On the other side, I see that the vastly more popular forms of player vs. player activities are generally most competitive when everyone is on a fairly level playing field, and the fun is beating your opponents. It's the way sports work for the most part (not counting cheating/poor officiating/etc), and it's the way the vastly more popular forms of pvp gaming works (first person shooters for the most part).
In WoW, essentially you are gated before you can even reach the level playing field of competition. It would be like making it so teams in the NFL start with pads that have a bunch of weight added to them to slow them down drastically. As the play and win they get to remove weight from their pads until eventually they finally reach the max weight reduction. Only then is there really true competition.
But, as has been mentioned, wow has always been about dangling some form of carrot...the vast majority of the time, and the one that has proven successful for so long, is better gear.
I really see both sides of this, and the correct thing to do really depends on what Blizzard's intent is for pvp (which has always been a pretty vague area). If they want a real competitive system, then gear needs not be a factor, and certain class abilities need special tuning for pvp. There's no way to ever 100% balance pvp and have unique classes, but there's certainly room for improvement.
If, on the other hand, pvp is just something extra they throw in to give people something alternate to do, but isn't really too serious about being competitive, then leave it the way it is.