There is no denying that The Rock is one of the most impressive physical specimens to ever step foot in a WWE ring.
Despite that, there is some concern regarding his ability to go shot-for-shot with WWE Champion CM Punk at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock's conditioning was never a question mark when he was a full-time WWE superstar, but it's fair to wonder if he can effectively wrestle a half-hour match in his current condition. Although his match with John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII was solid, it fell short of the expectations that many fans had for it.
One of the reasons was that The Rock struggled to keep his wind throughout the contest.
While The Rock had wrestled at Survivor Series in anticipation of his WrestleMania match, it was a tag-team bout, and Cena carried much of the load for him. He came away from that event looking good, but he wasn't really tested.
The big stage of WrestleMania against Cena is where The Rock truly needed to shine, and although I wouldn't say that he embarrassed himself or even performed poorly, it was easy to tell that he hadn't wrestled a singles match in eight years.
It is important to note, however, that The Rock did suffer an injury during his match with Cena. According to WrestlingInc.com, The Rock revealed that he tore his right hamstring when Cena performed his signature top-rope Fameasser, but he still managed to finish the match.
That likely contributed to his struggles in a major way, although the fact that there were so many rest holds pointed that he was tired as well.
Now that The Rock knows his limitations, though, he is better prepared to have a great match with Punk at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock never really had to pace himself back in his younger days, but it's a different story now. The Rock also has a much different body type, as he's noticeably more muscular than he used to be. That can lead to more lactic acid buildup and shorter bursts of energy, so The Rock has to take that into account.
The best news for The Rock is that even if he struggles to regain his previous form in terms of stamina, he'll be working against one of the best in-ring performers in the business. Punk almost always rises to the occasion in big matches, and it's safe to say that his match against The Rock at the Royal Rumble will be the most important of his burgeoning career.
If Punk is forced to carry the match for whatever reason, he is perfectly capable of doing so. His match against Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 is considered by most to be the best match he has ever had in WWE, and even though Cena is a better worker than he is given credit for, there is no question that Punk was the one who made that match go and made it as successful as it ultimately was.
The Rock is a veteran who has stepped into the squared circle countless times over the years, so I have no doubt that he'll rebound and top what he did at WrestleMania. The Rock didn't really have any idea what he was getting himself into at WrestleMania XXVIII until the match really got going, but he was able to knock off the ring rust if nothing else, and he'll be much better for it.
Will The Rock be better prepared for his Royal Rumble match?
Also, if the plans truly are for The Rock to win the WWE Championship as many have speculated, he's probably much better prepared for this match. The Rock entered the match against Cena knowing that he was going to be one-and-done, so perhaps he didn't get ready the same way he used to when he was an active, full-time competitor.
If The Rock wins at the Royal Rumble, though, he'll more than likely have to compete in a physically-demanding Elimination Chamber match and at WrestleMania as well, so he's going to be in for somewhat of a grind compared to what he has gotten used to over the past decade.
There is no denying that The Rock is physically fit. In fact, he's probably in better shape than he has been in his entire life. There's a difference between being in great shape and being in wrestling shape, though.
Punk has a very slight and even scrawny frame, so most people without previous knowledge wouldn't even know that he's a professional wrestler.
Despite that, Punk can wrestle a 60-minute match without much issue, because he has tailored his training to be able to do just that. The Rock's training since leaving wrestling has been about transforming himself for movie roles, but now that he is back in the WWE on a semi-regular basis, I'm confident that his Rumble performance will be leaps and bounds better.