Attitude Era original Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will compete in his first World Title match in more than a decade when he challenges WWE Champion CM Punk, the longest-reigning WWE Title holder of the past quarter-century, at Royal Rumble on Jan. 27.

Though outside interference by The Shield in several of The Straight Edge Savior's recent WWE Title defenses has prompted speculation the triumvirate will rear its collective head this Sunday, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon has taken steps to discourage such interruption. On the Jan. 21 edition of Raw, Mr. McMahon added the stipulation that if The Shield interferes in the match, Punk will be stripped of his title! ( WATCH)

The new stipulation only adds to the excitement of the match, which the WWE Universe has anxiously awaited since The Rock announced the championship opportunity on Raw 1,000 last July. ( WATCH) Though there was no guarantee at the time whom The Rock’s opponent would be, the always-confident Punk fired an opening salvo that night, cutting down The Rock with a clothesline before knocking him out with a picture-perfect Go to Sleep. The following week, The Voice of the Voiceless defended his actions by suggesting The Great One, having been “gifted” a WWE Title match, viewed victory at the Royal Rumble as a foregone conclusion.

Whether a real or perceived slight, the implication that The Rock places himself on a higher plane than the current WWE Champion was seemingly all the motivation Punk needed to make sure he would still have the title on Jan. 27.

In the half-year since Raw 1,000, The Second City Saint stunned WWE fans by aligning with Paul Heyman and ratcheting up the vitriol of his speech. More important than either of those details, he has — by hook or by crook — maintained possession of the championship gold. Having turned back challenges by John Cena and Ryback in recent months, The Best in the World now looks ahead to testing himself against the seven-time former WWE Champion who vowed in 2012 to regain the title.

For The Rock, an A-list Hollywood action star and third-generation Superstar who has sports-entertainment coursing through his veins, the Royal Rumble title match represents the start of a potential career renaissance inside the ring. Since March 2004, The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment has competed in only two sanctioned WWE matches, teaming with John Cena to shred The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth) at Survivor Series 2011 and overcoming the Cenation leader at WrestleMania XXVIII.

But by vying for the most treasured prize in sports-entertainment, The Rock is committing to more than another appearance as a “special attraction.” Rather, he is setting his eyes on again becoming WWE’s gold standard.

Hell-bent though The Rock may be on introducing a new generation of WWE fans to The People’s Champion, there is no discounting Punk’s deftness once the bell rings. Controversial endings to several high-profile title defenses may have tarnished The Second City Saint’s reputation in the eyes of some critics, but they have done nothing to change the fact the WWE Championship still sits around his waist. Before his seedier side came into focus in late summer, Punk spent much of 2012 disposing of WWE’s best and brightest, ranging from Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan to Dolph Ziggler and Kane. How will The Rock, one of the pillars of The Attitude Era, match up to the WWE Champion — especially if Punk has The Shield in his pocket, as some suggest?

As the WWE Universe excitedly counts down the days until Jan. 27, the back-and-forth between two of WWE’s most compelling talkers is bound to pick up steam. It will not be until the Royal Rumble, however, that the trash talk gives way to the gravity of a game-changing WWE Championship bout, the likes of which hasn’t seen in years. Will Royal Rumble mark the rebirth of a championship Brahma Bull, or will it only underscore what Punk has claimed all along, that he is untouchable and in a class by himself? ( HOW TO WATCH)

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

PHOENIX — Royal Rumble was not just day No. 434 of CM Punk’s historic WWE Title reign. It was also the end of his self-described “life’s work.” ( VIEW PHOTOS)

With his mother, Ata Johnson, in attendance, The Rock fulfilled his promise of dethroning The Straight Edge Savior in Phoenix and reclaiming the championship he last held August 2002. But thanks to an alleged attack that transpired under the veil of darkness and seemingly had The Shield’s fingerprints all over it, The Great One’s eighth WWE Championship victory very nearly didn’t come to fruition.

