Are long title reigns cursed?
Tattooed on the flesh of the WWE Champion is a classic phrase of rebellion, self-confidence and the general fearless attitude that often accompanies a world-beater in the vein of CM Punk.
“Luck is for losers,” the words go. Of course, in light of Punk’s recent scope to trim a cartilage tear in his left knee, he might want to rethink that particular credo. Not only has the injury effectively removed Punk from the main event of WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs and may endanger his 381-day reign as WWE Champion, but also as it turns out, the champ’s sorry serendipity is not without precedent.
Call it the “long-reign curse,” if such a thing exists, and before the WWE Universe starts crying foul or accusing us of undue superstition, consider the facts. Two of the longest-tenured champions of the last decade met similarly ignominious fates as The Second City Saint did during their runs at the top, ultimately relinquishing the title as a result of their injuries. The first instance came in 2006, during Batista’s unprecedented stint as World Heavyweight Champion. In the midst of a nearly 300-day run with the “Big Gold Title,” Batista suffered a triceps tear against Mark Henry at a WWE Live Event. The ramifications of the injury forced The Animal to relinquish his prize in a tearful address on the Jan. 3 edition of SmackDown, cutting his reign short at 285 days. ( WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE HISTORY)
The second instance came at the expense of, oddly enough, the man CM Punk just surpassed on the list of WWE Champions of the modern era: John Cena. ( CHARTING PUNK’S REIGN) The Cenation leader had been champion for a year and change when he tore his pectoral muscle clean off the bone in the midst of a match against Randy Orton on Oct. 1, 2007. Though Cena persevered and finished the contest, it ultimately came at a cost as Mr. McMahon vacated the title the next night on ECW. Cena’s injury ended his reign at 380 days. News of Punk’s knee surgery — eerily enough — broke on day 380 of his own stint as WWE Champion.
So we ask again: Are these simply unhappy coincidences? Or did Punk truly fall victim to the force dismissed by the marks on his skin?
On one hand, it’s tough to say a long-reign curse is a concrete certainty, given the silver linings of all the prior instances. For one, Batista is still the longest-reigning World Heavyweight Champion in the title’s 10-year history. Cena’s career didn’t exactly suffer following his injury, and it took five years for a Superstar to surpass his 380-day benchmark. As for Punk, The Chairman did promise Ryback would get his title opportunity in the near future, but at least it won’t be a TLC Match. Plus given Punk’s history of defeating the beast, there’s a solid chance he’ll carry the title with him to the Royal Rumble for a showdown with The Rock for all the marbles.
But at the same time, the evidence is there. Who knows how long Cena and The Animal would have held their respective mantles (we’re guessing it would have been a while) had they not been struck down at the point of making history?
Pitchers in professional baseball practice discretion in determining the frequency and length of their time on the mound to preserve their arms. So the curse could be a simple case of pushing too hard, for too long, at a championship-caliber level. But tearing one’s muscle seems to be a bit too random, too extreme of a freak accident to have seen it coming. And Punk’s knee surgery certainly didn’t carry any warning signs. He looked fine wrestling on it the last couple of months.
Granted, Dr. James Andrews, who performed Punk’s surgery, is optimistic about The Second City Saint’s recovery and insists the champ will be up and running in no time. But injuries are a fickle, fickle matter, and nobody knows what unforeseen complications could await Punk while he rehabs. Being stripped of the title due to an inability to compete is not yet off the table for The Voice of the Voiceless. While that would certainly light a fire under him the likes of which have never been seen, it would certainly seem to lend credence to the existence of the curse.
So really, what we’re trying to say on the matter is the evidence is there, but the jury is out. Either Punk will evade the fate suffered by Cena and Batista and continue to claw his way through the history books … or his title reign will meet a similar, sudden end. We'll just have to wait and see how his luck holds up.