Before being defeated by The Rock at the Royal Rumble, CM Punk was the reigning and defending WWE Champion for a whopping 434 days.
Punk held the company’s most prestigious title from the 2011 Survivor Series pay-per-view all the way through last month’s Royal Rumble, making him the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the last 25 years in the process.
For well over a year, Punk became synonymous with the WWE Championship. He shattered John Cena’s modern-day record of 380 days as champion and defended the title against a long list of superstars that reads like a “who’s who” of pro wrestling.
But as we approach WrestleMania 29, it’s becoming quite clear that Punk’s days in the WWE Championship picture are coming to an end.
Barring something unforeseen happening, Punk will lose his rematch against The Rock at this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view and will find himself competing in a match that doesn’t involve the WWE title at WrestleMania 29.
It’s almost inevitable, too, that at the WWE’s biggest PPV of the year, Cena will defeat The Rock to win the WWE Championship. Cena, of course, hasn’t held the title since October 2011, when he dropped the belt to Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell.
Especially in Cena’s world where he’s accustomed to holding the WWE title more often than not, that’s an awful long time for the face of the company to go without winning the WWE Championship even just one time.
But rest assured that Cena will beat The Rock to win the title at WrestleMania 29, and when he does, a lengthy title reign will follow because he’s gone so long without winning it.
That’s great news for Cena. But not for Punk.
Although Punk has been involved in the WWE title picture in some way, shape or form since way back in the summer of 2011, that will change once he loses to The Rock at Elimination Chamber.
The Rock will move on to a title feud with Cena, Cena will win the belt at WrestleMania 29 and then Cena will proceed to have a lengthy title reign because he hasn’t held the belt for more than three months since way back in 2007.
That will unfortunately leave Punk out in the cold.
Punk has been such a staple in the WWE title picture for so long now, but once Cena becomes champion, that’s bound to change. These two have feuded and faced each other so many times over the last few years that it doesn’t seem like the WWE will go down that route again anytime soon.
Unless the WWE wants Punk vs. Cena to become the next Cena vs. Orton, then the best booking decision it could make is to have these two stay completely away from each other once Punk wins back the WWE title—at least for the time being.
There is a plethora of up-and-coming stars that are poised to enter the main-event picture this year, which gives Cena a lot of options for potential feuds that we’ve never seen before. How about Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow or Antonio Cesaro?
There’s also the very real chance that we see Cena feud with a top name that he hasn’t crossed paths with in a while or has only kinda sorta feuded with. We may see Cena mix it up with Sheamus, Ryback or even Wade Barrett in 2013.
Believe it or not, there will be a fresh feeling to Cena as WWE Champion because he hasn’t held the title in so long, which will give the creative team a number of opportunities to give us new feuds that we want to see.
Assuming he loses at Elimination Chamber, when will CM Punk reenter the WWE Championship picture?
Punk vs. Cena has happened so many times since the start of 2011 that, no matter what the circumstances surrounding it may be, seeing these two feud again this summer or this fall isn’t going to feel very special. It will feel like the same thing we’ve already seen on multiple occasions.
That’s why, assuming the creative team smartens up, it won’t give us another rehashed and recycled Cena/Punk feud once Cena becomes WWE Champion at WrestleMania 29. Instead, it will give us the new feuds that we desperately want to see.
And because Cena figures to have a long run as WWE Champion, that means that Punk is going to be busy doing something else for the foreseeable future.
Cena will feud with other established veterans and up-and-coming stars while Punk will be featured in the WWE’s non-title main-event angles or perhaps even make the move to the World Heavyweight Championship picture over on SmackDown.
Either way, though, Punk’s days in the WWE title scene are numbered, and once Cena becomes champion, they’ll be over with altogether.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!