After a lengthy hiatus from professional wrestling, The Rock's comeback has been a raging success. He cemented his status as the new face of World Wrestling Entertainment by beating perennial champ CM Punk in the 2013 Royal Rumble WWE Championship match.
The main event was halted and restarted due to interference—likely from The Shield, although it was hard to tell since the lights went out. Punk appeared to retain his belt, but CEO Vince McMahon and The Rock schemed to successfully start the match over.
Thereafter, the raucous US Airways Center crowd in Phoenix, Ariz., and plethora of pay-per-view customers had to indeed smell what The Rock was cooking.
That trademark People's Elbow was brought out once again, putting Punk down for the count and signaling The Rock's first championship since 2002, when he stood atop the World Wrestling Federation.
His previous title came in a three-man match against the Undertaker and Kurt Angle, and in beating CM Punk, The Rock will again be ushering in a new era for the WWE.
Some might argue that this result was rather predictable, given Punk's lengthy reign as the undisputed champion. Purists may criticize The Rock for holding the title belt so soon, since he's been absent for so long and officially returned in 2011.
That said, even detractors of The Rock as champion will generate even more buzz. There were few moves that would create more publicity than crowning The Rock as the premier babyface of the WWE.
McMahon and Co. had to have known that, and as popular as the sport is at the moment, the potential for growth and increased revenue exists with The Rock holding the title belt.
Oakland Athletics promising young pitcher Jarrod Parker certainly approved of the match's outcome, best summarized in this enthusiastic tweet:
Since he has established himself as a prominent action film star in his time away from wrestling, there is now an opportunity for The Rock to plug the WWE on promotional tours for his forthcoming films. That is absolutely huge for the sport's marketability.
Widely followed world football writer FourFourTom humorously referred to The Rock's other exploits in show business following the victory:
The Rock is the Scorpion King, he beat up 34585 bouncers in Walking Tall and he appeared in Hannah Montana. Only an idiot would fight him.— FourFourTom (@FourFourTom) January 28, 2013
And this is precisely what made The Rock worthy of being crowned WWE champion from a marketing standpoint. That is not to take anything away from CM Punk, who has been a captivating and outstanding face of pro wrestling for well over a year.
However, it is time for the torch to be passed, and at the Royal Rumble on Sunday evening, it indeed was—back to The Rock. Any fans who may have lost interest in the sport without The Rock may also be drawn back in in light of this massive triumph.
With WrestleMania XXIX looming in April, it is hard to imagine that The Rock won't walk into the event without the championship belt still firmly in his grasp. That should only intensify the anticipation for pro wrestling's biggest event.
Eyebrows may be raised at Sunday's result, but The Rock will continue raising his People's Eyebrow as he continues to enhance the popularity of the WWE.