CM Punk will drop the WWE Championship to The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble—well, at least that’s what most fans seem to think.
The widespread expectation these days is that Punk’s historic title reign of more than 400 days will end at the hands of “The People’s Champ” in just six days.
But that’s not going to happen.
Although Punk may not beat The Rock at The Royal Rumble, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to lose, either. In fact, it would be more than fitting for Punk to resort to dirty tactics to leave the pay-per-view with his lengthy title reign in tact.
That being said, when you look at the buildup to The Rock vs. Punk so far, everything that’s happened makes it seem like The Rock will become WWE champion this Sunday.
With The Rock guaranteeing to do so—even swearing to God last week that he would—it makes it quite apparent that he will win the WWE Championship at some point.
Just not this Sunday.
Ever since Punk turned heel on Raw 1000, he’s been, in true WWE fashion, booked to successfully defend his title in highly questionable ways.
SummerSlam: A sneaky pin after John Cena hit an AA on Big Show.
Night of Champions: A draw.
Hell in a Cell: A low blow.
Survivor Series: An attack by The Shield.
First Raw of 2013: Another attack by The Shield.
It’s no coincidence that Punk is weaseling his way to title match victories. It’s a trend.
That trend will continue at The Royal Rumble because it makes more sense for the WWE’s long-term plans than The Rock beating Punk clean for the title does.
If you have Punk lose his title in a singles match and in clean fashion to a man who, in all likelihood, won’t be around three months from now, it’s not going to mean nearly as much as it should.
But if Punk’s title loss takes place inside the Elimination Chamber next month, it’s going to matter much more.
At the heart of Punk’s heel turn and the heel run that’s followed has been his claim that he feels disrespected as WWE champion. Given that he only main-evented three pay-per-views in 2012 when he held the title for the entire year, he certainly has a point.
So just imagine how disrespected Punk would feel if the following scenario played out.
Punk retains his title against The Rock at the Royal Rumble in dirty fashion (DQ, cheating, etc.), and the follow night on Raw, it’s announced that Punk will have to defend his title inside the Elimination Chamber at that PPV against five other superstars, one of which is The Rock.
It’s at Elimination Chamber that Punk loses the WWE title to The Rock without being eliminated by “The People’s Champ” himself.
Instantly, you get something good out of Punk losing the title, and it’s a Punk that suddenly feels even more disrespected than he’s ever felt at any point during his heel run.
In Punk’s eyes, it is absolutely absurd that he is forced to defend the title against five guys at once and even more absurd that The Rock left the match as WWE champion without even pinning him.
That only fuels Punk’s anger, and in the long run, turns him into a bona fide uber-heel.
Punk can go crazy over the fact that he lost his title because the odds were “unfairly” stacked against him and the WWE “wanted” him to lose the title.
With The Rock vs. Cena for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29 seemingly a lock now, this will give Punk a way to stay involved in one of the WWE’s biggest angles and remain the company’s top heel, even though he is no longer its top champion.
After all, almost everyone seems to think that The Rock is going to win at The Royal Rumble, but if that happens, where does the storyline between Rock and Punk go from there?
The Rock will have to beat Punk for the WWE Championship that Punk’s held for 400-plus days after feuding with him for what has essentially only amounted to a few weeks.
That’s not enough time for a feud of this magnitude to reach its climax.
That climax needs to come after even more build between these two, and the only realistic way for that to happen is for Punk to retain the title at Royal Rumble and for the monumental title switch to take place at Elimination Chamber.
Not only would this give The Rock something substantial to do at that pay-per-view, but it would also make the pay-per-view itself a must-see attraction when it typically isn’t one.
It also lays down the framework for Punk to potentially be involved in the expected Rock/Cena feud and the WWE Championship scene come WrestleMania time, which would open a number of intriguing possibilities (Triple Threat, perhaps?).
The bottom line is that Punk dropping the title at Elimination Chamber is just one potential scenario of literally hundreds that could play out over the next couple of months.
When you think of all the ways the WWE could book this Rock/Punk feud and the WWE title going forward, you begin to realize that nothing is a given—not even The Rock ending Punk’s historic title reign at the Royal Rumble.
Punk’s run as champion will obviously end one day, but don’t be shocked if it ends in a way that very few expect it to.