If I told you this time last year that CM Punk would hold the WWE championship for the entirety of 2012, you’d think I was a madman. Similarly, the idea of CM Punk adding another calendar year to his historic reign sounds crazy.
There is a very strong possibility that CM Punk will lose the WWE championship to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, ending his run at an astonishing 434 days.
But what if he doesn’t lose to The Rock?
Punk's WWE championship reign really has become a beast unto itself. When he loses the championship, it will actually be the end of an era.
Many times when a heel wins a world title, they’ll cut a promo and claim that their era has begun. Heels make such boastful remarks for the sole purpose of getting heat. Punk’s title reign, however, really can be considered “The Punk Era.”
He can’t just lose it to anyone at anytime; it has to be someone special and, ideally, it should be at a special event.
The person who dethrones Punk should either be John Cena or a younger performer who WWE are 100 percent determined to make a star. I would prefer the latter, but as WWE’s top babyface, it would also make sense for John Cena to end it.
It’s quite likely that WWE will go with Rocky vs. Cena II at WrestleMania, but if Punk retains at the Rumble, that match may not be for the WWE championship.
If Cena is occupied with The Rock at WrestleMania, who is a worthy opponent for Punk? There are plenty, but not necessarily ones that should take the title off of him.
There have been rumblings of Punk vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, which would likely mean the end of Punk’s reign. However, if Punk retains at the Rumble and WWE decides to feed someone else to the Undertaker, it’s likely that Punk will get through WrestleMania season with his championship reign intact.
So, what then?
Punk’s title run has survived many close calls. There were reports (Wrestle Zone, h/t F4wonline.com) that circulated after Elimination Chamber last year that the creative team was close to having Jericho win the title in the chamber (most likely for Punk to win it back at Mania).
According to F4wonline.com (via Wrestle Zone), Punk was very close to dropping the title to both Daniel Bryan and John Cena during their respective feuds.
It is impossible to tell if the reports were true, but if they were, one can rightly infer that WWE want a meaningful end to Punk’s reign rather than a more impulsive, shortsighted one.
It’s likely that Punk’s reign will end at one of the "Big Four" pay-per-views. Assuming he makes it through WrestleMania, that only leaves SummerSlam and Survivor Series for 2013. If those events come around but no performer is ready to usurp Punk’s position, his reign will roll on.
Of course, it’s absolutely possible that WWE could just have Punk drop the title to Cena at a random point in the year, but they could have done that at any time last year.
Some may say that Punk’s reign would get (or already has gotten) stale, but he’s proven he can change his character midrun before, so that issue can be quelled.
The idea of Punk holding the title for another full year sounds crazy, and it's unlikely that WWE is planning on having his reign going that long. However, it does seem that they want the end of his run to be a momentous occasion, and if you think about it that way, it’s a little easier to see his reign live through 2013.
If WWE decide they don’t want Punk’s already-legendary run to end at the hands of someone who isn’t a full-time superstar, then the end of his era isn't in sight.