The Rock is set to defend his WWE Championship against John Cena in the main event at WrestleMania XXIX, and that has left many fans sour. Based on the success of the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, however, there is no doubt that the WWE made the right decision with regard to The Rock's title reign.
According to the WWE (h/t WrestlingNewsWorld.com), preliminary buyrates were released for both the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber pay-per-views, and the early returns are quite impressive. The Royal Rumble drew an astounding 498,000 buys, which was up from 443,000 last year. Also, Elimination Chamber pulled in a respectable 210,000 buys, which bested the 178,000 that Elimination Chamber 2012 generated.
The Rock and CM Punk headlined both of those shows. The Rock defeated Punk for the WWE Championship at the Rumble and then successfully retained the title against Punk at Elimination Chamber. It isn't surprising that many fans have tried to downplay the importance and overall quality of those matches, but the WWE is a business driven by financial gain.
That is exactly what Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber provided.
It's difficult for Internet fans to understand and respect differing points of view because most of them have been diehard viewers of the product for years. That means they are set in their ways and often unwilling to consider another perspective. The success of Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber makes it obvious that legions of fans are interested in seeing The Rock in high-profile matches.
As much as I like Punk, The Shield, Antonio Cesaro and any number of other Internet darlings, they didn't draw astronomical buyrates. The success of Rumble and Elimination Chamber was a direct result of The Rock, and it simply isn't debatable. Perhaps some fans don't accept economic viability as a legitimate reason for putting the WWE Championship on a part-time star, but those numbers should at least allow fans to understand why the WWE has made this decision.
Has The Rock's title reign been the greatest of all time? Certainly not.
Would it be preferable to see him on each and every episode of Raw? Absolutely.
Is WrestleMania XXIX going to be the most lucrative 'Mania of all time despite the imperfections related to The Rock's run as WWE champion?
That remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that WrestleMania XXIX will give WrestleMania XXVIII a run for its money.
The Rock has also been making the runs on daytime and late-night talk shows. Not surprisingly, he has been the recipient of criticism for that as well. When The Rock appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he didn't mention the WWE or WrestleMania and didn't have the WWE Championship with him. This caused biased observers to claim that The Rock doesn't care about the WWE and that he is the worst WWE champion of all time.
It's important to remember that The Rock has movies to promote as well, and if the people involved with GI Joe: Retaliation scheduled his Tonight Show interview, then he was obligated to talk about that and nothing else. Also, the WWE Championship was on display in Times Square when he appeared on the show, so that explains why he was unable to take it with him.
The Rock has been on several shows since then, including Live! with Kelly and Michael and Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Rock had the belt with him on the former show, and he talked about wrestling extensively on the latter, so he has done his part to promote WrestleMania. In fact, he has done far more than anyone else on the roster, and it can be argued that he has done more for the WWE than the rest of the roster combined over the past several weeks.
Fans can argue about The Rock being in it for the money as much as they like, even though it's ludicrous since he already has more money than any of us could ever fathom. Even if that is true, however, he has definitely worked for that money. Not only has The Rock been appearing on Raw as well as SmackDown, but he has been all around the country and the world promoting the WWE and his movies.
If The Rock's title reign had put the WWE in dire financial straits, then I could get on board with the criticisms levied against him. The fact of the matter is there isn't another person on the roster right now, and there may not be another person on Earth, who could generate as much interest in the product as The Rock has.
Ultimately, The Rock is acting as a vehicle to put the title on Cena anyway. Punk just had a 434-day run with the WWE Championship, so I fail to see how The Rock's title run is going to damage the credibility or legitimacy of the belt. If putting the title on a part-time superstar for a couple of months is going to devalue the championship, then I suppose Punk's reign wasn't as impactful as people believe it was.
When push comes to shove, the WWE absolutely made the correct decision when it put the WWE Championship around The Rock's waist. All it takes is one glance at the WWE's pay-per-view buyrates, television ratings and overall revenue since the title change to realize it.
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