This past week was one of the busiest in recent memory for the WWE during the aftermath of the Royal Rumble. Not only were there two huge winners at the event itself, but a pair of big-time stars returned to the fold this week as well, so the WWE managed to generate a ton of interest in the product.
It's difficult to pinpoint the biggest news of the week, but the most recent is Brock Lesnar's return to WWE programming. Lesnar had been gone since the night after SummerSlam, but he announced his comeback in a major way as he delivered a thunderous F-5 to Vince McMahon and broke the chairman's pelvis, according to the storyline.
Chris Jericho made his return as well, but he did it as the No. 2 entrant in the Royal Rumble match, much to the surprise of everyone. In addition to that, John Cena won the Rumble, much to the surprise of nobody, and The Rock managed to defeat CM Punk and end his 434-day reign as WWE champion.
When you add all of that to the fact that Elimination Chamber is just a couple weeks away and WrestleMania is now less than 70 days away, there is no question that the WWE is kicking things into overdrive as it tries to pique the interest of fans everywhere.
Keep reading for analysis on all of the latest WWE news and rumors for the week beginning on Jan. 27.
Brock Lesnar hadn't been seen in a WWE ring since he "quit" the company the night after SummerSlam. Lesnar had defeated Triple H and seemingly broke his spirit, so he declared that he had nothing left to prove as a professional wrestler.
Despite that, fans are well aware that he is under contract through WrestleMania XXIX, so most knew that it was only a matter of time before he made his return.
The long wait came to an end on Monday, as Lesnar interrupted Vince McMahon's performance review of Paul Heyman. It was revealed that Heyman had indeed paid off The Shield and Brad Maddox to help CM Punk retain his WWE Championship on numerous occasions, and McMahon was prepared to fire him, but Lesnar intervened. He stared down Vince, and while both Heyman and McMahon attempted to persuade Lesnar to calm down, he hit Vince with a monstrous F-5 to close the show.
I've never been a big fan of Lesnar, but I can't deny the fact that he brings in ratings and provides a big-time atmosphere. The WWE is giving him a lot of money for the betterment of the product, so it's definitely a good thing that he's back.
A lot of fans were growing impatient and even angry in regard to Lesnar's absence, but I have to believe that the WWE is quite cognizant of how many dates he has remaining on his initial contract, so Vince McMahon will ultimately get the most he possibly can out of Lesnar heading into WrestleMania.
The big question now relates to who Lesnar will face at WrestleMania.
A lot of people would love to see Lesnar vs. The Undertaker; however, it seems quite clear that a rematch with Triple H is on the horizon. Lesnar made things personal by attacking Triple H's father-in-law, so there is little doubt that Triple H will return to television in the near future. I enjoyed their first match and even though I'm not to keen on the myriad of rematches we're likely to see at WrestleMania, this one would make perfect sense from a storyline perspective.
When The Rock announced on the 1,000th episode of Raw this past summer that he would challenge the WWE champion at the Royal Rumble, most fans figured that he would ultimately prevail.
That feeling grew even stronger as the Rumble drew closer and it became abundantly clear that CM Punk would be his opponent. Some held out hope that Punk would win in order to make things a bit more interesting at Elimination Chamber, but The Rock managed to come out on top and end Punk's 434-reign atop the company.
The general audience seems to be thrilled by the decision, while most of the so-called "smarks" are up in arms. No matter what side of the fence you land on, though, there is no denying that the WWE's decision to put the WWE Championship on The Rock generated a reaction.
Now we are poised to see The Rock and Punk face off yet again, as they will do battle in the main event at Elimination Chamber with a chance to take on John Cena at WrestleMania on the line.
I consider myself to be a fan of both The Rock and CM Punk, so I entered the Royal Rumble feeling good about any potential result. Regardless of how things went down, The Rock was going to win the WWE Championship, whether he did it at the Rumble or at Elimination Chamber.
With that in mind, the WWE brass unquestionably made the correct business move. As much as I enjoyed Punk's incredible title reign, he doesn't have the mass appeal that The Rock does, so putting the belt on him was financially driven, but it was also sensible.
The Raw following the Royal Rumble brought in huge ratings, and that was purely due to the fact that The Rock won the WWE Championship the night before. Punk and The Rock would have had another match at Elimination Chamber no matter what, but having The Rock win the title now creates a bigger feel to every show.
People will inevitably complain about a "part-timer" holding professional wrestling's biggest prize, but he's going to drop it to Cena at WrestleMania anyway, so we might as well enjoy the ride.
Just like most fans realized that The Rock was bound to become the new WWE champion at the Royal Rumble, it was fairly obvious that John Cena would win the Rumble match itself.
There was a good amount of star power in the Royal Rumble, but there simply wasn't a sensible alternative to Cena. Nobody other than Cena, The Rock and possibly CM Punk will be involved in the WWE Championship picture at WrestleMania.
