RAW general manager AJ Lee flexed her executive muscle on Monday night as she named John Cena the No. 1 contender for CM Punk's WWE Championship at Night of Champions. Cena and Punk faced off twice in pay-per-view matches last summer, but things simply feel different this time.
The majority of fans seem to be excited for the match and the feud as a whole, but there are always going to be contrarians with differing opinions. Some might even call this Punk vs. Cena feud lazy booking since it is a reprisal of something that worked a year ago, but I believe that this feud is much deeper.
Punk and Cena had two excellent matches at Money in the Bank and SummerSlam respectively last year, but the story was lacking. The entire lead up to Money in the Bank was obviously great with Punk threatening to leave the company with the belt, but he seemed to return too soon and things weren't as good or intense ahead of SummerSlam.
Then, after Punk controversially defeated Cena, Alberto Del Rio cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and the Punk vs. Cena feud abruptly came to an end. It almost seemed as if the creative team realized that it botched the angle and didn't know where to go from there, so it took the easy way out by giving Del Rio the title.
With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to resurrect the angle. Punk's summer swoon was the talk of wrestling last year and there is no shame in going back to the well if it has proven to be lucrative. The Punk we saw after the Money in the Bank storyline had come and gone and was a neutered version of the one that delivered the pipe-bomb promo, but Punk now appears to have gotten his groove back after Monday's events.
A heel Punk who has taken precedent over Cena is about as fresh as it gets, so I have no concerns with regards to their match at Night of Champions falling flat. Cena has been the end all, be all in the WWE for the better part of the past decade, but Punk has been the unquestioned focal point since RAW 1,000 and that is why things are different this time around.
Punk was the guy heading into Money in the Bank, but Cena won the vacant WWE Championship right away and was immediately on equal footing with Punk. Flash forward to 2012 and Punk is the dominant force, especially since he beat Cena twice last year, forced him to cash in his Money in the Bank contract unsuccessfully and defeated both Cena and Big Show in a triple threat at SummerSlam.
By the time Night of Champions rolls around, Punk will have been WWE Champion for more than 300 days, which is an unprecedented feat in wrestling today considering how often titles tend to change hands. It really isn't possible for Punk to look stronger and you might even say that Cena is the underdog, which is something that has been said a thimble-full of times over the course of his career.
I'm not saying that every feud that has ever been successful should be rehashed because it isn't always going to work a second time. But if there is a way to do it while changing things up a bit at the same time, then there's no reason not to, and that is the case with Punk and Cena right now.
Punk and Cena are clearly the top two superstars in the company right now in terms of popularity and it only makes sense to pit them against each other on a night where championships are supposed to mean more than usual. Punk has constantly talked about the importance of the WWE Championship, and this feud proves that the company cares about the title as well.
In a lot of ways, this feud has almost come full circle compared to where it was last year. Punk was looking to establish himself as a top star and he has done that, but despite closing in on the one-year mark as WWE Champion, he hasn't gotten the respect that he believes he deserves.
Beating the most respected wrestler in the company in his hometown would probably earn Punk the respect that he seeks, and that is the entire purpose of this feud.
Obviously, it has been done before, but Punk vs. Cena is a feud that is so big that it doesn't even matter. There is a great divide between Punk fans and Cena fans, and that should make for an interesting and incredible atmosphere in Boston. Some may find a reason to complain about it, but now seems like the perfect time for a reboot of Punk vs. Cena.