There must have been hundreds of thousands of words spilled about CM Punk and The Rock's interaction last Monday (Jan. 7). Fans arguing with each other about what it all meant. Was it good? Was it great? Who emerged looking better? Did Punk take the easy way out by shooting on Rocky, or was he using reality to create a more interesting character? Was The Rock pandering to the crowd by using overplayed catchphrases, or was he simply doing what he's done his entire career? Can the two keep up the intensity for the next few weeks?
What does it all mean for their match at Royal Rumble on Jan. 27?
This excitement around the product is something I haven't felt in a while. Fans are talking about it, analyzing it, wanting to know what happens next. They have become emotionally invested in both characters, a fact we did not see a year ago. John Cena may be the more popular WWE Superstar in this era.
Punk, though, is just a far better foil for The Rock to work with.
Both men have a natural charisma that is infectious. Both were the leaders of heel stables, The Rock with The Nation of Domination and Punk with Straight Edge Society (Punk also had a run with the New Nexus, but most fans seem to want to forget that happened). Both would do their best work as bad guys, but the fans refusal to quit cheering forced them into stints as good guys. Neither were really considered the "top star" for most of their career, although Rocky did have a brief window while Stone Cold Steve Austin was out of commission.
These are both men who have worked their asses off to be the best, and neither takes it for granted.
However, there is a single, major difference between them. All Punk knows is pro wrestling. He's not an actor or even a sports entertainer. The man is a pro wrestler, through and through. As much as he says he will retire soon, I don't know how he will keep himself busy. He's been in the ring since he was a teenager. That experience has molded Punk into the amazing wrestler we see today.
On the other side is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. A man who has risen above and beyond pro wrestling. He is a bona fide Hollywood star, one of the best in the business to have on the flashing marquee. He left WWE, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. He set out to prove to himself, and his fans, that he is more than a stunning smile, an arching eyebrow, and a never-ending set of catchphrases.
He is a man with a stunning smile, an arching eyebrow, a never-ending set of catchphrases, and can get people to spend $112 Million dollars for the garbage that was The Tooth Fairy.
Punk is the man who may never leave. Rock is the man who left and is returning as a conquering hero. Punk -- both the character, and quite possibly the man himself -- hates the fans who fill arenas to see him. Rock shows his love to the men, women, and children who have made his success possible. The natural conflict between them has become immediately evident. Great conflict creates great spectacle.
And great spectacle creates entertainment.
The problem with Cena was that he is a sports entertainer to the core, and a boring one at that. "Never give up" is a fun battle cry, but only for so long. He has shown a complete lack of understanding on how to build up his opponents. The rest of the roster is so far below him that his knee-jerk reaction in any feud is simply to "bury" his opponents.
However, that option wasn't available when he was feuding with The Rock. So we got dumb segments such as notes written on Rocky's arm and little smirks when he was being berated. The pair was never on the same page, and the lack of chemistry was painfully obvious.
Imagine what Cena would do with the segment with Team Rhodes scholars? The Rock delivered in spades, answering Damien Sandow's questions with ease and precision. Cena would come out, either on SmackDown or the following Raw, and instead of congratulating Rock on his brilliant mind, he would say something along the lines of "You aren't as smart as everything thinks you are. I bet you were fed the answers backstage."
Don't try to tell me that's wrong, because you know damn well Cena would say that.
There was a sense of protection that Rock vs. Cena had. It felt like Rock had to hold back because he was simply better than Cena on the mic. That feeling doesn't exist when he is going up against Punk. They both are going to go full force at each other.
And it will be glorious to watch.
It will be a shame if the plan is for Rock and Cena to face off again at WrestleMania 29. We already saw that feud. There is simply not enough depth in it to go a second round. WrestleMania 28 was the most successful WrestleMania in the promotion's history, but how much of that was based on the "Once in a lifetime" gimmick? Will Rock vs. Cena II even begin to approach the same amount of success?
But it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. This right here, right now, is a great time to be a fan of WWE. CM Punk. The Rock. WWE Championship. We have two of the greatest talkers going head-to-head for the next few weeks.
I, for one, am going to enjoy the hell out of it.