Nearly 20 minutes into highly physical championship contest, which saw the tide swing repeatedly and both competitors target each others’ well-documented injuries, The Rock signaled for his patented People’s Elbow. As The Brahma Bull sprang off the ropes, however, the lights of US Airways Center went out and moments later, the familiar sound of a body crashing through the commentators’ desk echoed throughout the arena.

With the WWE Universe and, more importantly, referee Michael Chioda unable to discern what happened, Michael Cole informed the pay-per-view audience at home that The Shield had perpetrated the assault, hitting their signature Triple Powerbomb. Power was restored quickly, but by then, the only thing that was clear was The Rock sprawled over the remnants of the broken announce desk. With none of the three Shield members anywhere in sight, a grinning Punk dragged The Rock’s limp body into the ring, where Chioda counted a pinfall.

As The Straight Edge Savior and Paul Heyman began celebrating, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon emerged on the scene to remind Punk of his order that any involvement by The Shield would result in his being stripped of the title. But before the WWE Chairman could make good on his vow, an exhausted Rock cut Mr. McMahon off and demanded the match be restarted.

“You don’t take it from him,” he said, leaning tiredly against the ring barriers ringside. “I am. Restart the match now.”

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

Long before the match had a reason to be restarted, however, the US Airways Center was already abuzz with the kind of big-fight excitement that is rare to come by. Punk oozed confidence from the outset, hoisting his pride and joy, the WWE Title gold, overhead during the pre-match introductions, while The Rock, brimming with intensity, bounced from foot to foot. As soon as the bell rang, the champion and challenger raged toward each other and traded blows, before the brawl rolled to the floor.

To the sound of dueling chants — “Let’s go, Rocky,” alternating with “CM Punk” — The Great One and The Best in the World smashed each other into the Spanish announce table before Punk was able to take control by working over The Rock’s midsection, exploiting internal injuries he sustained from The Shield’s ambush on Raw last Monday. A consummate ring general, Punk suplexed The Rock ribs-first onto the ring barrier, as well as over the top rope.

After springing into a dropkick that sent The Rock flying off the apron, though, the WWE Champion came up favoring his left leg, the same limb for which he underwent emergency surgery in December. Throwing caution to the wind, The Voice of the Voiceless nonetheless dove from the top rope to the floor, tackling The Rock and worsening his own knee in the process.

It didn’t take long for The Great One — WWE’s first third-generation Superstar, who JBL described as having sports entertainment “in his blood” — to detect the weakness and strike. He seamlessly reversed a Go To Sleep attempt by Punk into a Sharpshooter, but The Second City Saint deftly countered with the Anaconda Vise.

A series of reversals later, and The Rock again had the upper hand, clotheslining Punk on the floor and attempting a Rock Bottom through the Spanish announce table, only for it to first collapse under the weight and both Superstars to fall to the floor in a painful pileup.

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

In a gutsy performance, both Superstars were able to continue the match, and once back in the ring, Punk found his second wind, delivering a slicing roundhouse kick that nearly tore off The Braham Bull’s head. Exhaustedly, The Rock and Punk traded blows, and The Great One’s smackdown-inspiring strikes won out. Then, as The Rock launched into his famed People’s Elbow attack, the arena went black.

Before pinning The Rock, Punk yelled at an indignant Michael Cole that he had “nothing to do with The Shield.” Looking every bit like the cat that ate the canary, The Second City Saint smirked mightily after the pinfall. That is, until Mr. McMahon appeared and conceded to The Rock’s demand to restart the match and WWE official Chioda called for the bell to ring.

Enraged, Punk charged at The Rock and smashed The Great One’s face with his knee in the corner. In classic Best in the World form, the champion flew down with a savage top-rope elbow smash, but it was only good for a two-count. A second attempt at a GTS proved unwise, as The Rock countered into a spinebuster and finally hit the People’s Elbow to win his first WWE Title in more than a decade.

Though Royal Rumble marked the end of Punk’s era of supremacy — the sixth-longest reign in WWE Title history — it also completed The Rock’s  circular journey from WWE  Champion to box office champion and finally … to WWE Champion once more.

