Dollar signs are hard to ignore, especially when the payday is imminent. Pay me now frequently trumps pay me later, even when a display of patience promises to yield a greater bounty. Unfortunately, it often is this desire to cash-in on a safe bet that results in some of life’s greatest missed opportunities.
Professional wrestling, like any other business, is prone to this type of short-sighted decision-making. In the case of WWE, the pressure to boost ratings and please investors unquestionably influences the direction of the product by thrusting it towards outcomes that can provide an immediate economic impact…Regrettably, the by-product of this mode of operation often is the downfall of sound wrestling logic.
I understand this reality. In a perfect world, creative decisions would be made with an eye toward advancing the product in a positive direction, rather than the economic bottom line. However, although we don’t live in a perfect world, if the opportunity to meld these two principles arises, it simply cannot be wasted.
WWE currently is staring down the barrel of one of these pivotal opportunities with the current Rock/CM Punk situation. Without a doubt the easiest decision in terms of creating immediate buzz and a significant short-term financial windfall is to place the WWE Title around the waist of the Rock at Royal Rumble.
The mainstream excitement would be palpable as the man now thought of as a blockbuster actor first and a wrestler second would be seen parading around the nation with the industry’s richest prize. It goes without saying that Vince McMahon craves such exposure in an egotistical sense, but it’s also not hard to imagine the financial impact that the increased visibility would provide on the road to Wrestlemania.
The problem with traveling down this path is the long-term impact on the WWE. If he were to carry the belt into Wrestlemania, I think the overwhelming consensus is that he won’t be carrying it out. As a result, I assume that we’re most likely to witness yet another John Cena title run or a renewed CM Punk run as a distant second option.
Putting aside any general hatred for John Cena, does either of these options seem appetizing or remotely buzz worthy heading into the start of the WWE calendar year? I don’t even need to begin to explain why a John Cena title run reeks of regression (alliteration), but even a renewed reign for Punk would lack the intrigue presented by his current assault on the record books.
I’ve written previously about the sheer value of the investment that WWE has on its hands right now. The bottom line is that WWE has given itself a continuing storyline that has taken well over a year to develop. With Punk as the reigning champion, every challenge to the title becomes that much more important because of the increased stakes apparent on both sides.
I contend that if WWE resists the urge to cash in on the temptation to put the belt around the waist of the Rock, the longterm benefits realized from continuing to invest in Punk’s reign will prove to be prudent both from a wrestling and financial standpoint.
Imagine if CM Punk manages to leave Royal Rumble as the champion, only to defeat both the Rock and John Cena in a triple threat match at Wrestlemania. By my calculation, Punk would enter the post-Wrestlemania Raw touting a reign of 505 days and a victory over two of the most recognizable names in professional wrestling history.
The promos would continue with an obnoxious air of superiority clicking at unimaginable levels, as the stage would be set for an entire year of discovering an individual capable of finishing the job. If the Rock and John Cena couldn’t do it, rest assured that the person finally tapped to accomplish this feat will experience a historic career moment.
The bottom line is that this scenario promotes progress in an industry that has remained stagnant for quite some time. It’s the type of angle that only will get stronger as the days and victims continue to pile up…It’s also the type of angle that likely won’t see the light of day again.
A year plus investment….Don’t waste it…Don’t waste it on a quick payday based around a novelty title run for the Rock that ultimately would end in yet another rendition of “the Champ is here!”
WWE needs to recognize that the true value in moving its product forward lies in sacrificing a short-term financial boon…It lies in maximizing an investment that has the potential to establish greatness.