WWE Championship Match
I'm not going to try and combat the insane amount of mixed reaction this match drew from wrestling fans. With a contest between the Rock and CM Punk, not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome. I respect that, and I appreciate that wrestling fans are so into both of these guys, that the decision has been so heavily debated since July.
That being said, I stated before the PPV began that WWE was in the unique position last night, that no matter what they did would be seen as a success. If CM Punk retained, by some stroke of miraculous luck, his fans would be elated to see the Best in the World get a well-deserved victory over one of the all-time greats. And if the Rock won his 8th WWE Championship, the next three months would be filled with media appearances and a ton of hype leading into WrestleMania.
Punk's title reign had to end sooner or later. Would you rather he drop it to John Cena in April? So many fans flooded my Twitter stream with comments like "I would have rather it been a young up-and-comer who deserves the push". I can see the logic behind that idea, but when did the WWE Championship become about young up-and-comers? The greatest achievement in pro wrestling – just like it is in any sport – is capturing the most prestigious title available. The World Series. The Superbowl. Being Manchester United. How long has the greatest prize in sports entertainment been a stepping stone for young guys looking to make a name? If that is the honest truth, than there's a really big flaw in the system that needs to get fixed, and quickly.
The Rock is a symbol of the last generation of wrestlers, and wrestling fans alike. He and Steve Austin were the icons when I was growing up; today's fans seem to forget that, in favor of their rookies and indy stars. And there's nothing wrong with that – I love Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk is the greatest WWE Champion since John Cena won the belt from JBL at WrestleMania 21. But the Rock winning wasn't about a movie star coming back to "bury" the roster. You can stand on your digital soapboxes all you want, you're still wrong. If Ronald Reagan can be a movie star and the President of the United States, than why can't Dwayne Johnson be a movie star and the new WWE Champion? Those careers aren't mutually exclusive, and if you think the Rock is a sellout for coming back, or going away, or whatever…grow up.
As for their match, I enjoyed it more than Rock's encounter with Cena. It was definitely more technical, and Punk was able to carry a lot of the offense. You can't help their failed table spot, but it certainly did kill some of the momentum near the end. Lots of people complaining about the Rock winning with a People's Elbow. It's a fake wrestling move in a fake wrestling match; suspend your disbelief. He beat Triple H for the title exactly the same way, and I'm sure that wasn't the first time.
The finish was booked perfectly. The Shield was banned from ringside on penalty of Punk being stripped; naturally we knew they'd show up regardless. People wanted to see Punk retain, but by the end of the match nearly the entire US Airways Center was on their feet for the Rock. The Shield had their moment, and CM Punk pinned the Rock in the center of the ring. Vince McMahon restarting the match was exciting, and added an element of surprise to an otherwise predictable finish. Much more interesting than either guy straight up winning the match; the story didn't really dictate a clean finish either way.
When the Rock hit that spinebuster and set up for the People's Elbow, all 15,103 people in that arena exploded. I don't care whose team you're on, that moment was magical and I got chills watching it both times. On that note, however, just like Punk's match with Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, the anticipation was what made the actual match so good the first time. I can't go back and watch that match, having been there live, because it just doesn't do it justice. The wrestling wasn't 5-star quality, but at the time with all the hype and speculation, it was a moment of pure energy. I think the same goes for this year's Royal Rumble main event. There are some contests you can watch over and over again becaue they have a timeless value and weren't hinged on the "what if" factor. This wasn't one of them, for me, but maybe in ten years nostalgia will have me thinking otherwise.
Sometimes the predictable story is the right story to tell. That seems to be the theme for the 2013 Royal Rumble. Nobody expected Big Show to regain the World title, but he had a great opening match with Alberto del Rio. John Cena was the clear choice for the Rumble, but his win was made so much better by a stellar final six competitors, and really solid booking that made the 55+ minutes fly by. And while the main event likely won't be my match of the year, the Rock standing on the ringpost with the WWE Championship high into the air will be a hard moment to top.
FINAL RATING: A-
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