As many predicted, the Rock defeated CM Punk at last night's 2013 Royal Rumble to win the WWE championship for the first time in 10 years. Most fans felt that Rock would ultimately win the match, and they were right. However, WWE made a mistake in giving the belt to "The Great One" on Sunday. CM Punk should have retained the title at the Royal Rumble.
The first reason that Punk should have been victorious is that Rock's win didn't make him look any stronger. Rock was attacked in the dark by The Shield and was unceremoniously laid out at ringside after being put through the announcers' table. He got in zero offense and was beaten up badly in the process. It would have served WWE better to show The Shield coming down to ringside, have Punk make an attempt to dissuade them and give Rock some offense before he was eventually overcome. This would have given Punk a legitimate gripe if Vince McMahon stripped him of the title and would also made Rock look heroic for battling four foes at one time. Instead, Punk has a bullet-proof grievance and Rock got trashed by invisible foes.
A victory by Punk would have kept interest in the Road to WrestleMania at a fever pitch. Now, there's really no doubt as to what is going to happen. There's no way that WWE is going to take the belt off of Rock before WrestleMania. Since John Cena (also predictably) won the actual Royal Rumble match, and with it, the right to choose his opponent for a title bout at WM 29, everything between now and April 7th seems preordained. There's no doubt that a rematch between Rock and Cena at the year's biggest show will draw a big buy rate for WWE. However, the company could have kept everything leading up to that match relevant by extending Punk's title reign until Elimination Chamber. Now, there's no real drama leading up to the big event.
Punk's loss leaves the former WWE champion without much to do leading up to WrestleMania. While Rock/Cena seems set in stone, what will WWE do with its number one heel? There are rumors that Punk will face The Undertaker at WM 29, but unless the Dead Man shows up on Raw tonight, WWE is running out of time to get that feud underway.
Punk should have kept the belt last night, because it's good for the long-term future of WWE. Rock is a part-time attraction. While it's not disputable that his presence in the headline match at WrestleMania guarantees a big buy rate, there will be shows after April 7. Since Rock will be concentrating on Cena leading up to the big event, and vice-versa, there doesn't seem to be a way to keep Punk in the spotlight. That might be fine for Elimination Chamber, but what happens starting in May, when Rock is gone, and Cena doesn't have a built-in feud for the title? Putting the strap on Rock might lead to short-term gains for WWE, but it makes the future look a bit bleak.
The biggest reason that Punk should have kept the belt at the Royal Rumble last night is that a victory by "The Best in the World" would have kept the outcome of WrestleMania unpredictable. Now, the headline match already seems set in stone, and there's little doubt that Cena will emerge from the bout with the belt. Rock is going away after WrestleMania. Since he can't take the belt with him, Cena almost has to win. How many fans might decide not to buy the PPV if they are virtually certain of the outcome? If nothing changes, there's just no way that WM 29 will sell the same 1.2 million PPV buys that WM 28 did.
While booking Rock to take the title last night was a mistake, WWE can still rectify the situation. Somehow, Punk needs to be booked into the title match at WrestleMania, preferably as part of a Triple Threat match with Punk and Rock.
Perhaps Punk can lodge some sort of protest over the outcome of last night's match. Michael Cole's protestations aside, no one actually saw The Shield attack Rock. Thus, Punk has a legitimate claim that the match should never have been re-started, and his original victory should stand.
McMahon could refuse to review the outcome, only to be overruled by the WWE board of directors (represented by HHH?). The board could rule that Punk's complaint is legitimate, and order that the WWE title match at WrestleMania 29 be a three-man affair.
This would give WWE a storyline that could play out over the period between now and WM 29. It would also put the outcome of the WWE championship match on April 7 in doubt. While it's a fairly safe bet that Rock won't keep the title, now Punk and Cena are both possible winners. This would give WWE a chance to go into the biggest show of the year with the outcome of the main event still in doubt. That's how to sell a PPV.
Should Punk have kept the belt? Was Rock's win for the best? What happens next? Speak your mind in the comments section below.