The Rock and CM Punk did battle in one of the most highly anticipated matches in recent memory at the Royal Rumble with The Rock ending Punk's 434-day reign to become the new WWE Champion.
They will lock horns again at Elimination Chamber, however, and I believe they can top their previous encounter.
I had high expectations for The Rock and Punk at the Rumble, and while some fans came away disappointed, I was satisfied with their showing. It had a big-match feeling, and the energy surrounding it was palpable. In addition to that, both The Rock and Punk worked hard in the ring and sold the importance of the encounter.
I've heard a lot of fans say that The Rock "blew up" 10 minutes into the match, but I didn't see it that way at all. In fact, The Rock was noticeably better in terms of stamina than he was against John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Punk controlled the pace of the match for the most part, but seeing as he's one of the best in-ring workers in the WWE, he does that against everyone he faces.
The Rock acquitted himself well, and I had no issue with his performance. I'm more sympathetic to those who thought the ending was muddled and overbooked, though.
Punk initially won the match as the lights went out and The Shield triple powerbombed The Rock through the announcers' table. Vince McMahon was prepared to strip Punk of the title, but The Rock demanded that the match be restarted and he eventually won with a People's Elbow.
Since The Shield weren't in the Rumble match and didn't interfere in any other matches, it was obvious that they would get involved in some way. I don't believe it detracted from the match at all, especially since The Shield had been helping Punk for months.
Also, the fact that Punk won at first only for Vince to overturn the decision was more beneficial to Punk than if he had lost cleanly. Even though he received help from The Shield, he did technically pin The Rock and win the match. It allowed him to have a legitimate gripe and did his reign more justice than losing straight up would have.
With all of that said, it's possible for them to improve at Elimination Chamber. The good thing about their upcoming match is that the pressure is off them for the most part.
Their bout at the Royal Rumble was touted for months, but Elimination will only have three weeks of build. Expectations will be tempered this time around, so it should be easy for The Rock and Punk to exceed them.
The one thing that is against them is the fact that The Rock is a virtual lock to win.
There was at least some doubt at the Rumble since some people thought that The Rock might lose there and win at Elimination Chamber, but that didn't come to fruition. It appears as though all systems are go for The Rock vs. John Cena II at WrestleMania this year with the added allure of the WWE Championship.
I suppose it's still possible that Punk could win in order to set up a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania, but with so much talk about Punk potentially facing The Undertaker on the grandest stage of them all, the Triple Threat scenario seems unlikely. Even so, the manner in which the match will play out remains unpredictable.
The Rock could win cleanly, which a lot of fans wanted to see at the Royal Rumble, or there could be another run-in.
The Shield are still an option, but with Brock Lesnar's return, perhaps he will be involved as well. Cena could always play a role as well. He has a vested interest in the match since he'll face the winner at WrestleMania.
No matter how likely it is that The Rock will win, he can win in a multitude of ways, which should contribute to the excitement of the match.
The Rock and Punk also now know what they can expect out of each other from a wrestling standpoint, so the in-ring chemistry should be even better this time around. The Rock was able to get a feel for Punk's pace, and he'll be better prepared to keep up as well.
Ultimately, it will be difficult for The Rock and Punk to replicate the feeling of importance of their Royal Rumble match, but they can improve from a technical standpoint and the booking can get better as well.
I'm looking forward to Elimination Chamber and have no doubt that The Rock and Punk will once again blow the roof off the building.