CM Punk and The Rock’s confrontation on the Jan. 7 edition of Raw started WWE’s promotion of the Royal Rumble very strongly. The end of the go-home episode of Raw has the WWE limping into Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
The Royal Rumble match itself has historically sold the PPV. As such, midcard Superstars like Hardcore Holly, Dolph Ziggler and Umaga have been included in World Championship matches.
This year’s show is a little different, though—the WWE is going all-out as they bring in The Rock to challenge CM Punk for the WWE Championship.
Punk and Rock’s confrontations over the past three weeks have been phenomenal. Their verbal battle on the Jan. 7 Raw was among the best promos in recent memory. Their clashing attitudes shined through, proving they are perfect foils for one another.
The animosity between the two men manifested itself physically the next week. Punk attacked Rock, resulting in a brawl that had to be broken up by a band of referees.
Punk and Rock maintained distance from one another on the Jan. 21 Raw. However, Punk watched from a skybox as Rock was demolished by The Shield and had a few words for his challenger afterwards.
One would think that those words would be greeted by the closing signature at the bottom left side of the screen. Not quite. Punk delivered those words right at the top of the final hour.
Instead, the WWE opted to close the show with a John Cena promo hyping the Royal Rumble match. Considering the importance of the match, this was a great idea on paper.
The execution, however, left a lot to be desired. Cena paraded down to the ring and promptly began discussing Call of Duty with a young boy in the front row. That wasn’t it—he also poked fun at a few other fans in the audience and somehow incorporated a blow-up doll joke.
For what felt like an entirety, Cena babbled on about everything but the Royal Rumble match. Finally, in true Cena fashion, he got fired up and promised a victory in the 30-man match.
Then what? The locker room emptied in a relatively orderly fashion and each man promised he’d win. As if that wasn’t enough, the show went off the air right as a massive brawl erupted. The only remotely unpredictable aspect of the segment was that the battle was, more or less, started by 3MB.
In less than 15 minutes, the WWE successfully extinguished just about all the excitement Rock and Punk had generated an hour earlier.
This is the time of year when the WWE is supposed to be gearing up for the Road to WrestleMania. This season is usually the three most entertaining months of the year. They dropped the ball this time, though.
Now, they could have chosen to end the show with Punk’s words for Rock. That would have left a better taste in the mouths of fans.
It wouldn’t fix much, though. The build towards Sunday’s PPV started off strong but has tapered off far too much over the last two weeks. The Royal Rumble match has received such bland and generic promotion that it’s borderline insulting.
With only an edition of Smackdown between now and the Royal Rumble, the WWE has no choice but to rely on the name value of the event and CM Punk vs. The Rock to sell the show.
Based on how they decided to send Cena out with his childish promo at the end of the show, it's hard to believe the WWE even had planned otherwise.
They’ve backed themselves into a corner where they have no choice but to limp to the finish line.
I’m confident the show will still be great. I’m just not as excited as I was two weeks ago, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.