When The Rock defeated CM Punk for the Championship at the Royal Rumble, most believed that it was the prelude to The Rock vs. John Cena II at WrestleMania XXIX. With The Rock retaining his title against Punk at Elimination Chamber, it is essentially guaranteed at this point.
There were mixed feelings about The Rock's win over Punk at Royal Rumble, but it was apparent from the start that he would come out on top. Also, many fans were critical of how the match itself played out. I enjoyed the atmosphere and thought that both The Rock and Punk performed well. Because of that, I was excited to see what they could do at Elimination Chamber.
The main thing that set Elimination Chamber apart from the Royal Rumble aside from the fact that The Rock entered the match as champion was an added stipulation. Paul Heyman somehow got Vince McMahon to agree to a stipulation that stated Punk would become WWE champion in the event that The Rock got disqualified or counted out.
I was perplexed when Vince accepted Heyman's proposal so quickly, particularly because Brock Lesnar attacked him a couple weeks earlier.
The only explanation I could think of was a situation in which McMahon outfoxed Heyman. Perhaps Heyman could have paid off The Shield to attack Punk and make him champion only for McMahon to outbid him. That didn't come to fruition, though, as the Elimination Chamber main event was anticlimactic in a lot of ways.
Many wrestling fans were waiting for The Shield, Lesnar, Brad Maddox or anyone else to get involved, but it didn't happen. The only controversy stemmed from a referee bump that resulted in Mike Chioda being incapacitated. Punk hit a GTS soon after, but there was no official present to make the count.
Another referee replaced Chioda, but he took a bump as well and put the match in question once again.
With no referees in working condition, Punk attempted to hit The Rock with the WWE Championship. Heyman held The Rock against the ropes, but The Rock moved out of the way and Heyman was annihilated instead. The Rock followed that up with a Rock Bottom and Chioda recovered in time to make the count, resulting in The Rock retaining the WWE's grandest prize.
Lack of drama aside, The Rock and Punk proved to have good in-ring chemistry yet again and their encounter was certainly main-event worthy. With their feud officially coming to an end, however, both of them will have to move on to greener pastures over the next two months as the Road to WrestleMania officially commences on Monday night.
As I already touched on, The Rock vs. Cena is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point.
When The Rock beat Cena at WrestleMania last year, it was already apparent that a rematch was likely in the works. Despite the "once in a lifetime" tagline, The Rock and Cena will do battle on wrestling's biggest stage twice. McMahon knows a big opportunity when he sees one, and he won't let another bout between The Rock and Cena go by the wayside.
Both the build to their match last year and the match itself were much maligned, but The Rock and Cena are two of the biggest stars professional wrestling has ever seen, so I'm confident that they will take what they learned last year and apply it to their resurrected feud. Even if they don't for whatever reason, there are enough casual fans who will be intrigued that it won't hurt the WWE economically.
The far more interesting and unpredictable situation involves Punk. After a 434-day reign with the WWE Championship, it's almost shocking to see him without the title around his waist. Over the course of Punk's run with the belt, he feuded with essentially every top star in the company. That leaves him in a tough position, as there aren't many options for him as far as WrestleMania matches go.
There was some hope for a triple-threat match against The Rock and Cena at WrestleMania, but that scenario would have required Punk to beat The Rock at Elimination Chamber. Had he done that, The Rock would have been entitled to a rematch, and Cena's guaranteed WWE Championship match by virtue of his Royal Rumble victory would have remained intact as well.
The logical step then would have been a triple threat.
Punk now has no clout in terms of earning another title match, though, so he'll have to look elsewhere. There has been a ton of chatter regarding The Undertaker's availability for WrestleMania XXIX at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., but I have absolutely no doubt that he will be Punk's opponent and will put his incredible 20-0 'Mania streak on the line.
I've seen the reports from dirt sheets, wrestling news sites and fans alike about Taker's health. I have also maintained throughout this process that such reports were little more than scare tactics to drive traffic.
I'm obviously aware that things can change at the drop of a hat in the wrestling business, but if The Undertaker doesn't face Punk at WrestleMania, then I'll be absolutely shocked.
I realize that The Undertaker is 47 years old and may not have many matches left, but he is the very essence of WrestleMania, and I'm sure he realizes that.
The WWE doesn't ask much of him outside of one match per year, and I have to believe that he is willing and able to give the company that at the very least. Besides, it isn't as if the WWE wants to have Taker face a stiff. Punk is en route to becoming an all-time great, and a WrestleMania bout with The Undertaker could go down as one of the best matches in 'Mania history.
Punk has his detractors just like every top star does, but it's tough to ignore what he has accomplished since the start of his WWE Championship reign. Punk has had countless fantastic rivalries and matches, he has operated as both a top face and a top heel and he has developed into the WWE's No. 2 draw behind Cena in terms of full-time wrestlers.
Because of all that, Punk undoubtedly deserves a high-profile match against The Phenom.
Even if The Rock vs. Punk didn't play out with as much shock value has some hoped, having The Rock retain was the right decision as it sets up two humongous, main-event-caliber matches at WrestleMania. The Rock vs. Cena II is already in place, and it's only a matter of time before the same is true of Punk vs. Taker.
You can't please everyone in the world of professional wrestling; however, the WWE stands to make a lot of money and captivate the majority of its audience over the next two months.