Their first match at the "Royal Rumble" may have settled things for some, but not for The Rock and CM Punk. The issue of who is the rightful holder of the WWE Championship will continue to be ironed out at tomorrow's "Elimination Chamber" (Sun., Feb 17).
The Rock (c) vs CM Punk
At the Royal Rumble 2013 pay-per-view (PPV) last month, both the Best in the World and the Brahma Bull earned a three count over the other. But in the end, and with an assist from a ruling by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, Rocky walked out with the strap in hand. So why is Punk the one carrying it in to the rematch?
The Road to the Elimination Chamber
Fallout from the first contest was as expected.
The People's Champ took to twitter and appeared on Raw in Las Vegas to thank the millions (and MILLIONS) of members of Team Bring It for their support and to tell them that FINALLY The Rock was WWE Champion for the first time in more than ten years.
As a man who had held the title for longer than anyone in a quarter century, Punk was understandably apoplectic. His appearance at Raw Roulette started in a fit of indignant rage and ended by "granting" The Great One a rematch. An offer than The Rock readily accepted.
Hints that the Straight Edge Superstar had perhaps a different view of things than the WWE Universe and certainly than McMahon continued when the Chairman confronted Punk associate Paul Heyman. McMahon revealed video evidence implicating Heyman in a plot to compensate Brad Maddox and The Shield for their assistance in extending Punk's title reign. That night, and on nights to follow, Heyman and Punk would deny these allegations and even dispute that the person in the video was the former head of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
Matters were certainly complicated when fellow "Heyman Guy" Brock Lesnar made a surprise re-appearance to attack Mr. McMahon and, at least temporarily, save Paul's job.
For his part, Dwayne Johnson remained above the fray involving the various parties that may or may not be (dangerously) allied with the former champ and his manager. He has not addressed the Lesnar situation or sought out revenge against The Shield for their attacks on him preceding and during the Rumble match.
The Champ could not ignore a stipulation, announced by Heyman and allegedly placed by McMahon from the hospital where he is recovering from hip surgery precipitated by Lesnar's assault, on this Sunday's match. He did not seem overly phased by the condition of being able to lose his belt if he is counted out or disqualified, however.
If he was little more than bothered by the Second City Saint's attack and theft of the belt on this past Monday's Raw, the most electrifying man in sports and entertainment hasn't shown it. The former Miami Hurricane has promised his fans that at Elimination Chamber he will "Just Bring It".
Punk, on the other hand, did not hold the championship for 434 days by making the same mistake twice. A calculating and angry Best in the World should not be underestimated.
What's at Stake?
The belt, first and foremost. And all of the prestige and glory that goes along with it. Especially during Wrestlemania season.
Much of what happens at The Granddaddy of Them All and beyond will depend on the outcome of this match. John Cena awaits the victor.
A Rock victory will lead to a rematch of last year's main event, this time with the championship on the line. Punk emerging as champ would rekindle a feud that has been simmering for nearly two years without either man earning a decisive victory.
Several real and in-story variable are hovering around, as well. Will any of Paul Heyman's other associates and business partners become involved? Is Punk headed for a run-in with Undertaker and his Streak at Wrestlemania XXIX? Could involvement from Lesnar or The Shield lead to CM Punk and The Rock's conflict continuing beyond Sunday, with ramifications for one or both rumored 'Mania match-ups?
Both men are lightening rods for opinion across wrestling fandom - what do you think, Cagesiders? How will the rematch end, and what will be the impact on the near-term future of the most prestigious award in all of sports entertainment? Stick with Cageside Seats for the result, the aftermath and all the news and analysis you know and trust us for!