"At Money in The Bank (2011) CM Punk should have beaten John Cena cleanly for the WWE Championship."
That's a sentiment a lot of people have said, even recently now that a new star named Daniel Bryan has his shot at the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. People are both hopeful and pessimistic as the days pass about how WWE will handle this situation. People are begrudgingly admitting there is a chance Cena will retain the title or lose it in a less-than-convincing way. For some people anything less than Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship by submission is WWE dropping the ball on creating a new star.
However, I have to believe that people are putting too much emphasis into the notion of a clean victory. I think a victory by WWE Creative is enough. "A deal is a deal, even with a dirty dealer," as they say, and there are few dealers dirtier than the WWE Creative Team. Ironically enough, I think CM Punk is proof that a clean victory isn't needed to be a huge star.
Since winning (with an unintentional assist from Mr.McMahon and Big Johnny,) the WWE title at Money in the Bank two years ago, CM Punk has become the second-biggest star in the company. Still, say what you want about ratings and drawing power, it's all about pleasing people upstairs and that's why Punk didn't pin Cena clean. They may like Punk, but they're not in love with Punk, and you know what? That's OK.
Punk has flourished since then with top-level booking, top-level time given and top-level feuds. You'd never have guessed Punk took a loss to Triple H during his rise to megastardom.
So that brings me to the point of my article, which is that the notion that a clean pin carries more weight than a cheap one is unrealistic. At least when it comes to making true top stars in the WWE.
Let's look at Daniel Bryan for a minute. As of now, everything's going his way. He's got a cool chant, he's performing well in the ring and he's got the fans behind him. Just last Monday, he was hand picked by the WWE champion to be his challenger at the second-biggest pay-per-view of the year, despite failing to win his last match twenty-four hours ago. So, if Daniel Bryan catches Cena asleep at the wheel and catches him in a roll-up at SummerSlam, or even if Cena gets distracted and caught by a kick to the head, resulting in a pin will that hurt Daniel Bryan in the eyes of the casual audience?
I don't think so. Would it hurt him in the eyes of the WWE? They (I hope) know what they'd be getting into with such a move. So then who's being hurt by Daniel Bryan sneaking away with a victory and possibly the WWE championship? Honestly, it's just the hardcore fan base, which (let's be real) has a tendency to over analyze things when it comes to wrestling.
I mean, at one point an article was posted on Dolph Ziggler's wrestling style after a random comment made by Jerry Lawler.
Casual fans are much easier to manipulate and get to play along. If WWE doesn't make a constant mention of it, the crowds in attendance in the majority of places will not care how Bryan won. They'll simply be elated that Bryan is WWE Champion. (Not everyone will, but the majority will.)
Some would argue that Punk is only the No. 2 guy because he wasn't given the chance to beat Cena 100 percent clean, but I simply don't feel Punk is popular enough to replace Cena. Short of having him appear more in different media or simply forcing him down the throats of people, Punk just doesn't have mass appeal.
Maybe Bryan does. Maybe he doesn't. How he wins though, won't change his appeal, and this is coming from a Cena fan who honestly wouldn't care if Bryan won the title. If he pins Cena or makes him submit, then great. Likewise, if Cena pins Bryan or makes him submit that's cool too.
This is one area where both kayfabe and reality meet. It doesn't matter how you win in WWE, but that you win. For the most part anyway.