A lot of people, myself included, thought that Alberto Del Rio would be leaving Money in the Bank last night as the new WWE champion. Thankfully that didn’t happen. I say thankfully not because Del Rio wouldn’t make a good champion (he would) or because I don’t want to see him as champion (I do) but because what we got instead is so much better: CM Punk defeating John Cena clean with the Go To Sleep to win the title and then leaving through the crowd (having a blown a kiss to Vince McMahon at ringside). Ring of Honor fans had certainly seen him do something very similar before.
Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis (who looks far more like Bob ‘Marty Funkhouser’ Einstein on camera than he does in still pictures) appeared at ringside in the closing moments of the bout in order to attempt a “Montreal Screwjob” finish, only for Laurinaitis to get punched out and McMahon to be left watching helplessly as Cena got out of the ring to tell him he didn’t want to win that way, only to be pinned by Punk moments later.
Vince’s words over the headsets to send out Alberto to cash in the briefcase was another great move that played on fan expectations and provided a moment that seemed genuinely real: of course Vince, the man in charge, would demand Alberto to come out and cash in. Beautifully, he worded his demand in such a way that it almost acknowledged that the event is scripted, giving the appearance that Vince was booking on the fly. It was superb.
Congratulations are in order for CM Punk. He’d held WWE’s World Heavyweight title before, and made it mean something to fans and wrestlers by carrying it with pride and defending it in great matches. But that’s not the real world title in WWE. The real world title is the one he captured last night, the one held by Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Triple H, Randy Savage and many others greats. That’s the belt that means the most to WWE and its fans. Punk’s name deserves to be on the list of WWE champions and now it is.
So what happens this evening on RAW? Pretty much anything is possible. As last night’s show went off the air I was thinking that Punk would make a surprise appearance this evening, but I’m going off that idea now. I think he’ll be off TV for a few weeks at least, maybe a few months.
I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll get promos from Vince McMahon and John Cena on this evening’s RAW. My guess would be that Vince will go to fire Cena and that Cena will blame Vince for distracting him and allowing Punk to beat him. Will Cena be “fired”? Possibly. But it won’t last. I still think he’ll be facing Del Rio at SummerSlam.
Longer term what will be happening? I think that Punk will take some time off and then return as the “real” WWE champion. In the meantime tonight could see Alberto Del Rio simply awarded the title by Vince. He could either reason that he’s in charge and he’ll do whatever he likes with regards to awarding the title to someone or say that had Del Rio cashed in last night (he never actually got the chance to do so) he would definitely have won because Money in the Bank winners always win. Or he could do both of those things. Or perhaps Vince will strip Punk of the championship and put it up for grabs in a Cena v Del Rio match at SummerSlam. That would allow Punk to return towards the end of the year, or perhaps next year’s Rumble, to make his real world champion claim and set up something for WrestleMania.
Will we be seeing Punk in New Japan Pro Wrestling or Ring of Honor? It’s unlikely but not impossible. Appearing for rival promotions with the WWE championship belt would certainly help to advance the story and would also help Punk’s claim to be the true champion (should that be the direction the company wants to go in). As I say, it’s not likely: Punk appearing with the title for other wresting companies would necessitate Vince McMahon trusting and relying on people not in his employ, and that’s not something that comes easily to him. As much as I’d love to see Punk turn up on the first ROH TV show wearing the WWE title belt I don’t think we’ll see it happen.
Whatever ends up happening last night WWE took a big step towards proving that they’re not going to mess this angle up. It should have done solid business for them on pay-per-view and I hope they can continue the successful and enjoyable booking tonight. This angle could run and run.