It’s as if thousands of voices cried out in excitement, and were suddenly silenced…. CM Punk’s 434 day reign as WWE Champion, the longest since the height of Hulkamania, is over. And I am here to tell you that is not a bad thing.
Anybody familiar with my reputation knows that I am not the biggest WWE fan. I will be completely honest that I haven’t been thrilled with the WWE product for years. I was a devout Nitro guy during most of the Monday Night Wars, and have regularly enjoyed Impact Wrestling more than Raw in recent years.
And yet even I am of the opinion that CM Punk is arguably the best talent in any wrestling promotion right now. I strongly criticized his handling two years ago when he had a double digit streak in PPV losses. I watched with everybody else in euphoric glee when Punk dropped his infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo that set the internet on fire, agreeing with the thought that it was his “Austin 3:16” moment. I watched as he won the WWE Title from John Cena, clean as a whistle, in a surreal moment of “Home Team in the World Series” crowd environment. I watched as he was powerbombed by Kevin Nash at one of WWE’s premiere PPVs so he could unceremoniously lose the title to Alberto Del Rio, and I agreed with those that thought this severely hurt his credibility. I watched as he regained the title, and agreed with the criticism that the WWE Champion was playing second fiddle to The John Cena Show. And of course I watched as he turned on The Rock, laying The People’s Champion out with his GTS Finisher. And I tallied right along as the days as WWE Champion piled on, and approached record proportions.
And then of course, that brings us to the Royal Rumble. It also brings us to the thoughts that CM Punk, the internet darling who proved the world (including me) wrong when it came to the success he could achieve, was just going to lose to the returning Rock. And how this is just leading to Rock/Cena II: Electric Boogaloo at WrestleMania 29.
But wait! Great Scott, The Shield interfered with the lights out! They found a loophole that “Nobody saw them interfere” so technically they didn’t interfere. Punk rolled Rock into the ring and covered him for the 1-2-3. CM Punk retained his title over The Almighty Rock, swerving The Internet, and further cementing his reign as one of the longest ever. ZOMG HE WILL GO TO MANIA AS THE CHAMP AFTER ALL!!!
Then of course Vince McMahon himself restarted the match, and Rock rallied back to win his first WWE Title in a decade. WWE practically trolled the entire internet. And you don’t have to travel far on the internet to find people that are upset at this move, and how it makes for an unappealing WrestleMania main event. How a hard working model employee is being cast aside so an aging part timer can have the spotlight. How the best thing on wrestling television has been hurt by this move.
And to that, I ask the honest question “How?”
Punk vs. Rock was one of the best built PPV Main Events by any company in a long time. The way Punk carried himself, and the way he and Rock interacted was truly must see TV for any wrestling fan. This was the type of stuff that a youngling will watch, and become a fan based on it. Heck, it made this old stick in the mud want to see the match, and I haven’t regularly bought WWE PPVs by myself since Bret Hart was champion.
So why am I sitting here, blogging on the internet for the first time in months, defending this move by a company I so heavily criticize? Simple. WWE has convinced me that they are keeping Punk as a feature attraction, and for that I can go along with the ride for a predictable Rock/Cena sequel.
I think anybody with 1/4 of a brain knew that WrestleMania 28 was not “Once In A Lifetime” despite WWE promoting it that way. WWE knew that match was going to draw huge money, and likely had several ideas for a series of matches over a few years. It’s simple common sense. It’s like the movie studio that knew they have a blockbuster movie franchise in their hands, and looked to pace out the films.
I also think anybody with 1/4 of a brain can understand that The Rock is a legit A-List celebrity who raises attention to anything he’s doing. The fact that he is essentially taking a pay cut for a few months to return to the wrestling world is a tribute to his passion for the sport. And, if the rumors are true, Rock handpicked Punk to be his opponent. Which is a tribute to Punk’s stature with his peers.
To most fans (you know the kind that don’t scour the internet relentlessly looking for gossip), it took somebody the caliber of The Rock to topple Punk. Rock also has a major film release coming out in a few months in GI Joe: Retaliation. This likely will mean a media blitz, and multiple appearances to promote the film. Which of course means it’s a chance for WWE to put their champion in front of the mainstream world with a title belt. Rock can walk out on The Tonight Show, or Good Morning America, etc… carrying the title belt. This is essentially free publicity for the company, and for WrestleMania.
Rock likely will defend the title at Elimination Chamber, quite possibly against Punk in a rematch that Rock will probably win. And if the rumored Punk/Undertaker match happens, Punk will lose again to a part timer.
Even with three high profile PPV losses in a row, I believe CM Punk will be just fine. The difference is the stature of his opponents. Like Rock, ‘Taker reportedly handpicks his opponents because he’s earned that status. If you were to ask everybody on the entire WWE roster what their biggest dream match would be to have, I am positive that the vast majority would say facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It’s a guaranteed high profile slot on the biggest stage of the year. It’s like playing the Super Bowl Halftime, or hosting the Oscars.
This isn’t like The Miz’s title reign where you would see him wrestle every week and lose. I honestly can’t remember the last time CM Punk lost a match. And given the stature of guys the level of Rock and ‘Taker, it’s a blessing for ANYBODY just to stand in the ring with them. And CM Punk will have worked programs with both.
And because of that, I say CM Punk will be just fine.