The Piledriver Report 01.30.13: The End of the Reign
Posted by Ronny Sarnecky on 01.30.2013
At RAW 1,000, The Rock announced that he would be going up against the WWE champion for the title at the Royal Rumble. After months of anticipation, the really good match fell flat for a surprising reason. Ronny Sarnecky takes a look at why The Rock vs. CM Punk match lacked drama. He also examines the matches ending, the aftermath, and where the Road to WrestleMania should take CM Punk in this week’s Piledriver Report.
*****After three weeks diving into the History of the WWE, The Piledriver Report is stepping away from its look back for one week because a lot happened this week.*****
Ever since the WWE had announced that The Rock would challenge for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble, I couldn't wait for January to get here. The way things were playing out, it appeared that the fans were going to get a second dream match involving The Rock. One, that had nothing to do with John Cena. As the months passed, it became crystal clear that come the Royal Rumble, The Rock would be battling CM Punk for the WWE title.
I had mixed emotions heading into the match between The Rock and CM Punk. Since the day after WrestleMania XXVIII, the rumors were running rampant that The Rock and John Cena would have a rematch at WrestleMania XXIX. As much as I enjoyed their "Once in a Lifetime" encounter, I didn't want to see another John Cena vs. The Rock match-up at a WrestleMania. To me, WrestleMania should end midcard feuds, but be the beginning of a main event rivalry. WrestleMania should feature fresh matches. I don't want a WrestleMania littered with rematches, and that was exactly where we were heading. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, like Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker. Their first WrestleMania match was so great that seeing a rematch was highly anticipated as opposed to having an attitude of "been there, seen that." This is why I wanted the Undertaker to battle CM Punk for the WWE title in the ultimate streak vs. streak match. The WWE could still have their Rock/Cena rematch, but the main event match for the evening would be fresh and intriguing.
Another reason that I wanted to see CM Punk vs. the Undertaker for the WWE title at WrestleMania XXIX is because I believe that CM Punk deserves to be in the main event at this year's WrestleMania. The only way for Punk to be the true WrestleMania headliner would be if he defended the WWE title against The Rock, John Cena, or the Undertaker. Without the belt around his waist, and CM Punk doesn't have a shot of main eventing WrestleMania. That is a shame because CM Punk not main eventing this year's WrestleMania would be the biggest slight since Edge was pushed out of a WrestleMania 23 main event slot when it was clear that he deserved to be in that position.
This past Sunday, the time was finally here. The Rock vs. CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Despite the long range plans of having The Rock face John Cena for the WWE title at WrestleMania XXIX, there was some doubt heading into the WWE title match at the Royal Rumble. The rumors had it that The Rock would either win the belt at the Royal Rumble or at the Elimination Chamber show in February. It wasn't a matter of "IF" The Rock would win the WWE title, but WHEN he would grab the gold.
Having that doubt regarding when CM Punk would drop the belt brought some intrigue to their Royal Rumble match. It added an element to their match that I haven't felt since The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII. In a match that should have kept me at the edge of my seat with every near fall, instead left me with a bitter taste in my mouth from the second the match started. What changed from the time the pay per view started up until the time The Rock and CM Punk stood across the ring from each other to change my attitude?
The answer is simple. It was John Cena winning the Royal Rumble. Now before the Comments Section starts to explode with accusations that I am a John Cena hater, let me explain. I had no problem with John Cena winning the Royal Rumble. Hell, I expected it. I'm not going to lie. I was pulling for Dolph Ziggler to score the victory. However, John Cena winning his second Royal Rumble wasn't the problem. My problem was that the WWE booked the Royal Rumble match BEFORE the CM Punk vs. The Rock bout. Normally, I have a belief that the WWE title match should close the show. In MOST cases. This was not one of those cases. The second that I saw the Royal Rumble match starting, I knew that The Rock would win the WWE title that night. There was no way a heel CM Punk was going to close the show by beating The Rock. All of the drama and intrigue that was a key component to the match disappeared the moment Dolph Ziggler hit the ring as the number entrant in the Royal Rumble. Once John Cena won the Rumble, it was cemented even further in my mind that The Rock was leaving the building with the belt. If The Rock/CM Punk match went on before the Rumble match, there would have been doubt regarding whether The Rock would win the belt on that night. Each pinfall attempt would have been met with anxiety over whether this was the end. Even if The Rock won the belt, we would have still had the drama throughout the match, and it would have gone over better (at least for me). Instead, it was a foregone conclusion that The Rock would win the WWE title at the Royal Rumble.
After believing without a shadow of a doubt that The Rock would win the match after seeing the positioning of the match, I must say that I was surprised beyond belief when CM Punk scored the pin over The Rock. I thought it was a fantastic way to end the match. After all, no one would have expected that outcome. I thought by having the Shield nowhere in sight when the lights came back on gave the WWE the perfect "out" from the stipulation of stripping CM Punk of the WWE title due to the Shield's interference. Without actually seeing them, you couldn't be 100% certain that the Shield were the attackers. Hell, it could have been Brock Lesnar or even Brad Maddox for that matter. Then, the music played.
