August 19th. Mark it down. Why?
August 19th is the night that CM Punk is going to lose the WWE Championship.
OK, I don’t know that for sure. Who am I? WWE creative over here?
But, according to Wrestlezone.com, there's talk of booking CM Punk vs. John Cena in the SummerSlam main event on August 19th. And, assuming that Punk is still the champ when the pay-per-view comes around, the question is, what are the chances that Cena could walk away without the championship?
Try slim to none.
Alright, I still don’t know that for sure, but let’s call it writer’s intuition.
Like that? Just made it up.
We all remember the night that Punk dropped his first of many infamous pipe bombs on Monday Night Raw. The truth is, it’s a night that many fans are not likely going to forget anytime soon.
Punk, sitting cross-legged on the stage, airing his grievances over the state of WWE, while John Cena lay prone in the ring. That night was the beginning of the summer of Punk, in which he quickly became the talk of the wrestling world and gained popularity with fans of all ages.
In other words, he caught fire and blew up.
Suddenly, there was hope again among fans, who had long since criticized the WWE product for being too stale, and much too predictable, thanks to John Cena’s reign at the top.
Now, CM Punk, the antihero, the lone voice of change in the largest pro wrestling company in the world, had the spotlight. Now, he was the focus.
Cena may be the top dog in WWE, but when Punk was at his peak, that distinction became very blurry very quickly.
Since then, Punk has established himself as the hardest-working Superstar in WWE and is currently enjoying a six-month title reign on Monday Night Raw. He's arguably the most popular worker in WWE.
But, he’s not No. 1.
Therein lies the issue, as many of the same fans who once praised Punk for breaking out of the box and being the voice of the voiceless, are now openly condemning him for the same crime that he once accused Cena of—selling out.
Though the majority of us understand that pro wrestlers, for the most part, do what they’re asked to as characters, there's a growing opposition out there to Punk who believe that the man himself has accepted mediocrity in his matches—and in his storylines.
To that, I say Punk is wrestling lights out, every time he’s in the ring. Despite who he’s working, or when, he continues to turn in one great performance after another. He's proof positive what a worker can do when he takes his natural talent and ability, and couples it with a desire to improve his game on every level.
If there is any blame to go around, it lies with WWE creative, not the WWE Champion.
Punk may be the man with the trophy—and a long reigning WWE Champion at that—but to watch Raw, this is not immediately evident.
His total mic time is not what it used to be, not since his feud with Chris Jericho. Many times, he's seen only briefly backstage in one, perhaps two, segments, and when he is, there are usually very few words spoken.
And, his matches have not been regularly featured in the main event slot of Raw, or on pay-per-view, for that matter.
As WWE Champion, his bouts should be a priority, a focus, of as many events on TV as possible. The champ is the standard bearer—the man chosen to represent the company, on the absolute biggest stage in the business. All of that confidence, placed in one Superstar, only to not put him in the main event?
So, it seems that we are right back to square one, with the undeniable fact that John Cena is still thought of as WWE’s top money maker. Punk may be the man with the gold, but that makes little difference, as John is still Vince McMahon’s go-to guy.
John is the Alpha male in WWE—the one that everyone else revolves around. As long as that's the case, CM Punk, along with all the other Superstars, are second place and lower.
But, considering the fact that Cena remains WWE’s No. 1 Superstar—a place he holds without a championship to back it up, the obvious question is why give it back to him now?
This is the part of the business that bothers me the most, the relentless pursuit of viewers and maintaining a foothold with the audience watching at home.
I know it’s important. After all, WWE has to keep the sponsors, the network and the stockholders happy, and the way to do that is through building their audience and getting the highest ratings they can, on a consistent basis.
Without the Benjamins, there's no business. I get that.
However, the truth is, it’s not just Vince McMahon who's crunching the numbers every Monday or Tuesday morning. It’s also the fans.
I honestly cannot believe how obsessed some of us are with the ratings. No matter how good an edition of Raw, or SmackDown was, some fans automatically race to the dirt sheets the next day to see how the ratings were.
Is CM Punk getting over with the WWE crowd? Yes. He's killing it at live events, he always has the firm support of the fans, and more often than not, gets the pop of the night.
Is he a highly rated WWE Champion? No. And that’s all that some fans need to make the case that he should not be wearing the gold.
What’s the problem? Were they not entertained? Is Punk truly such a radical departure from John Cena and the typical WWE environment that some fans just cannot accept his position and recognize his effort as champion?
Or, are we to believe that those fans who love Punk on a Sunday night working a WWE pay-per-view, suddenly change their minds upon seeing the event’s buyrate and immediately begin blaming him for it?
I defy any professional wrestling fan who, perhaps, has recently watched Punk for the first time, to declare him as anything other than the hardest working man in the building. His work in the ring is the biggest reason why he’s still WWE Champion, and for me, it’s a spot that he deserves to have.
But, those critics out there who cannot let go of the ratings or who do not care all that much for Punk, may just be getting their wish come August 19th.
That may be the day that they take to the streets in excited celebration because John Cena regained the WWE Championship.
Then, they will tear him apart the next day if SummerSlam does not succeed.
John has proved, as many other Superstars before him, that he does not need the WWE Championship in order to get over with fans. Just showing up is all Cena needs to do. It’s a guaranteed loud, boisterous pop every time.
But, the fact is, John is 0-2 against Punk, and we all know that Cena ultimately always wins, so, if these two do indeed face each other at SummerSlam, we are very likely going to see a title change take place.
August 19th. Watching the calendar over here.