As fun as WWE's Royal Rumble 2013 would be without The Rock, it's simply unmissable with him on the card.
One of WWE's biggest stars ever will main event the Jan. 27 pay-per-view at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. At 40 years old and with as many movies as he's asked to be in, who knows how many more matches we'll see him in.
As far back as Raw 1000, fans knew that whoever held the WWE title would face The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013.
WWE has since made him the centerpiece of its Royal Rumble ad campaign.
In addition to this Rock-centered video, WWE is using The Rock's mug for the Royal Rumble 2013 poster with the tagline, "Finally…"
"Finally," as in finally The Rock has come back to the WWE Championship picture. The last time The Rock fought with the WWE title on the line, Brock Lesnar defeated him at SummerSlam on Aug. 25, 2002.
It's partially that gap between championship bouts that makes The Rock's title shot so compelling.
Greatness in Small Doses
A workhorse-like John Cena is ever-present. In 2012, he fought in the main event of nine of WWE's pay-per-views. Even if you're a huge Cena fan, it's not anything special to see him at the top of a card.
It's human nature to underappreciate things when they're available and around all the time.
The Rock's absence has heightened fans' adoration for him.
Check out the thunderous response the Portland fans gave him when he appeared on a February 2012 episode of Raw. Compare that to the tepid welcome he got back in 2003 on Raw in a match vs. Jeff Hardy.
WWE fans are clearly thrilled to have The Great One back even if it's just part-time.
When he was in the heart of his long feud with Steve Austin, it felt like the two of them would battle on forever. Now Rock's appearances are strikingly finite.
Rumors have already circulated about who The Rock will face at WrestleMania 29, but even if he wins the WWE title, how likely is it that he'll perform at No Way Out or Over the Limit?
WWE has shown that it is going to pick its spots with him. In a span of over a year from Survivor Series 2011 to now, The Rock only saw full matches at two events. That pattern is likely to continue in 2013.
That makes every Rock match a far more special occasion. It makes every battle a historic one.
CM Punk Attempts to Fend Off a Legend
The Rock's probable opponent cranks up the enticement level of the Royal Rumble main event.
While it's not official that CM Punk will face The Rock come Jan. 27, they'd be foolish to pass up the opportunity for a match with this much potential. Ryback vs. The Rock isn't not even close.
So often, the Royal Rumble WWE title match is a throwaway affair. The company's biggest stars are often busy competing in the Royal Rumble battle royal, leading to championship matches like Scott Steiner vs. Triple H in 2003 and Hardcore Holly vs. Brock Lesnar in 2004.
The Brahma Bull is no Scott Steiner. Punk is no Hardcore Holly.
The Best in the World going one on one with The Great One pits two fantastic mic workers and two producers of big matches. The promos leading up to the Rumble should be world class.
One of the most interesting elements of their impending faceoff is that Punk has so much to prove.
Even with the gold around his waist for over a year, Punk was not a part of all that many main events in 2012. John Cena and Brock Lesnar were given that role for Extreme Rules. The same goes for Cena and John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit, and Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania 28.
The conclusion one can draw is that WWE doesn't trust Punk to be "the man."
His encounter with The Rock may help to change the company's mind. CM Punk will either look like he doesn't belong on the same stage as The Great One or will prove that he is elite.
That situation makes Rock vs. Punk much more impactful.
WWE's not going to let The Rock win the WWE Championship is it?
While it seems unlikely that a part-timer would be asked to carry the gold, it's not a slam dunk that CM Punk's reign will continue.
F4WOnline reported (via Wrestling.inc.com) that "The Rock has been under the impression for some time that he would be the one to end Punk's reign at the Royal Rumble."
The Rock presumably has sway with Vince McMahon and Co., but would WWE really put the title on him in spite of his limited schedule? Could WWE really continue Punk’s title reign past its already historic length?
Those questions elevate the Royal Rumble match to another level.
While some outcomes are pretty darn easy to predict, Rock vs. Punk's a tougher one to call. While Punk is clearly the favorite as the current champion and the only one of the two available all year, it's hard to imagine The Rock agreeing to lose to Punk.
Perhaps he puts over The Best in the World, perhaps he demands another run with the WWE title.
At last year's Royal Rumble, few fans thought that Dolph Ziggler would beat Punk. Royal Rumble 2013's WWE championship match is far more intriguing.
The Rock's presence changes the dynamic of the event.
There will be another Rumble winner who earns a WrestleMania title shot, but there will also be another appearance by one of the industry's biggest legends in a match that throbs with unpredictability.
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