Despite the fact that the 2013 Royal Rumble was one of the best non-WrestleMania pay-per-views in recent memory, many fans are irate in the wake of The Rock beating CM Punk for the WWE Championship. While it may be a tough pill for some to swallow, the WWE unquestionably made the right decision.
Punk's 434-day title reign was highly entertaining, and I consider it to be one of the greatest runs of all time.
With that said, Punk had essentially reached the end of the line and there wasn't much left for him to do. Punk defeated all comers prior to Sunday and any scenario in which Punk faced someone other than The Rock, John Cena or The Undertaker at WrestleMania was unrealistic.
For weeks I have seen suggestions such as Punk vs. Daniel Bryan in a 60-minute Iron Man match or Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler to unify the world titles at WrestleMania. As much as a small percentage of the audience would love to see those matches, I guarantee there was never any thought of doing them on WWE's part, and it was ridiculous for anyone to think that they would happen.
Was The Rock winning the WWE Championship the right decision?
The Internet fans, or "smarks," or however you want to classify them, are certainly a vocal group. Despite that, the fact remains that they are a vocal minority rather than the majority.
While that vocal minority values in-ring work and wants to see things that have never been done before on the grandest stage of them all, the majority of fans actually want to see Cena vs. The Rock at WrestleMania once again with the WWE Championship on the line this time.
What I find most interesting about the fans who are outraged by The Rock's victory is that they're likely the same fans who get on the WWE's back for poor ratings. When Raw ratings and pay-per-view buys are down, there is no shortage of fans pointing a finger at the company and scolding it for putting forth what is perceived as a lackluster product.
Many of those fans dislike The Rock and don't believe that a part-timer should be in possession of the WWE's biggest prize. They can't have it both ways, however. If Punk vs. Bryan or Punk vs. Ziggler is main-eventing WrestleMania, then the wrestling is sure to be fantastic, but that simply isn't going to draw in the casual viewers.
That is the exact reason why The Rock is now WWE champion, it's the reason why he faced John Cena last year and it's the reason why he returned the year before.
The majority of fans love The Rock and are infinitely more involved in the product when he is featured prominently. Nobody is more prominent than the WWE champion, and there is no doubt that The Rock will have a positive effect on the WWE's ratings moving forward.
Had Punk retained the title at Royal Rumble, I'm sure that ratings would still be strong for Raw since the Raw following the Rumble always does well. Putting the title on The Rock ensures that the ratings will be through the roof, however. Word is spreading like wildfire that The Rock is the new WWE champion, and fans of years gone by are going to tune in when they otherwise wouldn't have.
Perhaps The Rock winning the WWE Championship will rekindle their interest in wrestling and lead them to watch week after week. Maybe it will even lead them to order Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania as well.
None of that would have been a possibility had Punk won the title because it would have been the status quo, and that is exactly what many fans argue against.
Not only will The Rock boost Raw ratings and pay-per-view buys, but he could very easily make wrestling cool again. He'll constantly be making media appearances with that title draped across his shoulder and it's going to build interest for WrestleMania. Punk could have done something similar, but he has absolutely no presence in realms outside of wrestling, whereas The Rock is an absolute star no matter what environment you put him in.
My biggest pet peeve is the people saying that The Rock doesn't deserve to be WWE champion.
I understand wanting current, full-time competitors to be showcased, but it's obvious that The Rock is committed to wrestling. He was with the WWE on a full-time basis for roughly six years and became one of the biggest stars the business had ever seen over that time frame.
The Rock left to pursue acting, which is another passion of his, and he has been wildly successful doing that as well. Even though he has more money than he could ever spend and his legacy in professional wrestling was firmly entrenched, The Rock came back. Some will argue that he did it for the money or that he did to hog the spotlight, but a guy in The Rock's position doesn't come back unless he loves the business.
Since returning to the WWE, The Rock was part of the two of the highest-grossing WrestleManias ever. He also drew huge numbers at Survivor Series 2011. On top of that, it's a virtual guarantee that the Royal Rumble brought in a massive amount of buys as well. The Rock may not be a "full-timer," but he is obviously the biggest box-office draw in wrestling.
Also, now that The Rock is WWE champion, we're obviously going to be seeing him on a weekly basis. Cynics will say that he'll disappear and make appearances via satellite, but I'm not buying that. The Rock has been booked for tons of Raws and he isn't going to be an absentee champion. He is committed to building toward WrestleMania, and that's exactly what he'll do.
If people have a problem with the way his match against Punk ended, that's fine. The People's Elbow was somewhat of a weak finish and it didn't fully do a great match justice, but pouting about The Rock winning the title is pointless, and in many cases, it's hypocritical as well.
Anyone who is upset that The Rock won can't, in good conscience, ever complain about the WWE's ratings again. This was a ratings-driven decision on the WWE's part and I don't blame Vince McMahon and Co. one bit.
As great as Punk's title reign was, The Rock as champion is more compelling to a larger audience and it is ultimately the correct business decision. Besides, The Rock vs. Cena II almost certainly means that we'll be getting Punk vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania as well, so it makes little sense to sulk.
It may be hard for some to fathom, but the majority of fans are excited about The Rock being WWE champion, and that is the group that the WWE caters to.