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Attitude Era original Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will compete in his first World Title match in more than a decade when he challenges WWE Champion CM Punk, the longest-reigning WWE Title holder of the past quarter-century, at Royal Rumble on Jan. 27.

Though outside interference by The Shield in several of The Straight Edge Savior's recent WWE Title defenses has prompted speculation the triumvirate will rear its collective head this Sunday, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon has taken steps to discourage such interruption. On the Jan. 21 edition of Raw, Mr. McMahon added the stipulation that if The Shield interferes in the match, Punk will be stripped of his title! ( WATCH)

The new stipulation only adds to the excitement of the match, which the WWE Universe has anxiously awaited since The Rock announced the championship opportunity on Raw 1,000 last July. ( WATCH) Though there was no guarantee at the time whom The Rock’s opponent would be, the always-confident Punk fired an opening salvo that night, cutting down The Rock with a clothesline before knocking him out with a picture-perfect Go to Sleep. The following week, The Voice of the Voiceless defended his actions by suggesting The Great One, having been “gifted” a WWE Title match, viewed victory at the Royal Rumble as a foregone conclusion.

Whether a real or perceived slight, the implication that The Rock places himself on a higher plane than the current WWE Champion was seemingly all the motivation Punk needed to make sure he would still have the title on Jan. 27.

In the half-year since Raw 1,000, The Second City Saint stunned WWE fans by aligning with Paul Heyman and ratcheting up the vitriol of his speech. More important than either of those details, he has — by hook or by crook — maintained possession of the championship gold. Having turned back challenges by John Cena and Ryback in recent months, The Best in the World now looks ahead to testing himself against the seven-time former WWE Champion who vowed in 2012 to regain the title.

For The Rock, an A-list Hollywood action star and third-generation Superstar who has sports-entertainment coursing through his veins, the Royal Rumble title match represents the start of a potential career renaissance inside the ring. Since March 2004, The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment has competed in only two sanctioned WWE matches, teaming with John Cena to shred The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth) at Survivor Series 2011 and overcoming the Cenation leader at WrestleMania XXVIII.

But by vying for the most treasured prize in sports-entertainment, The Rock is committing to more than another appearance as a “special attraction.” Rather, he is setting his eyes on again becoming WWE’s gold standard.

Hell-bent though The Rock may be on introducing a new generation of WWE fans to The People’s Champion, there is no discounting Punk’s deftness once the bell rings. Controversial endings to several high-profile title defenses may have tarnished The Second City Saint’s reputation in the eyes of some critics, but they have done nothing to change the fact the WWE Championship still sits around his waist. Before his seedier side came into focus in late summer, Punk spent much of 2012 disposing of WWE’s best and brightest, ranging from Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan to Dolph Ziggler and Kane. How will The Rock, one of the pillars of The Attitude Era, match up to the WWE Champion — especially if Punk has The Shield in his pocket, as some suggest?

As the WWE Universe excitedly counts down the days until Jan. 27, the back-and-forth between two of WWE’s most compelling talkers is bound to pick up steam. It will not be until the Royal Rumble, however, that the trash talk gives way to the gravity of a game-changing WWE Championship bout, the likes of which hasn’t seen in years. Will Royal Rumble mark the rebirth of a championship Brahma Bull, or will it only underscore what Punk has claimed all along, that he is untouchable and in a class by himself? ( HOW TO WATCH)

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

PHOENIX — Royal Rumble was not just day No. 434 of CM Punk’s historic WWE Title reign. It was also the end of his self-described “life’s work.” ( VIEW PHOTOS)

With his mother, Ata Johnson, in attendance, The Rock fulfilled his promise of dethroning The Straight Edge Savior in Phoenix and reclaiming the championship he last held August 2002. But thanks to an alleged attack that transpired under the veil of darkness and seemingly had The Shield’s fingerprints all over it, The Great One’s eighth WWE Championship victory very nearly didn’t come to fruition.

