At TLC 2011, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan came out as the WWE's World Champions.
Given both men are considered among the best of their generation in the ring, it was fitting the WWE honored them as such. Intentional or unintentional is simply a matter of supreme irrelevance.
At the Royal Rumble, both men walked away as champions and, in their own way, cemented the idea that wrestling still matters in the WWE's world of sports entertainment.
The WWE is, at its heart, a wrestling promotion. They are the largest in the world and have branched out into nearly every facet of pop culture imaginable in a bid to stay relevant with the times. However, despite all their talk and actions to the contrary, the WWE still has to put on a show where wrestlers lace up their boots and get busy in the ring.
In the end, professional wrestling is still an art and one that we honor as fans. Tonight was really no different. The Royal Rumble pay-per-view is considered one of the most important in the WWE's schedule. As such, they always try to put on a good show.
Something to consider, however, is who the champions still are.
Punk and Bryan have multiple "5-star matches" between them as defined by noted critic Dave Meltzer and, for the most part, the unabashed admiration of the Internet Wrestling Community. Both have traveled the world in their craft and both have made it through the ranks to be recognized, literally, as the best in the world.
It seems the "indy schmucks" are still making good.
CM Punk has already been on top of the game for a while now. At Survivor Series, he defeated Alberto Del Rio in, personally speaking, one of the best matches of 2011. At TLC, he put on a supreme demonstration of creative storytelling in his match with The Miz and Del Rio in an very good Triple Threat TLC match.
Bryan's story was more a coming-of-age tale than anything else. Debuting on the WWE's main roster as part of The Nexus stable, he was fired and subsequently re-hired a short time later. Becoming the United States Champion in short order and barreling into the upper card through sheer talent and force of will.
After becoming the SmackDown "Money In The Bank" winner, he waited until the right time to cash in his briefcase. He did so, finally, at TLC. In the buildup to the Royal Rumble, Bryan pulled off a brilliant heel turn and became a central focus for the Blue Brand.
Punk and Bryan both put on a spectacle of their craft in the ring and walked away retaining their belts. Punk's match with Ziggler was another nicely done bit of storytelling, and Bryan carried both Big Show and Henry to a very enjoyable match. There is something to be said for that.
On the opening leg towards the Showcase of the Immortals, the WWE proved the wrestling is still in its heart. Two schmucks from the "reviled" indy scene still hold the most coveted prizes in all of wrestling. There is something to be said for that.
WWE, thank you for not forgetting about who you are and what you do.
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