LAS VEGAS — On a night when the WWE Universe surrenders itself to the whims of Lady Luck and the mercy of the Las Vegas Strip, CM Punk entered Raw under a shroud of irony: It was on a Raw Roulette two summers ago when Punk first dropped the infamous “pipe bomb” that led to his ascent as “Best in the World” and a 434-day reign with the WWE Championship. And on a Raw Roulette that would have been Day 435, Punk arrived in Sin City absent his precious title for the first Raw since November 2011.
And boy, was he mad.
The Straight Edge Superstar’s fury knew no bounds when he took hold of the microphone for his first post-title homily, railing against The Shield for their supposed interference in his title match at the Royal Rumble, Mr. McMahon for restarting the contest after Punk had pinned The Rock and toward The Great One himself for celebrating what Punk deemed to be a tainted victory. Punk called for the heads of The Shield, demeaned the WWE Universe as “cheap, no-good swindlers” and demanded the WWE Title be stripped from Rock’s waist. But for the second time in as many nights, Mr. McMahon took it upon himself to knock the former champion down a peg or two.
The Chairman promised a long night for Punk and Paul Heyman after the Royal Rumble, and he played his trump card right off the bat: He obtained evidence that proved beyond all doubt that The Shield was in collusion with Punk and Heyman all along. The Straight Edge Superstar bristled at the notion and shrieked that Mr. McMahon was a “thief,” but McMahon wasn’t done. He conceded that losing the title was punishment enough for Punk, but later in the evening, Mr. McMahon promised he would conduct Paul Heyman’s performance review himself. And if the mad scientist could not convince The Chairman of his innocence … well, it’s “YOU’RE FIRED!!!!” time for Paul.
There is no Day 435 for CM Punk’s WWE Championship, but instead Day 1 of The Rock’s eighth stint with the supreme prize of sports-entertainment. The Great One’s inaugural address to The People was as heartfelt as his final sermon before the WWE Title Match at the Royal Rumble, as the new champion addressed the crowd and his own history while basking in the glow of his victory. “There is no accolade on this earth that is more deeply engrained in my blood than this WWE Championship. … After 10 long years I can tell you that this moment is the proudest moment of my career.”
“I’ve already thanked my friends, and I’ve already thanked my family, but I want to take a moment to thank all of you. … [CM Punk said] each and every single one of you were nothing. Well I’m here to tell you that those crap days are over … tonight, we’re gonna usher in The People’s Era.”
Of course, no parade is complete without a dark cloud or two, and CM Punk took the opportunity to darken Rock’s skies with an announcement of his own.
“If you were a man, if you had any respect for yourself, you would come up to me now and say ‘Sir, Mr. Punk, here is your title back, because I did not earn this, I stole it from you’ … and then apologize to me for stealing what I have made so great!” the jilted former champion seethed.
The Brahma Bull replied in kind: “If you were a man, you would walk down that ramp and come and take it.”
While it looked for a moment like Punk would take Rock up on his offer, The Straight Edge Superstar quickly doubled back and decided he would be evoking his rematch clause (or as he worded it, “granting” Rock a rematch) at Elimination Chamber. “Show up if you dare.” (ROCK VS. PUNK PREVIEW)