Vince McMahon entered the stage and said that even though we didn't actually see the Shield commit the interference, we aren't stupid. It was them. That infuriated me. That logic made absolutely no sense. Where is the burden of proof? At least show some footage using an infra-red camera that allowed us to see the Shield attacking The Rock. I thought the way the WWE set this up was lazy. If that wasn't bad enough, just as Vince was going to strip Punk of the title, The Rock says no, that we are going to restart the match instead, and Vince said OK. This was awful.
After watching RAW, I understand why they ended things the way they did at the Royal Rumble. However, one of the reasons why this rubbed me the wrong way is because I absolutely HATE Dusty finishes. This was a form of a Dusty finish. I would have rather a screwy finish that caused Punk to lose over a match where Punk was named the winner, and then it was taken away moments later.
Despite being irate over having the joy of the Punk/Rock match taken away from me, because I knew the outcome before the match began, I was interested in seeing what would happen on RAW. I was pleasantly surprised at the way the WWE kicked off RAW. Although, maybe I shouldn't have been shocked. Maybe I have been sanitized over the years watching John Cena's nonchalant attitude whenever he dropped the title. Cena would smile, joke around, and laugh over his title loss. This time it was a different story. CM Punk came to the ring in a pissed off mood. He was fuming over his WWE title loss. This was a very refreshing change of pace.
If you are a regular reader to this column, you know that I am a big CM Punk fan. While he has his fair share of fans, Punk also has plenty of detractors within the Internet Wrestling Community. Regardless of whether you like Punk or hate him, you must admit that he did something that wrestling fans have been dying to see. Punk brought prestige back to a world title. He made the WWE title meaningful again. You don't agree? Just look at the response that his dropping the title has gotten on message boards throughout various websites. People care more about the title today than they did at this time last year. His reaction to dropping it was perfect. It showed just how valuable the belt was to his character. The Rock's reaction to winning the belt also emphasized the title's importance.
Over the last few months, it has been pretty set in stone that CM Punk would challenge the Undertaker's streak at WrestleMania. However, now there have been reports that it isn't 100% that the Undertaker will be working the show. If that is the case, who should CM Punk face at WrestleMania? In a perfect world, since Brock Lesnar will be facing Triple H, I would love to see a thirty minute show stealing CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan WrestleMania classic. However, from a more realistic standpoint, if the Undertaker can't "go," I feel that CM Punk should be added to the John Cena vs. The Rock WWE title match main event.
I'm not a fan of Triple Threat matches. To me, they are all the same. Three men are in the ring. One performer gets knocked out of the ring. The other two go at it until one wrestler goes for the pin only for the third wrestler to break it up. The WWE Triple Threat match follows this formula to a tee. This isn't to say that Triple Threat matches are bad. Hell, the WrestleMania XX main event of Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels was one of the best WrestleMania matches that I've seen up until that point. It's just I do not like the same old formula being used in every Triple Threat match. However, in this case, I want to see CM Punk inserted into the main event as part of a Triple Threat match if he can't fight the Undertaker or Brock Lesnar. Like I said earlier, CM Punk deserves a spot in the main event. If The Miz can get a WWE title main event at WrestleMania, then CM Punk sure as hell deserves to get one (and I am a fan of The Miz).
Plus, CM Punk has proven that he belongs in the match. While he isn't on The Rock's level, who is in today's wrestling industry? One thing is certain. At the Royal Rumble, CM Punk proved that he can hold his own in the same ring as The Rock. Need proof, rewatch their match together. For a great portion of the match, the crowd was 50/50. It wasn't the John Cena type of split crowd where women and children cheer for Cena and the men cheer for his opponent. In this case, it was half and half, regardless of age or gender. Not only that, but the match was better than The Rock's heavily hyped match against John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII. Plus, over the last few weeks, in the build-up to The Rock/Punk match, CM Punk has arguably been better on the mic than The Rock. Don't get me wrong, The Rock is awesome. He is one of my favorite wrestlers of the Attitude Era. However, I have noticed something since he returned for his feud with CM Punk. The Rock is just recycling the same material over and over. It's a combination of catchphrases, curses, and childish insults. I'm not trying to criticize The Rock because he is The Rock after all. The most electrifying man in sports entertainment. It's just that I think he needs to mix things up a bit. That's why I think CM Punk has been the better of the two when it comes to promos lately. CM Punk's promos are different from everybody else, and he varies things up. He never uses the same catchphrases over and over, and the same childish put downs ala John Cena. The one area where you can argue that CM Punk isn't in The Rock or John Cena's league is in name recognition. Everybody knows who The Rock is. Most non-fans know who John Cena is. However, if you ask someone who may catch the WWE in passing, they may refer to CM Punk as "that Punk guy." I have heard him called that by more than one person that would be classified as a less than casual wrestling fan. All Punk needs to be on their level is name recognition. If CM Punk was inserted into The Rock vs. John Cena match, Cena and The Rock would bring the household name, while CM Punk's work ability would prove that he belongs. WrestleMania XXIX is less than 70 days away. We should find out shortly who will be filling out the WrestleMania card. Whether CM Punk faces the Undertaker in one of the top matches on the card, or is inserted into the John Cena/Rock rematch, one thing is certain, Punk will be a major force on the Road to WrestleMania. I can't wait to see the path that he takes.