The Anti-Antagonist: The Champ is Back

Adam Gorzelsky

John CenaYou know that feeling of inevitability? That moment when you realize that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is nothing more than an 80-ton locomotive steamrolling in your direction? Yes, I tried my best not to quote Metallica, but you get the point…

I can’t help but get that same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach regarding John Cena’s current situation. Let’s be honest here…His immersion back into the WWE Title picture always has been a question of “when” instead “if.”  Nevertheless, recent events have made it painfully obvious that the Champ Will Be Here much sooner than later.

While recent reports suggest that CM Punk will defend the WWE Championship against John Cena at Summerslam, I can’t say that I would be surprised to see Cena regain the gold prior to that time. He’s still WWE’s poster boy and the 1000th Raw is looming dangerously over the horizon…A cash-in at Money in the Bank or even on the 1000th episode itself may be too much of an irresistible temptation for the WWE brass to overcome.

In any case, although I genuinely hope that I’m wrong, I feel as though it is safe to say that CM Punk’s days as WWE Champion are numbered to a certain degree. Angry? Disappointed? Disgusted? I feel your pain…However, when you spill milk, you don’t cry over it…You quickly rub that shit into the carpet so nobody notices…In short, if a Cena title run truly is inevitable, we’re left with two options: change the channel or make the best of it. Unless you absolutely can’t resist that new episode of Pawn Stars, I see plenty of reasons why making the best of it could prove to be highly entertaining.

First and foremost, the most logical feud resulting from a Cena title run is one involving the former champ, CM Punk. Say what you want about Punk’s current feud with Daniel Bryan (and I’ve said plenty…6 weeks), but little has matched the unbridled passion that surrounded Punk/Cena a year ago. Every crowd was on fire, hanging on each attempted pinfall and submission as if the ultimate fate of the WWE universe was hanging in the balance…On one fateful night in July, even the smartest of fans had to wonder if it really did.

Given Punk’s abrupt face turn, I certainly can understand why this feud ended after Summerslam. Nevertheless, I was left wanting more….These two are polar opposites from the standpoint of career progression, providing natural, believable, and likely somewhat legitimate fuel to the fire. Without a doubt, Punk also takes Cena’s in-ring game to the next level unlike any other man in the business.

If done correctly, there is no reason why these two cannot pick up where they left off last year. Neither wrestler has to turn heel in the traditional sense, as the relatively even split between the crowd would provide sufficient vitriol to satisfy both sides of the equation…and rest assured, if Cena cashes in on Punk, the vitriol will be palpable.

Remember Punk’s tweet about not caring where his matches with Daniel Bryan were placed on the card? Would it be surprising if this was a kayfabe tweet in preparation for this feud? What if Punk explains that WWE officials finally got what they wanted by putting the belt back on the golden boy…that he was instructed by those same officials to send that tweet to be a good soldier…that he’s tired of playing by their rules? The same fire that was born last summer easily would be rekindled in a realistic and believable fashion.

There even are Paul Heyman rumors out there…Justin Labar wrote an excellent piece over at Bleacher Report addressing the possibility of Punk teaming with Lesnar, Heyman, and other “Heyman guys” in order to take on the WWE establishment. Heyman recently referenced a vision of a WWE run by himself and Brock Lesnar, while both Heyman and Punk talked on Twitter about this being a wild year…There’s no better way to kick-start such an alliance than seeing the ultimate representation of the WWE establishment retake his lofty perch atop the roster.

Will any of these thoughts actually unfold in this manner? Hell if I know…I’m not, nor have I ever claimed to be an expert at crafting or predicting the creative direction of the company. I’m simply attempting to point out the fact that the inevitable Cena title run may not be the end of the world as we kno…you know what, I’m not even going there…Suffice to say that there are plenty of options available to ensure that we don’t see another bland, cookie-cutter Cena run…In fact, it may be the catalyst to break the company out of the stagnant doldrums of the past few months.

In the end, I would love to see Punk hold the Title well into the distant future, while continuing his feud with Daniel Bryan in every possible match type known to man…ok, maybe not a coal miner’s glove match…Fortunately, having to settle for a scenario that falls well short of this ultimate desire does not necessarily equate to a fate worse than death.

At least that’s my hope.

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