Nearly 20 minutes into highly physical championship contest, which saw the tide swing repeatedly and both competitors target each others’ well-documented injuries, The Rock signaled for his patented People’s Elbow. As The Brahma Bull sprang off the ropes, however, the lights of US Airways Center went out and moments later, the familiar sound of a body crashing through the commentators’ desk echoed throughout the arena.

With the WWE Universe and, more importantly, referee Michael Chioda unable to discern what happened, Michael Cole informed the pay-per-view audience at home that The Shield had perpetrated the assault, hitting their signature Triple Powerbomb. Power was restored quickly, but by then, the only thing that was clear was The Rock sprawled over the remnants of the broken announce desk. With none of the three Shield members anywhere in sight, a grinning Punk dragged The Rock’s limp body into the ring, where Chioda counted a pinfall.

As The Straight Edge Savior and Paul Heyman began celebrating, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon emerged on the scene to remind Punk of his order that any involvement by The Shield would result in his being stripped of the title. But before the WWE Chairman could make good on his vow, an exhausted Rock cut Mr. McMahon off and demanded the match be restarted.

“You don’t take it from him,” he said, leaning tiredly against the ring barriers ringside. “I am. Restart the match now.”

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

Long before the match had a reason to be restarted, however, the US Airways Center was already abuzz with the kind of big-fight excitement that is rare to come by. Punk oozed confidence from the outset, hoisting his pride and joy, the WWE Title gold, overhead during the pre-match introductions, while The Rock, brimming with intensity, bounced from foot to foot. As soon as the bell rang, the champion and challenger raged toward each other and traded blows, before the brawl rolled to the floor.

To the sound of dueling chants — “Let’s go, Rocky,” alternating with “CM Punk” — The Great One and The Best in the World smashed each other into the Spanish announce table before Punk was able to take control by working over The Rock’s midsection, exploiting internal injuries he sustained from The Shield’s ambush on Raw last Monday. A consummate ring general, Punk suplexed The Rock ribs-first onto the ring barrier, as well as over the top rope.

After springing into a dropkick that sent The Rock flying off the apron, though, the WWE Champion came up favoring his left leg, the same limb for which he underwent emergency surgery in December. Throwing caution to the wind, The Voice of the Voiceless nonetheless dove from the top rope to the floor, tackling The Rock and worsening his own knee in the process.

It didn’t take long for The Great One — WWE’s first third-generation Superstar, who JBL described as having sports entertainment “in his blood” — to detect the weakness and strike. He seamlessly reversed a Go To Sleep attempt by Punk into a Sharpshooter, but The Second City Saint deftly countered with the Anaconda Vise.

A series of reversals later, and The Rock again had the upper hand, clotheslining Punk on the floor and attempting a Rock Bottom through the Spanish announce table, only for it to first collapse under the weight and both Superstars to fall to the floor in a painful pileup.

The Rock def. WWE Champion CM Punk

In a gutsy performance, both Superstars were able to continue the match, and once back in the ring, Punk found his second wind, delivering a slicing roundhouse kick that nearly tore off The Braham Bull’s head. Exhaustedly, The Rock and Punk traded blows, and The Great One’s smackdown-inspiring strikes won out. Then, as The Rock launched into his famed People’s Elbow attack, the arena went black.

Before pinning The Rock, Punk yelled at an indignant Michael Cole that he had “nothing to do with The Shield.” Looking every bit like the cat that ate the canary, The Second City Saint smirked mightily after the pinfall. That is, until Mr. McMahon appeared and conceded to The Rock’s demand to restart the match and WWE official Chioda called for the bell to ring.

Enraged, Punk charged at The Rock and smashed The Great One’s face with his knee in the corner. In classic Best in the World form, the champion flew down with a savage top-rope elbow smash, but it was only good for a two-count. A second attempt at a GTS proved unwise, as The Rock countered into a spinebuster and finally hit the People’s Elbow to win his first WWE Title in more than a decade.

Though Royal Rumble marked the end of Punk’s era of supremacy — the sixth-longest reign in WWE Title history — it also completed The Rock’s  circular journey from WWE  Champion to box office champion and finally … to WWE Champion once more.