him pleased. He should have taken comfort in yet another shining example of why the McMahon family and he were the all-powerful force in the industry, why their word was law, and why all superstars and divas in the back should take heed and fear them.

Except he could do no such thing…for this unsettling churning in the pit of his stomach, this impending sense of foreboding seemed to have continued to broil and nag at him.

If you'd have told the 13-time world champion months ago that out of all the superstars on the roster that could have possibly caused this feeling, that it would be none other than Daniel Bryan…hairy, unkempt, non-flashy, nothing-happening tiny little Daniel Bryan…he would have outright laughed in your face. The idea was absurd. It was ridiculous. Daniel Bryan was nothing, he was a mere bug on a windshield. Sure, he was a good little technician, and the fans loved him and that stupid "YES!" chant of his, but seriously, it wasn't like this was Stone Cold Steve Austin or the Rock that he was dealing with here.

And for those reasons, although Hunter knew a lot of people wouldn't understand, Daniel Bryan simply couldn't be WWE Champion. He was completely unmarketable to the mainstream audience; how were they supposed to pursue corporate accounts and advertising dollars if the company's top champion, its face, was this little shrimp of a guy with a unshaven face and a body that, compared to the men who held that title in the past, resembled a wet toothpick?

No, that would be bad for business.

He might not have liked Randy Orton very much, especially after all the bad blood and dark history between them, but when it came down to it, Orton was marketable. He had the chiseled physique, the movie star good looks, the genetic talent and the track record of being a champion and a sure-fire draw. As much as part of Hunter didn't like it from a personal standpoint, the other side, the businessman that he had become? That part that took emotions out of the equation, and that part believed that the Viper as WWE Champion, as the face of the company, was truly what was best for business.

Over the last four weeks, he and the McMahons had thrown everything and including the kitchen sink at Bryan, bashing him, having him beaten down, outnumbered, jumped on, and sometimes even worse over and over and over again. By now, he should have gotten the message: stop coming after the WWE Championship. Abandon this mad quest, for you will never reach your goal so long as the company is owned by the McMahon family.

Yet, time after time, no matter how many times they kept trying to put him down, Daniel kept getting back up. He kept coming. It was as if his spirit was unbreakable. His will undaunted. His pursuit unrelenting. His dream undeterred. And he kept on winning. It was as if the wrestling gods were smiling down upon that little hairy troll. Every situation they kept putting him in, Bryan continued to persevere when he should have fallen flat on his face.

It would have been admirable to Hunter if he didn't find it so damn irritating.

Now, here he was, the great and feared Triple H, the COO of the WWE, one of the most decorated stars in the history of sports entertainment, in a dire situation. Here he was, forced to doctor up fake collusion charges with a referee against Bryan in order to hold the WWE Championship vacant after Orton failed to get the job done against Daniel the night before at Night of Champions. Forced to put a stain on the most prestigious title in the business, a championship held by the all-time greats, himself included, all to keep it out of one annoyingly persistent little man's grubby hands.

And the worst part…some of the boys and ladies in the back were starting to get behind him now. They supported him. They cheered for him. They spurred him on almost as fervently as the fans were. And despite all of his family's best efforts to get the situation under control, targeting anyone who spoke out, beating down anyone who dared support Daniel's little quest, or in Big Show's case, blackmailing the more powerful and influential stars to keep towing the line, much to the Cerebral Assassin's chagrin, Daniel's support continued to grow. In fact, it seemed to be getting stronger by the day, as even more guys were starting to join Daniel's cause. And the fans' stupid chants of "YES! YES! YES!" continued to grow even louder and louder with each passing night.

Despite Stephanie's assurances that they had things under control with Orton and The Shield at their beck and call and all of their power and resources at their command, Hunter knew better. As long as Daniel's troops had something to believe in, this unsettling movement in the back would become a full-scale rebellion. And in his long experience as the top dog on the food chain in this company, he knew that those kinds of things often got too far out of control for him to handle.

Which is why he needed to snuff out this problem as soon as possible. Find a way to break their spirits. But how? Taking out Bryan would be a bad move; he knew the locker room would surely jump up to defend their little champion in a moment's notice as soon as they sensed he was in real danger. And Big Show was far too reluctant and sympathetic to be used as a weapon to quell the restless locker room movement. He couldn't be trusted.

What he needed was someone ideal. Someone who was just as popular, maybe even more so, than Bryan, but as respected as the Big Show. Someone who the fans would listen to. Someone whose allegiance with his family could be seen as not only a ringing endorsement of their methods, but a way to break the spirit of the boys and girls in the back.

But, as Hunter scrolled the WWE roster on his smartphone, reviewing the potential candidates, he realized that he was left with very few options.

Clearly, that someone wasn't Randy Orton, as the boos from the crowd and the stares of disdain from the rest of the locker room could attest. Sheamus was still out on injured reserve, and even if John Cena wasn't quite healthy himself, he had too much of a bleeding heart to help out the McMahons. Besides the fact, after seven years of Cena as the face of the company, frankly, Hunter wouldn't have minded a change at this point. For the right money, maybe The Rock could have been that guy, but aside from having a personal distaste for Dwayne based on their long and storied rivalry, the People's Champion had decided to focus more on his movie career after WrestleMania. And neither he nor Stephanie were willing to pay the king's ransom that Brock Lesnar would have fetched, even if they didn't hate his guts and that of his slimy handler Paul Heyman.

They wouldn't be the right mold, anyway. He needed a working-class guy, yet someone with that mega-star appeal and the resume that commanded respect, someone who…


That one simple word suddenly made the gears in The Game's cunning mind spin wildly as he scrolled furiously through the list until his eyes landed on one image. One man.

Hunter immediately began laying out the pros and cons. Sure, he and this guy had some bad history between them, as well. Stephanie, in particular, didn't appreciate several public jokes and jabs taken by this man at her expense in the past. And he knew that Vince himself had never quite seen eye-to-eye with that guy. He was cocky, he was brash; he was controversial, unpredictable and he was ridiculously self-assured…but then again, Hunter admitted that he kind of liked that. It reminded him a little of himself back in his younger days.

He was also a proven draw now. His merchandise sales rivaled that of Cena's. On the road, he was a huge attraction, one of their top three draws, in fact. The fans were clamoring for him and chanting his name with just as much fervor as they shouted that one-syllable catchphrase for Bryan. He was a respected ring warrior who proved he could win big and hang with some of the greatest of all time, who never shied away from the big moments. And more importantly, he knew how to beat Daniel Bryan. He made a career out of beating him, especially in WWE title situations.

He was the perfect choice, and Hunter knew he had to get this guy.

He might have needed a little polishing, but with the right touch and the right amount of money-Hunter had learned that this guy was, at the end of the day, a businessman, like himself-this could be the guy he needed to squash Daniel and this little uprising he had started once and for all. Partnered with Orton and the Shield and the backing of the McMahon empire, this guy would be the nail in the coffin to this rebellion and get things back to the way they were in this company…getting back to business as usual.

Hunter smirked at the image on his phone as a sense of clarity dawned on him. To get things back to normal, to take Daniel Bryan out of the WWE title picture, he knew exactly who he wanted. No…who he needed. He needed a maverick. He needed a star. He needed a winner.

He needed the best…the Best in the World, in fact.

He needed CM Punk.

And one way or another, Triple H vowed that he would get his man. By any means necessary.