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Thursday, January 24, 2013

CM Punk’s Reign: A Historical Perspective

If you ask around, it seems to be the consensus among fans and insiders alike that The Rock will defeat CM Punk for the WWE championship at the Royal Rumble on Sunday, ending Punk’s title reign at 434 days and setting up a WrestleMania rematch with John Cena.

Regardless of the outcome, Punk’s reign is the sixth longest in the 50-year history of that title, and combined with his first 2011 reign, Punk ranks 10th in total days as WWE champion. To understand how much of a feat that is in this day and age, consider the length of title reigns in the other five active WWE titles:

• The WWE World championship has changed hands five times since Survivor Series 2011 and nine times overall in 2011 alone. Triple-H and Batista are the only two men to hold the World title for even half as many consecutive days as Punk has held the WWE title.

• Since Punk’s reign began, the Intercontinental and U.S. championships have changed hands a combined 11 times. And in WWE history, only one man has held either one of these titles longer than Punk has: The Honky Tonk Man. If you count the NWA/WCW version of the U.S. title, that number jumps to a whopping two, thanks to Lex Luger’s 500-plus day reign in 1989-90.

• The WWE tag team championship has changed hands three times since Survivor Series 2011. The only reign that exceeded Punk’s belongs to Demolition, who enjoyed a 478-day run between WrestleMania 4 and July 1989.

• The Divas title has changed hands four times since November 2011, and outside of the Fabulous Moolah’s 28-year stranglehold on the title, only three women (Trish Stratus, Sensational Sherri, and Rockin’ Robin) have held either the Women’s or Divas title longer than Punk had held the WWE title.

No, Punk will never eclipse Bruno Sammartino’s 2,803-day reign, but that was in a different era. If CM gets past The Rock on Sunday and announces he’s taking aim at the all-time mark, after we stop laughing, we’ll discuss that in a future blog.
Louie Dee
PWI Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Save The Steel Cage … Or Don't

When I hear the words “steel cage,” I think of two things:

1) A towering, fence-like structure, designed to prevent all outside interference and keep the action inside the ring
2) A devastating, no-holds-barred contest meant to be the final chapter in a bitter rivalry

The steel cage match between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler on the 20th anniversary edition of Raw was not a steel cage match. Not as far as I'm concerned. For starters, outside interference factored in heavily—with Big E Langston spending almost as much time inside the ring as either competitor. Even worse, though, was the fact that this contest will ultimately be seen as just another standoff in the ongoing Cena/Ziggler feud.

Don't get me wrong: The match was entertaining. Cena and Ziggler have gotten to know each other quite well in recent months, and this reality made it difficult for either to actually eke out a win. The creative ways in which each man tried to best the other made for one engaging spectacle. Still, the anticipation for Cena vs. Ziggler in a steel cage was almost nonexistent. There was little advance promotion for the match, and nothing about its execution indicated that this feud had reached its zenith. The lack of a slow build served to render the cage more of an expensive prop, and less a meaningful setting for a major showdown.

The brutality of the cage was also understated. And sure, the structure isn't as unforgiving as the Elimination Chamber, nor as foreboding as Hell in a Cell. Despite this, cage matches have played an important part in the evolution of pro wrestling. That's why it's such a shame that the classic steel cage match seems to carry such little weight in the modern WWE landscape. Too often, cage matches are invitations for multiple villains to attack a lone fan favorite in an enclosed setting. (Some wrestlers seem to be able to break into cages more easily than wolves get into straw houses.) Other times, inferior competitors are launched through cage walls and doorways onto arena floors. In other words, these aren't the cage matches of Starrcade or Saturday Night's Main Event.

None of this is meant to suggest that there aren't still fitting environments for the biggest WWE feuds to be resolved. If anything, structures like Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber have carried the spirit of the “classic” cage into the new millennium. If we are going to see another cage match on Raw, though, I'd like to know about it a few weeks in advance. It should seem like a big deal. The doors should be bolted shut, with ringside officials swallowing all the keys to prevent outside interference. Reinforce the cage walls, so that an airborne grappler can't fall through them, “accidentally” winning the match. If these contests are going to continue to exist, it's important to honor the legacy of the cage—a structure that allows wrestlers to settle their differences with an air of finality, free from runaway competitors and meddling managers. This goes for Raw, TNA's annual Lockdown show, or any old event with a fence around the ring for a match or two. Make the cage count, or don't bother.

Kevin McElvaney
Contributing Writer
@OfficialPWI Contributor

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Round One To Punk

Last night, The Rock and CM Punk had their first face-to-face confrontation, leading to their WWE championship match at the Royal Rumble. Punk promised to keep his championship. Rock promised to lay the smack down on Punk’s candy-ass. Punk ended up eating a Rock Bottom to end the segment.

It was an intense and entertaining exchange that kicked the hype for the Rumble into high gear, but who was the real winner of this opening salvo of what promises to be a tremendous battle?

PRESENCE: The Rock looked bigger, stronger, and healthier than ever. He made Punk look physically puny in comparison; that shot about Punk looking like “Popeye on crack” had a ring of truth to it. Of course, Punk had competed in a grueling TLC match against Ryback less than 45 minutes earlier, while Rock was fresh and rested. Rock has also been living the good life in Hollywood as Punk has been globetrotting in defense of the WWE title. But, side by side, Rock dwarfed Punk and made it look like he could eat him for breakfast. WINNER: The Rock

CROWD REACTION: The Rock got the big ovation we all expected, but it wasn’t quite at the same level as it was a year ago at this time. He made the millions (and millions) of fans chant on command, but the “cookie-puss” chants petered out quickly. There’s no doubt that Rock is a mega-star, but the reception he received was slightly lacking. Rock even seemed surprised by the quiet crowd at one point. Rock got a better reaction than Punk, but the difference wasn’t as much as you might expect. WINNER: The Rock

INTENSITY: Rock raised the eyebrow, coined some new phrases to trend on Twitter, and talked about where he would place his size-15 boot. Punk stared back with steely eyes. Rock got cutesy and did his tried and true shtick, and Punk called him out on it. Perhaps the best line of the night was when Punk promised he would “kick The Rock’s ass” every time Rock deigned to make an appearance in WWE. Rock did a routine; Punk delivered passion. WINNER: CM Punk

MATERIAL: Punk’s “pipe bomb” wasn’t quite as explosive as his infamous 2011 screed, but it had a few moments (particularly when he put over Tyson Kidd and Daniel Bryan, and wondered why the millionaires in the back don’t share any of that cash with the fans). The Rock seemed off his game. He made the standard jokes and pushed the TV-PG limits a little, but he came off like he was taking Punk lightly and disrespecting the WWE title in the process. Rock even tossed the belt out of the ring at the end of the promo. I don’t think Punk would ever do that. WINNER: CM Punk

DELIVERY: CM Punk was spot-on for the entire 20-plus minutes he was out for his promo. He was passionate, condescending, well spoken, and smarmy. He brought his A-game. The Rock stumbled a few times (like when he couldn’t remember what to call Popeye’s pipe). Hollywood has affected “The Great One.” He’s become reliant on memorizing his lines. Punk, on the other hand, can improvise with the best of them, because every word that comes out of his mouth comes from his heart.

WINNER: CM Punk, by a split decision. Punk came out of this first confrontation looking a bit better than his Rumble opponent. Rock still has size, strength, and superstardom on his side, but Punk more than held his own. It wouldn’t surprise me if Punk actually came out of the Rumble as the fan favorite.

Dan Murphy
Senior Writer