|By Atlee Greene
The Rock made his in ring return, last night, at The Royal Rumble, and laid the smackdown on CM Punk to become the new WWE Champion. The Rock was granted the title shot on the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw back on July 23rd, 2012. The same evening, CM Punk hit The Rock with a cheap shot clothesline which was the genesis of his heel turn. (Becoming a bad guy)
CM Punk was the longest regaining WWE Champion of the modern era by holding the title for 434 days. Punk is a highly respected in the industry and is that rare breed of a wrestler who can talk the talk and walk the walk.
The finish came where the trio known as The Shield power bombed Rock through a table while the lights were off in the arena. This blackout was meant as cover so Punk wouldn’t be stripped of the title which was an edict sent down from WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon, last Monday on Raw.
Punk pinned The Rock and McMahon immediately came out to strip Punk of the title but before he could, a beaten and battered Rock grabbed the microphone and called for the match to be restarted.
McMahon agreed and Rock took advantage of an angry CM Punk and nailed him with a spine buster and followed up with the people’s elbow for the 1-2-3.
This is the Rock’s 8th WWE championship victory and the first time he has held the title in over ten years where he lost the title to Brock Lesnar in 2002.
This sets the stage for Cena vs. Rock II at WrestleMania 29 on 4/7/13. Their first encounter at last year’s WrestleMania was the highest drawing North American wrestling event of all time. The rematch is expected to exceed that mark.
Other action on the night saw Alberto Del Rio successfully defend the World Heavyweight Championship, in a Last Man Standing Match against the seven foot tall, 500 lbs. Big Show. Bret “Hitman” Hart endorsed Del Rio before the match and called him the “Mexican Bret Hart.”
Team Hell No, the anger management duo of Kane and Daniel Bryan defeated Team Rhodes Scholars to retain the WWE Tag Team titles and Swiss rugby star, Antonio Cesaro neutralized The Miz to retain the United States championship.
The Royal Rumble emanated from the U.S. Airways arena in Phoenix, Arizona in front of a sold out crowd of over 15,000 screaming fans.