The reign of CM Punk as WWE Champion is now at 383 days, making for the longest reign with the title since Hulk Hogan's reign of over 1,000 days ended in 1988. Among the 42 other men who have ever held the title, the length of this current reign alone is longer than the time that all but 11 men have ever had as WWE Champion.
Among those who have not had it longer is The Rock, whose seven reigns as champion rank third-most behind Triple H's eight reigns and 10 reigns for John Cena. In his seven combined reigns as WWE Champion, The Rock has held the title a few days shy of 300 days. Yet it is his presence alone that is keeping Punk's current reign as champion alive.
Punk is currently in that realm of long-standing champions, which also seems to bring the curse of unusual and quirky ways of losing a championship.
Bob Backlund reigned for over 2,100 days but lost when his manager threw in the towel during a match with The Iron Sheik. Backlund never submitted and needed more than a decade before he would be champion again.
Hulk Hogan saw a screwjob involving identical referees as his 1,474-day reign ended in 1988 to Andre the Giant. It would be 14 months before another reign for Hogan began.
The ironic thing about this past week for CM Punk has been that he passed John Cena's 380-day reign to become the longest reigning champion in the past 25 years and had surgery later in the week. It was an injury that stopped Cena's reign where it was as well. Following a tear in his right pectoral tendon, Cena was forced to vacate the title while he rehabbed the injury. Over three years later, Cena would earn the title back.
Punk's injury is nowhere on the level that Cena's was, which forced him to be stripped of his title. Punk's is not as serious and seems to be a planned knee scope for Punk. Aside from the severity of an injury, the main reason Punk still has the title today is because of the length of his reign and the fact that a match at Royal Rumble against The Rock is looming.
In 51 days, The Rock will face whoever is WWE Champion at the time, and it seemed like it would be CM Punk for a while.
Handing the title to Cena would create a possibility of getting a rematch from WrestleMania, which was billed as being "once in a lifetime."
Having Ryback as the champion may be too early for creative plans, and it would also bring up a Ryback vs. Rock situation that wouldn't bring in a whole bunch of buys.
When The Rock is on pay-per-view and announces his title shot months in advance, it needs to be a successful financial venture. Only Punk and his long reign guarantee that.
If CM Punk had only been champion for a few months, the title could have changed hands before TLC to have him rest, only to return with a chance at being champion and stealing it back from whoever took his place. No matter how you slice it, from how RAW 1,000 ended, it's supposed to be The Rock taking on CM Punk for the WWE Championship.
Since announcing the injury, The Rock has been quiet on the wrestling front, saving his tweets for inspirational quotes and movie promotion. If Punk is supposed to let his long reign end, only The Rock can be the one to make that happen at a major pay-per-view. Despite the likelihood of Punk now going an entire calendar year as champion, the first since Hulk Hogan was champion for all of 1987, 2013 probably will see the end of Punk's reign, but it will come with a lot of respect for Punk and how long he held the title.
In past generations, holding a title for a long time didn't mean constant matches all over the place. It meant regional matches that weren't always for the title. Punk travels across the country every week and is on TV at least once a week, as well as wrestling at house shows and international tours, where he is forced to defend his title when the cameras aren't rolling. To say that Punk has had 100 title defenses between televised and non-televised matches may be selling it short.
If The Rock wins the WWE Championship in January, he will still be a movie star. It may not be a weekly appearance for The Great One, which is all the more reason that The Rock may not hold the title for very long.
In the unique situation of today, Punk keeps his title and takes a much-deserved break to rest himself. There is much more to talk about with Punk and Rock in the future, but know for right now that if The Rock was not at Royal Rumble to face him for the title, CM Punk would likely be vacating his WWE Championship due to injury.
To those opposed to him getting the title shot in the first place, you can all thank The People's Champion now.