The Anti-Antagonist: Why Stop Now?

Adam Gorzelsky

CM PunkYou know that feeling you get when a perfectly formed plan is thwarted by unfortunately timed and unforeseen circumstances? About halfway through writing this column, I was whacked upside the head with that exact sensation as I heard the news about CM Punk’s knee surgery.

Fortunately for me…O and Punk…the surgery does not appear to be significant and thus should not affect the long or short-term planning surrounding the WWE Title. As a result, I feel more than comfortable continuing with the premise of my argument. In fact, this minor setback, and the speculation surrounding the setback, further underscores how amazing and rare Punk’s title reign has been……

365 days have come and gone in a somewhat unbelievable display of stability in today’s world…I’m not even limiting this statement to the wrestling world, as Punk was spot on during Raw when he stated that many marriages and employment stints fail to achieve the longevity of his championship reign.

The fact that he has retained the title for this amount of time is nothing short of miraculous. Even setting aside the ever-present threat of a Cena-title reign at the first sign of a ratings dip, numerous periods of his run were wrought with the seemingly obvious certainty that he would drop the belt to the likes Chris Jericho or even Daniel Bryan.

Through this quagmire of uncertainty has emerged one important reality…CM Punk and by extension, WWE, has accomplished something special…This feels important…It feels important not simply for those fans of CM Punk who desperately have sought to see his immense talent vindicated, but also for the WWE Title itself as it finally has returned to the spotlight worthy of the industry’s biggest prize.

Now that the seminal period of one year has passed, the question remaining to be answered is how much longer this reign possibly could last. From the standpoint of creating a short-term buzz and monetary windfall, the tantalizing option is to place the title around the waist of the Rock at Royal Rumble.

Regardless of the number of dates that the Rock would be appearing between Rumble and Wrestlemania, the mainstream marketing potential during that timeframe is mind-blowing. Whether on set for a new movie or making the promotional rounds, the presence of the WWE Title would provide the type of exposure that would force Vince McMahon to change his underwear every morning.

All of this attention undoubtedly would lead to one of, if not the biggest Wrestlemania buy-rates of all time as individuals from all walks of life would tune in to see if the famous movie star could outlast some rassler. While this exposure and monetary influx would be short-lived, I would argue that making the Rock the champion would be the ultimate no-brainer under any normal circumstances.

Unfortunately for this proposition, we are not facing normal circumstances. At this time, the WWE has an invaluable investment on its hands. Between the possibility of injuries and the overwhelming urge to spark excitement via title change, it is quite the rarity to leave the title around the waist of one man for so long. This reign now has become an intriguing storyline that simply writes itself from this point forward.

Such an investment should not be squandered without careful consideration…After all, there’s no telling when/if such a story ever will be told again. In addition to the value generated as a result of the intrigue inherent in the run itself, the ultimate pay-off when the title changes hands cannot be underestimated…This reason alone prompts me to believe that a reign approaching the two-year mark isn’t an absurd proposition.

The honor of being the individual to finally defeat Punk has to be just that…an honor. This right has to be reserved for a worthy individual who can utilize such a victory to catapult himself to greatness. While a guy like John Cena certainly is worthy of this privilege, a win would serve as nothing more than an apparent return to the status quo…In other words, it would do nothing to capitalize on the impressive rarity of this title run.

I simply cannot say that any other member of the roster is ready to fully cash in on this unbelievable opportunity. Until somebody truly is ready, the WWE should be in no rush to take the title away from CM Punk. Will it take another year for this to occur? Maybe not…But ask yourself one question…if it does, will the product actually be hurt in any way?

On the contrary, as the legend of Punk grows week by week, I think the product only gets stronger. On so many levels, this is one of the most positive developments in professional wrestling for quite some time. While a year may feel like a long time, I think the appropriate attitude to adopt is the notion that we’ve only scratched the surface.

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