CM Punk is in a very strange predicament heading into his WWE Championship match with The Rock at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on Sunday. He is in the main event, but his future direction is not set.
WWE has given Punk one role to play for the last two months: make Rock look as good in the ring as he does on the microphone.
That sounds like a slight towards Punk, who spent 434 days as champion and came into his own as the best heel in the company. His reign was designed to make it look like an even bigger deal when Rock won the title, and that mission was accomplished to perfection.
However, when you look at where he was just a few months ago and where he is now, WWE has done Punk a tremendous favor—even though there is no shot he comes out of Elimination Chamber as champion.
Since January 7, Rock's first Raw appearance this year, Punk has been able to stand toe-to-toe with him on the microphone.
I am not saying Punk has been as good at talking as Rock. No one in the business is. But in being able to hold his own in talking segments with someone as revered as Rock, Punk has shown the fans something new. Maybe he is more than just the No. 2 full-time performer in the company (behind John Cena, of course).
Then you look at their match at the Royal Rumble. It wasn't an all-time classic, but if you look at the tempo and pace, it worked because Punk was able to get a good match out Rock. Cena tried to get a great match out of him last year at WrestleMania, and it wasn't nearly as good as this.
Punk now has one more chance to show the world what he can do. He is not only increasing his stock within the company but also turning himself into a bigger star in the process.
WWE has had a love-hate relationship with Punk for a long time. It took years before he was finally allowed to just be himself. When he was, he took the ball and ran with it.
When he spent all of 2012 as champion, he was still playing second fiddle to Cena on every pay-per-view. Now, at the start of the 2013, Punk has been in the main event of the first two shows with a star the caliber of The Rock.
This will give Punk a chance to prove to the powers that be that he deserves to be put in one of the biggest matches at WrestleMania.