WWE Champion, The Rock will main event WrestleMania XXIX this April, but most fans expect him to take a long leave of absence after that. It appears as though that is far from guaranteed, however, as The Rock is currently being advertised for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in St. Louis on May 19.
According to the WWE's Facebook page, The Rock will be present, as will the usual cast of characters. He is listed as WWE Champion, which may cause some fans to jump to the conclusion that he'll retain the title at WrestleMania, but his status is obviously subject to change. The fact that he is being advertised for Extreme Rules, though, means that he'll likely compete regardless of whether he's champion or not.
It is still unclear who he'll be facing at WrestleMania, although the logical answer is John Cena. There is obviously a chance that CM Punk will get involved to make it a triple threat, but I still believe that Punk is earmarked to face The Undertaker. If The Rock and Cena do go one-on-one for the second consecutive year at WrestleMania, then the clear outcome is Cena getting revenge by beating The Rock after losing to him at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Assuming that happens, the expectation is that The Rock will take a leave of absence to continue filming movies and then return later in the year or early next year. From a storyline perspective, however, The Rock would be entitled to a rematch. The WWE could ignore that and allow The Rock to be on his way, but if The Rock is willing to have his rematch at Extreme Rules and an agreement is in place, then it makes perfect sense for it to happen.
If Cena does beat The Rock, then the series will be tied at one. Rather than saving a third match between them for WrestleMania XXX, the WWE would be much better off staging the rubber match at Extreme Rules. There are a lot of fans out there who want to see The Rock vs. Cena II, but I can't imagine that there would be widespread support for The Rock vs. Cena III if it takes place at 'Mania. I have no problem with this year's rematch, but a WrestleMania trilogy would absolutely be overkill.
Some will argue that such a big deciding bout should be saved for a major pay-per-view like SummerSlam, Survivor Series or Royal Rumble if it doesn't happen at WrestleMania, but I feel differently. Obviously a Rock vs. Cena match is going to draw big buys regardless of when it happens, so why not hold it at an event that generally doesn't do huge numbers?
Last year was an exception as the WWE really committed to making Extreme Rules a great show. There were a handful of WrestleMania rematches, but most importantly the main event was Cena vs. Brock Lesnar. It was Lesnar's first match back in the WWE after several years away and Extreme Rules ended up being the best show of the year in the minds of many, including my own.
Extreme Rules may not be a "Big Four" pay-per-view in name, but there is absolutely no doubt that it's important. There is generally a drop off in quality following WrestleMania as the storylines are less intense and any part-time guys usually take a leave of absence. The WWE was able to compensate for that last year by having Lesnar wrestle and it can do the same if The Rock sticks around this year.
I also love the fact that the Extreme Rules banner gives the WWE a reason to add a stipulation to a third Rock vs. Cena match. Having another normal singles match would be a bit repetitive, but making it an Extreme Rules match, a Street Fight or something of that nature would spice things up. It would also leave open the possibility for some shenanigans.
Since Elimination Chamber I have said on numerous occasions that Ryback should turn heel and join The Shield. The losses are piling up for him, he walked out on Cena and Sheamus at the pay-per-view and he got in Sheamus' face the next night on Raw. Something is obviously happening with Ryback and I expect his frustrations to boil over.
Perhaps he'll lose to The Shield in a match of some kind at WrestleMania and it will lead to him joining forces with them as he comes to the realization that he can't overcome them. Ryback and The Shield can crash the Cena vs. Rock match at Extreme Rules and place Cena on top of The Rock. Cena would retain the title and Ryback would naturally be next in line for a title shot with The Shield backing him.
If The Rock does wrestle at Extreme Rules as it appears he will, there are a ton of options for the WWE moving forward. WrestleMania is obviously in a class of its own, but an Extreme Rules card potentially featuring Rock vs. Cena III and Punk vs. Lesnar, which is a feud that has been bandied about, would almost be like an extension of 'Mania.
The Rock will always have his detractors; however, he deserves a lot of praise if he hangs around past WrestleMania. The Rock has a lot of other ventures going on currently and is perfectly entitled to leave whenever he wants. At the same time, I have no doubt that The Rock is continuing to wrestle due to a love for the business and in an effort to help the WWE thrive.
WrestleMania XXIX is going to be a huge event and it promises to satisfy fans across the board. There is usually an inevitable hangover afterwards, but the WWE will absolutely eliminate that feeling if it has in fact managed to lock in The Rock for Extreme Rules.