During the course of the last 10 days on the Road to WrestleMania, I'll be taking a look at each match on the card individually in order to fully explain the background of the storyline, a breakdown on why each Superstar could and should win, and the bottom line -- my prediction on the result of the match and the immediate aftermath, plus any other random thoughts. Today, it's the WWE Championship match with CM Punk defending against Chris Jericho.
Last summer, a heel Punk cut a promo about winning the WWE Championship and leaving the company as his contract expired the night after the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. During that promo, he called himself for the first time, "The Best in the World." He won the title, left, returned a week later, now a babyface, with "Best in the World" becoming a catchphrase. He began his second title reign in November at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden and continues to hold the championship. Shortly after, vignettes began airing teasing the return of Jericho, who during his last run, called himself the "Best in the World At What I Do." Jericho returned on the first Raw of 2012. He was silient for several weeks, "trolling" the audience, until he revealed that he came back to rid the WWE of Chris Jericho wannabes like CM Punk. During the Elimination Chamber PPV, Jericho was one of five challengers to Punk, but was eliminated without being pinned when Punk kicked him in the head and out of the cage, knocking him unconscious (in storyline). Jericho won a battle royal the next night on Raw to challenge for Punk's championship at WrestleMania. While the feud was initially based on who was the "Best in the World," Jericho introduced a new element - Punk's straight-edge lifestyle, which he said was born out of Punk's father being an alcoholic and his sister being a drug-addict - to make the feud more personal.
Why Punk should win: This will be Punk's sixth WrestleMania and third consecutive one-on-one match there. He lost his last two singles matches as a heel with Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton. It's his first championship match at WrestleMania. Punk is clearly a star that WWE is building around moving forward. While John Cena is still the company's top star, he's doesn't need the title to have that kind of validation. At this point in his career, CM Punk still does. Punk was crowned at Madison Square Garden - a huge deal for anyone who is familiar with what that building means to WWE. To successfully defend the WWE Championship at WrestleMania would truly cement him as a top star in the business.
Why Jericho should win: From a business standpoint, Jericho is here to help bolster Punk's status and the best way to do that is to put him over at WrestleMania. However, peeking ahead on WWE's pay-per-view calendar, you can't help but notice the next big show is Extreme Rules in Punk's hometown of Chicago. Logic dictates Punk will be the featured act at that show, likely in a rematch with Jericho. Does that mean Jericho needs to win the title at 'Mania? Not necessarily, but it would make some sense. Remember in late 1996, WWE booked Shawn Michaels to drop the title to Psycho Sid at MSG so he could win it back at the Royal Rumble in his hometown of San Antonio. WWE could do the same thing for Punk to reclaim the gold in Chicago.
Punk needs to win here. The mismanaged "Summer of Punk" angle aside, he's been on fire ever since that promo before Money in the Bank. I still think they can get to a rematch in Chicago with no trouble, especially since they've introduced the personal angle of Jericho letting the skeletons out of Punk's closet. The two "bigger" main events will have a dramatically different feel from this one in the ring, and Punk and Jericho will strive to put on a 5-star wrestling match for the business's biggest prize. That's what this one is about, with Punk ultimately emerging with his first major WrestleMania victory.