By Jeffrey Lutz
When The Rock announced last summer that he would be challenging for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, it appeared to set in motion the next nine-or-so months of storylines. C.M. Punk would hold the championship until the Rumble event in January, with his title reign pushing 440 days, only to lose it to The Rock. That would set up the rematch between John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania, pushing Punk out of the top billing at the year's most prestigious event.
As much of a draw a second match between Cena and The Rock would be, taking Punk out of the main event at WrestleMania would be a mistake. The past year may have indicated, with stagnant (at best) television ratings and pay-per-view buyrates that fluctuate depending on who else is receiving a major push, that Punk overstayed his welcome as the champion. But WWE dedicated a year and a half to Punk's run as champion, and ending it at the second biggest event of the year, rather than the biggest, would be a short-sighted mistake for the following reasons:
1. It negates the last year-plus of storylines.
For better or worse, WWE programming since WrestleMania 28 last year, and even before, has been geared toward making Punk as big of a star as possible. Even if he hasn't brought in many new fans by being one of the few WWE superstars who isn't necessarily kid-friendly, Punk has held the company and its flagship show, Raw, together while business has crumbled around him. There is no point for Punk to spend each week talking about how many days he has been WWE champion if he is going to lose the title before it would matter the most. I would have no problem with Punk losing the championship even the day after WrestleMania, but this year has been built around his stint as champion, and that storyline should culminate at the event seen as WWE's season finale.
2. A Punk loss would be overshadowed by the Royal Rumble match.
I can rattle off just about every Royal Rumble winner since the event started in the late 1980s, but I can only name a handful of matches that took place on the undercard of those events. Punk-Rock would certainly be one of the most monumental matches in the history of the event, if not the most monumental, but it still wouldn't be quite as important as the 30-man battle royal itself. Even if Rock won the title at the Rumble, the novelty of his appearances has worn off over the last two years and the major talking point following the event would be about who won the Rumble.
3. C.M. Punk's character would lose steam.
The goal of the WrestleMania build should be to make sure every participant in every match goes into the event as strongly as possible. That makes for an occasionally unbalanced two months of television with more promos than matches in an effort to make sure no character appears weak before his biggest match of the year. If Punk loses to Rock at the Rumble, he wouldn't be entering WrestleMania from a point of strength. His identity has become his ability to hold onto the WWE Championship longer than anyone in the last 25 years, and taking that away from him would do damage to his character that would be difficult to repair.
4. The Cena-Rock feud can't explore new territory.
This is the biggest drawback to a second Rock-Cena match. I don't care that Rock, after presumably winning the title in January, wouldn't be able to defend it at house shows. Seasoned fans know that the WWE Championship doesn't change hands at house shows, and younger fans just want to see their favorite heroes. The trash talk aspect of the feud has run its course, and it would be difficult for either Cena or The Rock to come up with insults to top last year's. Even if one turned heel, that wouldn't change the dynamic between the two wrestlers that made the issue between them last year highly personal.
5. Cena has more WrestleMania options without the title.
Taking the title off of Punk would diminish the prestige of his WrestleMania match, regardless of his opponent. Yes, he could be launched into a feud with Undertaker, but it would be difficult to buy the possibility of Punk ending The Streak if he couldn't even win his previous match. Cena, meanwhile, has cache whether he is champion or not. A match with Cena is a draw just because he is in it. The same is true for Punk, but not to the same degree. Cena could enter a program with Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, or even continue his feud with Dolph Ziggler, and he'd still own a prime spot on the WrestleMania card.
Getting to a second Rock-Punk match following their Rumble encounter won't be easy. The most logical plan would be a non-finish, perhaps involving The Shield, that would create need and anticipation for a rematch. A triple-threat involving Cena would also make sense, at least more than the disorganized WrestleMania three-way matches of the past, but a one-on-one showdown between the biggest stars of the year should always headline the biggest event of the year.
Punk is one of those stars. WWE derailed Ryback's push to keep Punk strong, and there's no reason he shouldn't be kept just as strong for two additional months. If last year's totals are any indication, Rock winning the title and Punk losing it at WrestleMania, as opposed to the Rumble, would be seen by about 700,000 more people. It's the most important date on WWE's calendar, without a close second, and it should be treated as such by involving in the main event the only person who has been WWE Champion in the last 12 months.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lutz's Blog: C.M. Punk vs. The Rock must be the WrestleMania 29 main event
Jan 7, 2013 - 03:52 PM
Jan 7, 2013 - 03:52 PM
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