As Night of Champions approached, more and more wrestling fans seemed to think that John Cena would walk out of Boston as the WWE champion.
While that kinda-sort-almost happened, it was CM Punk who actually wound up retaining his title and extending what has become one of the longest WWE Championship reigns in history.
I always thought that Punk would win tonight and head into October holding the title that he’s held since November 2011. I just expected him to use the help of Paul Heyman to do so.
Instead, it was a highly controversial finish in which both Punk and Cena’s shoulders were on the mat that resulted in Punk leaving Boston the way he entered the city—with the WWE title around his waist.
The not-so-clean finish shouldn’t really have come as a surprise to anyone, though, because it only confirms what most of us already knew anyway: That the feud between Punk and Cena will continue.
Regardless of the outcome of Punk versus Cena at Night of Champions, this feud was always going to last well beyond tonight’s pay-per-view. If Cena won, Punk would get his guaranteed rematch at next month’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. If Punk won, it probably wouldn’t be clean, and he’d have to defend the title against Cena again, likely at Hell in a Cell.
It now appears as if we’re getting the latter scenario.
With Punk now a full-fledged heel, it’s not exactly shocking that this is the way things are playing out. Heels rarely win cleanly in the WWE these days, and Punk is proof of that.
He’s held the WWE Championship for roughly 10 months now, and up until Night of Champions, he only had one title defense that ended in rather shady fashion—when he beat Daniel Bryan at Over the Limit in May.
But the first time (of his current title reign) that Punk’s a full-blown heel defending his WWE Championship on pay-per-view, he suddenly has to luck out to pick up the victory over Cena. No surprise there.
I don’t think anyone really expected Punk to pin Cena clean for the 1-2-3 tonight, and although I wasn’t crazy about the finish of the match, it didn’t make Punk look as weak as it could have.
Punk is still, in fact, the WWE champion, and what we already knew (that this feud would continue) was merely confirmed at Night of Champions, with only the variables changing.
When will the Punk/Cena feud conclude?
The WWE Championship is still around Punk’s waist, and now, the story only gets better from here on out because many fans will feel as if Cena “deserves” to be champion. In turn, that will add some more heat to this feud and help Punk evolve into an even bigger heel than he’s already become in such a short span.
That’s what the WWE’s goal here should be anyway: To turn Punk into the company’s bona fide top heel while simultaneously creating an intriguing storyline with Cena chasing him for the belt.
Had Cena won the title tonight in true “Super Cena” fashion, Punk’s momentum would have been destroyed, and there wouldn’t have been much to do to salvage this story.
Instead, Punk continues to be more heel-like week by week, and his rivalry with Cena gets extended even longer than many of us thought it would last.
At the very least, Cena is going to challenge Punk once again at Hell in a Cell, and odds are that the match won’t be the last PPV encounter between the two. Cena/Punk may very well dominate the WWE until Survivor Series and perhaps for the rest of 2012.
And as long as it doesn’t become as boring as Sheamus versus Alberto Del Rio, I’m down with that.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!