CM Punk came face to face with The Rock on this past Monday Night Raw in what has to be considered the most anticipated confrontation of the new year.
The spot undoubtedly delivered in the minds of many fans who are more anxious now than ever before to see them hook up for the company’s top prize.
But while the explosive spark surrounding the WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble is now officially ignited, I can’t help but wonder just how big this would be if it had been CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Austin vs. Punk is one that we as fans have talked about for quite a while now, and that fact is not lost on either man, who have spent their fair share of time teasing a possible future confrontation.
For me, it’s one of the last big dream matches that’s left for WWE. The Attitude Era meets the Summer of Punk, the beer drinking, hell raising Rattlesnake vs. the Straight Edge Best in the World.
I can just imagine the cameras flashing at the sight of them standing nose to nose in the middle of the ring.
The fact is that both guys are so good at what they do and take such pride in their work that this dream match is one we would likely be talking about for years to come.
Of course we do have a dream match with Punk vs. Rock, some may ask why is this not enough?
For me, it’s mostly because this is not Rocky’s actual return to WWE. That happened last year, at WrestleMania 28, when he faced John Cena in what was billed as “Once in a Lifetime.” It was the face of WWE against the man who once held that spot, in a war of words that went on for a full year.
Rocky’s commitment to the business was questioned several times by Cena, who believed that WWE had been used as a springboard to Hollywood. John also took issue with Rock constantly appearing on TV via satellite, rather than taking the time to be there in person.
Meanwhile, The Rock hurled one insult after another at Cena, ripping on everything from his ring gear to his kid-friendly image that Rocky considered to be phony.
It was presented as the meeting of two generations, of two stars that fans believed would likely never cross paths. WWE, past and present, with more attitude than the company had seen in a long time.
Potentially sounds like Punk and Austin, right?
But there is a difference between seeing Punk vs. Rocky and Punk vs. Austin. The fact is, a lot of the material that Cena and Rocky used could now be recycled for Rocky and Punk.
The bottom line here for me is that a lot of what we could likely see unfold between The Rock and CM Punk has been used once already. This would not be the case if Austin was the man staring across the ring from Punk.
During Punk’s promo on this past Monday Night Raw, he alluded to Rocky’s rare presence on WWE TV. We grew accustomed to hearing that from Cena during their rivalry.
Rocky gave Punk credit for what he has accomplished as WWE Champion, yet then tore him down, getting one cheap laugh after another from the crowd.
And Rocky pretty much does that with everyone.
To me, the notion that Rocky is a sure bet to be the next WWE Champion is one that just cannot be denied. The fact that The People’s Champ will be sticking around longer this time around bodes well for Punk and WWE, but there can be no doubt that once he’s done, he will be gone again.
This was also the case with Rocky and Cena, because despite how badly John’s fans wanted him to go over, the overall feeling was that Rocky was a sure-fire bet to win at WrestleMania.
And once he did, he left.
However, with Punk vs. Austin, we would have had a whole new set of storylines and plot threads.
If Punk had called out Stone Cold for gracing WWE with his presence, Austin would only need to say that he came back for the sole purpose of stomping a mudhole in the champ. For Austin, his fans and everyone else, that would likely be enough.
Austin and Punk’s obvious differences in character would be exploited right away, with a focus on Austin’s love of Budweiser and Punk’s commitment to a sober lifestyle.
There is so much material in just that area alone that WWE could use that from this point to WrestleMania 29 and beyond.
The pride that both men have in being the best would also be a major point in their feud, one that would be very evident on the night of the match itself. Both men would bring everything they have, going move for move, making for a great match.
And the promos. Oh, the promos.
Both CM Punk and Steve Austin are great stick men, able to capture the crowd’s imagination and draw them in with the visual picture that they’re describing.
They are also extremely entertaining.
I have to believe that Austin and Punk would have a blast in a program with each other. For two pros who have spent so long in the industry that they love, this is the kind of rivalry that would be just too hard to resist. They match up perfectly against each other and would surely be a big draw for WWE.
Of course, this is not to say that Rock and Punk will not do some good work together. Again, this is a heavily anticipated match coming up at The Rumble, and I for one cannot wait to see it.
Also, I am anxious to see how they will follow up on their Monday Night Raw confrontation in the coming weeks. This will almost certainly be an instant classic, like we all believe it will be.
The cold reality is that Austin’s physical condition is always in question. Would his body hold up in the ring, even for a very limited run? If he could not be the Texas Rattlesnake of old, would Austin even want to come back?
But, no matter how much I think of why CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin couldn’t happen, I still wonder what if?