It’s pretty appropriate that John Cena and CM Punk will duke it out once again for the WWE Championship—this time in Cena’s home town of Boston at the upcoming Night of Champions. Punk upped the ante on the most recent Monday Night Raw when he ambushed Cena in Punk’s own home town of Chicago during Cena’s main event falls count anywhere match against Alberto Del Rio.
A serious argument can be made that Punk and Cena’s feud is the biggest in WWE today. It’s not the biggest because of its intensity, nor is it the biggest because of the in-ring aesthetics between the two combatants (Cena falls well short to Punk in terms of actual wrestling ability.)
It’s the biggest because a: Cena and Punk are WWE’s two most popular and marketable superstars today and b: each star represents two very different ways of life in WWE. This second aspect is why I wonder if this thing between Cena and Punk will ever really end.
For the past several years, Cena has stood alone atop the WWE mountain in terms of overall popularity. He’s been—and continues to be—a cash cow for Vince McMahon, and it’s easy to see why.
Cena is handsome, rocks an unparalleled physique, can speak eloquently and has a gimmick that appeals to WWE’s youngest fans, invaluable to the company in today’s PG era. But while Cena’s squeaky-clean character has won over tons of fans, it has also alienated a large part of WWE’s older, long-time and very passionate fanbase.
This is arguably the biggest reason why Punk rose to prominence in the summer of 2011. Punk became somewhat of a working-class hero for those fans alienated by the Cenation.
To them, Punk is appealing because they feel like they can relate to this Chicago-bred everyman. Punk certainly looks like your Average Joe, and according to Kevin Nash, he looks like he’s the short-order cook at the local Waffle House. Punk definitely falls short to Cena when it comes to comparing physical attributes, but that didn’t deter Punk from ascending to the top of that mountain, where he now joins Cena on the summit.
Punk paid his dues through the Indy circuit and it’s paid off with the long-standing WWE champion serving as a great contrast to Cena’s character. And that's why this rivalry is here to stay.
In a nutshell, it’s the established, mainstream brand against the blue-collar upstart. It’s the supermarket against the farmer’s market. It’s the major record label against the trendy Indy brand. It’s the Yankees against the Rays.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which sides of the coin Cena and Punk are on. As long as the demographics Cena and Punk represent don’t change (which I don’t envision they ever will), don’t expect this beef to ever truly die.