For the first time in over ten years, The Great One is the WWE champion after his exciting bout with CM Punk at the Royal Rumble. The match was not an instant classic, but it was certainly worth the wait after the match was announced at Raw 1000 in July; Punk in particular gave a stellar performance. After taking a beating for most of the match, The Rock looked to finish off Punk with the People’s Elbow, but then the lights went out! The Shield attacked Rock in the dark, putting him through the (English) announce table. The lights came back on and a delirious Punk rolled The Rock back into the ring for the 1 2 3.
It was at this point that the crowd went silent as the People’s Champion had failed, only for Mr. McMahon’s music to hit as he was prepared to strip Punk of the title. But The Rock suggested that the match be restarted instead; one People’s Elbow later and The Rock had become champion, much to the delight of an electric Phoenix crowd.
This was biggest match WWE fans have seen since last year’s WrestleMania 28, which is around the time that The Rock made his original declaration to regain the WWE title. Since then, The Rock’s seemingly inevitable title reign has been met with mixed reactions – Rock fans are excited to see the gold back on the shoulders of their hero, while wrestling traditionalists feel that The Rock is a part-time performer who shouldn’t be rewarded with the WWE’s most prestigious title. In addition, CM Punk was in the midst of a historic title reign, a title reign that was ended by The Rock, who will not be around long enough to enjoy the rub from the victory.
It seems that the WWE has already telegraphed their plans for WrestleMania 29. The Rock has defeated CM Punk for the title as expected, and the WWE will use his presence in Hollywood to promote the hell out of WrestleMania with an A-list celebrity as their champion. The Rock is then expected to drop the title to John Cena, who won the Royal Rumble match, at WrestleMania in a rematch to their record-breaking bout at last year’s WrestleMania. But is that really the end game? John Cena has been the face of the WWE for eight years, it’s hard to imagine that the road to WrestleMania is being used to kick start another dominant title reign for Cena.
In a perfect world, WWE would use the rub Cena would get from beating The Rock as fuel for a heel turn later on this year. Cena could become the major heel of pro wrestling, thus calling for the emergence of a fresh baby face to rise and defeat John Cena at WrestleMania 30, allowing for the WWE to create a new megastar to replace Cena. WCW ran a similar angle years ago when Sting was built up to defeat Hollywood Hogan. In this scenario, Cena would play Hogan and the role of Sting would be filled by Ryback, or another potential star that is currently under the radar. It has been a long time since the WWE has created a huge babyface that is over with both the casual fans and the IWC; Ryback himself has had a tough time shedding the “Goldberg!” chants, so perhaps he will never be over enough to replace Cena as the face of the company. However, the WWE needs find his replacement relatively soon in order to freshen up the product and create a worthy foe for a heel John Cena
But the WWE doesn’t exist in a perfect world, and what many fans fear is that the post-WrestleMania plans feature a stale, baby face Cena defending his WWE title in feuds against B-list heels who were pushed aside for part-time stars such as The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, and the Undertaker just a few months prior. We’ve seen this movie before; the cycle continues, and the WWE will just press repeat in early 2014 for the next WrestleMania
Maybe I’m wrong and the WWE will surprise us with a great payoff at WrestleMania. But one thing is for sure, and that is the WWE’s main roster is depleted of true star power. Sure, you have Punk and Cena, but after that is a huge drop off. One day, the past stars like Rock and Undertaker will stop coming back. Cena and Punk are both in their mid-thirties and only getting older. If the WWE wants to establish a new star to carry the baton, it begins now with the road to WrestleMania; a road that actually leads somewhere and is not just more of the same.
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This article was first posted on January 30, 2013