For the first time since the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw, The Rock will make a live appearance on WWE programming. Most fans are extremely excited and can't wait to see what role The Rock plays, but whatever he does, it is sure to have a major impact on the company's landscape moving forward.
The Rock first announced that he would face the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble the last time he appeared, and it was clear at that time that the only viable options to contest him were CM Punk and John Cena. Punk attacked Punk to close the show, and Cena had faced him at WrestleMania a few months earlier, so both of the have some history with The Great One.
Many more months have passed since Raw 1,000, and Punk is incredibly still in possession of the WWE Championship. He has been unable to compete as of late due to a knee injury, but he is supposedly ready to return to the ring and will face Ryback in a TLC match with his title on the line on Monday.
The Rock's return is still the big story, but there is no question that Punk vs. Ryback is going to steal some of the spotlight if it happens as scheduled. At the same time, The Rock will have a vested interest in the match as the winner promises to be his opponent at the upcoming Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
It remains to be seen what The Rock will do on Raw, and in the following weeks and months, but he has been very vocal about his role as of late. According to ProWrestling.net, The Rock said that he would headline WrestleMania XXIX against someone who he "can't say right now." Also, The Rock said his WrestleMania storyline would start with something big on Monday.
Perhaps, The Rock will be involved in something huge on Raw as has been rumored, but it seems to me like The Rock was simply trying to drum up interest in Raw, Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. There is no doubt that The Rock will be quite visible on Monday, but I don't anticipate anything groundbreaking happening as far as he's concerned.
Everyone realizes that it will be The Rock vs. Punk at the Rumble and Raw figures to be about reigniting that rivalry. The Rock made it sound like Raw would mark the beginning of his WrestleMania feud, and that may be the case, but only if the plan is for him to face Punk, or perhaps, Punk and John Cena in a triple-threat match.
The Rock's true purpose on Monday will be to hype his WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble. With that in mind, it seems like a pretty good bet that he'll open the show by cutting a promo.
He'll eventually be interrupted by Punk, and then, Ryback will come to the ring as well. The Rock will have a stare-down with each of them in order to create some anticipation, but there won't be any physical contact.
In addition to that, The Rock will probably be at ringside, or perhaps, even on commentary for the WWE Championship match. Punk is a lock to retain if the match actually happens, but it's clear that he won't win the match cleanly. That would damage Ryback's reputation, and there is absolutely no chance that we'll be seeing Ryback vs. The Rock.
There are quite a few possibilities when it comes to potential interference, but my prediction remains Brock Lesnar. He hasn't been talked about a lot lately as he has been out of the picture since SummerSlam, and most rumors surrounding him involve a rematch against Triple H at WrestleMania.
If the WWE wants to get a bit more creative, though, Lesnar will get involved in the Punk vs. Ryback match.
As that is happening, I can also see The Shield attacking The Rock on the outside. Having The Shield interfere in the match itself would be too predictable as they have already screwed Ryback on several occasions, but having them focus their attention on The Rock would be something different, and it would be sensible as well.
If The Shield's true goal is to stop injustice in the WWE, then The Rock would be a prime target as he is being given a WWE Championship opportunity, despite the fact that he's a part-time performer. Neither The Shield nor Punk have admitted to working together, but this scenario would make The Shield and Lesnar possible aces up Punk's sleeve at the Royal Rumble.
Since most believe that The Rock is almost a sure bet to win the WWE Championship and end Punk's 400-plus-day reign atop the company, the WWE has to do everything it can to stack the odds against him. Involved The Shield is an obvious move as The Rock would then have a lot more to contend with than just Punk.
There is no question that The Rock's return on Raw will be exciting and important with regard to the road to WrestleMania, but don't expect anything too crazy. Punk will probably stand tall with The Rock getting laid out by The Shield in order to make Punk look like the favorite heading into the Royal Rumble.
The Rock won't exactly be overshadowed on Raw, but it's important to make Punk look good in order to set up a competitive match. The Rock is definitely going to get his licks in over the next couple weeks, however; his WWE return is going to be spoiled in all likelihood.