At the time of this writing, CM Punk has been WWE champion for 425 days. He’s overcome all WWE’s top stars, including John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, Ryback, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler. After all of that, he's probably going to drop the title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble.
WWE's reasoning is fairly easy to understand, but flawed. Rock returning brings eyes back to the product, and him becoming WWE champion will create even more buzz. Ratings are down and it’s WrestleMania season, so of course the company needs to find a way to improve its product's marketability.
However, putting the title on The Rock at the Rumble is a short-sighted quick fix that, in the long run, will hurt more than it helps.
The Rock can still win the WWE championship, and he can still beat CM Punk to get it; just not at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock’s return has brought and will continue to bring an influx of fans who will briefly return to the product to see his match with Punk and his run through to WrestleMania. By having The Rock beat Punk for the title after such a historic title reign, WWE is telling those fans that the stars of today just can't compare to the stars they remember.
If that’s the case, then what’s the point of those fans sticking around after WrestleMania?
If the WWE wants Rock vs. Cena II to main-event WrestleMania 29 they should have Rocky win the Elimination Chamber or beat Punk in a rematch.
When The Rock goes over Punk, it has to be a clean win, and Punk, the reigning WWE champion of 425 days, shouldn’t lose cleanly to a guy who hasn't wrestled in almost a year. It devalues Punk's reign as well as all the stars he's retained against.
When Should The Rock Win the WWE Championship?
The blow is shielded a little by the fact that The Rock beat Cena at last year’s WrestleMania, so it doesn’t hurt Punk so much to have him lose as well. However, that also means that Punk can, via a crooked, heelish manner, go over Rocky without him looking weak; even if he loses, he still beat Cena, right?
Rock can then go over Punk in the Elimination Chamber and be absolutely red hot.
It does very little for The Rock to have him consistently beat all of WWE’s top stars. One of the reasons Sheamus’ World heavyweight championship reign didn’t get him as over as it should have was because he was booked too strong. The audience never believed he would lose, and he never did.
In the same way, The Rock (with Cena) defeated Miz and R-Truth with ease, and then went on to score a decisive victory over Cena, the company's top star. Fans, both new and old, will eventually tire of The Rock if he’s got no obstacle to overcome.
You could argue that this problem is fixed by having Cena go over The Rock in their rematch, but since Rock has already beaten Cena, the adversity he faces in him isn't as significant.
Having The Rock lose at the Rumble then overcome Punk at Elimination Chamber will make his match at WrestleMania more exciting, because he will have proven he can rise to a challenge. By having him go over Punk and then win the Elimination Chamber, his character will seem untested.
And finally, if The Rock is victorious at the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber and goes on to lose to John Cena, it will add even more space between Cena and the rest of the WWE roster. This is the last thing WWE needs to do and the first thing they need to stop doing.
CM Punk’s WWE championship reign has been remarkable and needs to end in a befittingly remarkable way. Having him lose to The Rock in his first match in 10 months is not that way.