Also, with Dolph Ziggler holding the Money in the Bank contract, the World Heavyweight Championship scene doesn't have room for a new face, either.
That left Cena as the only choice, and he ultimately prevailed by last eliminating Ryback. The same fans who are upset about The Rock winning the WWE Championship were probably unimpressed with Cena's victory as well, but it all comes down to what the majority of fans want to see rather than the vocal minority.
I'm very critical of Cena due to the fact that I find his character stale, but that doesn't prevent me from recognizing his value to the WWE. No matter how many fans dislike Cena, there are millions more who love him, so he'll likely be the face of the company for as long as he decides to compete.
Also, whether the reactions are positive or negative, at least he receives a reaction of some kind each and every time he steps into the ring. That is what the WWE brass wants to see and that is why he'll be main-eventing WrestleMania yet again.
Unless the WWE pulls a slight swerve by involving Punk in the WWE Championship picture at WrestleMania, we're poised to see Cena vs. The Rock II, but this time the company's top prize will be on the line.
There were a lot of complaints about the build and subsequent match at WrestleMania XXVIII between them, but it was a box-office success and will be once again this year. The presence of the WWE Championship should make things even more interesting.
Although it's pretty clear that Cena will prevail this time, every casual wrestling fan on earth will be lining up see the match.
For all the predictability that the Royal Rumble offered, one of the most unpredictable moments in recent memory occurred when Chris Jericho shocked the WWE Universe by entering the Royal Rumble at No. 2.
There were tons of rumors floating around regarding potential Rumble surprises, but those names included Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Hurricane Helms, The Honky Tonk Man and others. A lot of fans hoped to see Jericho, but it wasn't reported anywhere, so the WWE somehow managed to keep it a secret.
It is nearly impossible to keep a secret in professional wrestling these days, so I'm extremely impressed with both Jericho and the WWE. His entrance was a reminder of why I and so many others love wrestling. It was an actual surprise, and those are few and far between with so many dirt sheets and news sites trying to one-up each other.
To make the moment even greater, Jericho lasted for nearly 50 minutes before being eliminated by Dolph Ziggler, and it is essentially guaranteed that he'll be around through WrestleMania, at the very least.
As someone who has enjoyed Jericho since his WCW days, I'm always thrilled to see him back in the fold. He is more interested in putting rising stars over than stroking his own ego, and while a lot of fans wish that he would be more selfish, I can't help but respect him. I could care less if he loses every match between now and WrestleMania because I'm thoroughly entertained by him in the ring and on the mic each and every time he comes back.
I was starting to get worried that we might not see Jericho since he's obviously busy with Fozzy, but he managed to pull the wool over our eyes yet again. In a day and age where everyone knows everything, Jericho is a master manipulator, and I mean that as a compliment.
It seems as though Jericho is going to continue his feud with Dolph Ziggler prior to WrestleMania, at the very least, but it's unclear if they'll have a match on the grandest stage of them all.
Ideally, Ziggler will win the World Heavyweight Championship prior to 'Mania and they'll have a title match. Perhaps it could even be a triple threat with Alberto Del Rio involved in order to spice things up even more.
Last week, it was announced that an Intercontinental Cup tournament would be held on Main Event, with the winner earning a shot at Wade Barrett's Intercontinental Championship. The taping came and went on Tuesday, but there was no sign of the Intercontinental Cup. Many fans were confused, but Wade Barrett explained things on Twitter by saying that he was able to negotiate the cancellation of the tourney.
It was an interesting move by the WWE because the tournament was advertised ahead of time, so that likely means a last-minute decision was made to nix it.
According to the commercial, Randy Orton, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Antonio Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes and Darren Young were set to take part in the Intercontinental Cup. As of now, however, the tournament has been put on the back burner and the WWE will proceed with a different storyline.
My best guess is that the WWE decided to call an audible in regard to the Intercontinental Cup either the day before the Royal Rumble or on the day of the Rumble itself.
Bo Dallas won a tournament to gain entry into the Rumble match on Saturday and he proceeded to last 21 minutes before being eliminated by Barrett. Dallas shockingly eliminated Barrett just before that, though, so the seeds were planted for a potential feud. Dallas then followed that up on Monday with a singles victory over Barrett. All signs now point to Barrett defending his IC title against Dallas at Elimination Chamber.
As much as I enjoy tournaments, I'm not particularly upset that the WWE canceled this one. Had the tourney had logical participants, then that would have been one thing, but none of the advertised entrants for the tournament made sense. A heel wasn't going to win, Orton is going after the world title, The Miz is tied up with Cesaro and Barrett just beat Kofi.
Putting Dallas in the tournament and allowing him to win could have worked, but that obviously wasn't the plan. Whatever the case, I'm interested in the Barrett vs. Dallas feud and am more than happy to watch it play out.