CM Punk fans can lower their expectations (and perhaps close their eyes) at Elimination Chamber 2013 because Punk is not winning back the WWE title.
Current champion The Rock is on an unstoppable journey to a rematch with John Cena at WrestleMania 29. Punk is going to be left out of the picture as those two megastars get their names on the marquee.
Like it or not, Rock vs. Cena II is on its way.
Now the "Once in a Lifetime" match will inevitably become "Twice in a Lifetime."
The symmetry of Cena looking to avenge his WrestleMania 28 loss with the ultimate prize on the line is just too good for WWE to pass up. Pitting the company's two biggest draws against each other is too tempting.
Punk is the last kid standing after all the teams are picked. So now CM Punk battles The Rock at Elimination Chamber to serve merely as a warm-up for the big rematch.
It seems highly unlikely that Punk would face Cena at WrestleMania.
Fans have seen that battle several times before. It's also a pairing that doesn't bring in as much money as Cena and The Rock. Could there instead be a triple threat in the works then?
Could Punk win the title on Feb. 17 and force his way into the WrestleMania main event? Could Punk, Rock and Cena put on a great match like Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit did in 2004?
Jim Ross, for one, doesn't think so.
Ross wrote (via PWMania.com) that a WrestleMania triple threat is "unlikely."
WWE history shows the company's reluctance to put three wrestlers in the main event at WrestleMania. In the 28 WrestleManias contested, only three times has the final match of that night not been one on one.
WrestleMania XX featured Benoit, Triple H and Michaels. WrestleMania 2000 ended with Big Show vs. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Mick Foley. WrestleMania I pitted Mr. T and Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.
Ross' evaluation of the likelihood of Punk being a part of a triple threat is absolutely correct.
There will certainly be WrestleMania situations where the company will consider a three-or-more-person main event, but not here, not with the financially viable Cena vs. Rock option available.
WWE may see an excess of talent when it looks at Punk, but when it lays eyes on Rock and Cena, it sees dollar signs.
No Faith In Punk
If WWE was unsure of placing CM Punk in a true main event and top-level spot throughout his 434-day WWE title reign, it won't suddenly have faith in him come WrestleMania.
Punk would certainly flourish in the harsh glow of WrestleMania's brightest lights. He's delivered some of the company's best matches over the last few years.
He won't get a chance to do so, though, at least not this year.
When Punk was WWE champ, WWE decided to bill several matches above his; John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit, Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, Cena winning the Money in the Bank ladder match and Cena vs. Big Show at No Way Out.
There's a common thread running through all of those main events and he wrestles in cargo shorts.
Even when Punk was supposed to be on top, it was often Cena that truly held that position. Cena, despite his inadequacies in the ring and his cloyingly goofy persona, is WWE's biggest full-time star.
When the biggest night of the WWE calendar comes around, WWE is not going to put the best two athletes on last nor the best wrestlers or the most talented guys available, but the ones it believes will make the most money.
WWE clearly doesn't believe in Punk as a draw. Reluctance to have him be its top guy means Punk will be lower on the card at WrestleMania 29.
It means he is destined to lose to The Rock at Elimination Chamber.