In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.
After a year of build-up, we’re precious days away from The Rock’s match with John Cena at Wrestlemania 28. There’s a significant portion of the PoP! staff that has been along for the ride and reactions are mixed, to say the least. There have been sporadic appearances from the Great One over the past year, most notably the tag team match with Cena at last year’s Survivor Series. In recent weeks, however, it’s been full-speed ahead. The Rock has been at every RAW even for the past month… Or rather Dwayne Johnson has.
I’m relatively new back to wrestling after a nearly ten-year lapse (I came back once I heard about The Rock’s triumphant return), so I’m admittedly nowhere near as tired of John Cena as many wrestling fans, so I like to think I’m coming at this with fresh eyes. As such, I’m amazed to see how much better Cena is come away from virtually every live interaction between the two titans. With the exception of the Rock Concert on March 12, all of The Rock’s most shining moments have been pre-recorded. His live appearances have been a bit weaker and when he actually comes face to face with Cena, he fumbles. Perhaps worst of all, he doesn’t consistently refer to himself in the third person, and for me, every time The Rock says “I” or “me,” it takes me out of the show.
This isn’t The Rock I’m used to. It’s a hybrid of the character and the real man behind the character. I’m a fan of both, truth be told, but I miss The Rock I grew up watching. That guy shows up on the funny pre-recorded bits. The other guy is live on RAW and he’s not bad. He’s just not The Rock to me. It’s funny because a lot of this is the same kind of thing Cena has been spouting on his promos, but it’s true. If the live promos have been designed to put Cena over The Rock, they’re working, and I have a lot more vested in The Rock than John Cena, so that’s a weird thing to say. There’s no drama in a completely one-sided conflict. I understand that. There had to be some legit back and forth between them, but I can’t decide if Rock falling flat is by design or by accident. Is it part of the story, or is the esteemed Mr. Johnson that frazzled by what’s going on?
It seems unlikely that after a career as spectacular as his, it would be a match against John Cena of all people to put butterflies in The Rock’s stomach. Really, in both the story and reality, Cena has everything to prove. It’s not like The Rock is going against some young buck and has to prove he can still hang. Cena is only five years younger than him. The Rock is in the best shape of his life. He’s a phenomenal success. Cena has to face a living legend and fight through what will almost certainly be a chorus of boos. The fans are going to cheer The Rock, but Cena needs to win the match. If he doesn’t, he’s the guy that couldn’t get it done. But if he does, it’s just one more case of “John Cena always wins” that the fans hate so much. Win or lose, The Rock is golden.
Maybe more than anything that’s why his return has bummed me out. He’s only in for a few weeks. That means every week should be stellar. Simply being The Rock isn’t enough. It certainly helps, but there’s got to be some meat in the presentation. Every time his music hits, I get swept up in the nostalgia. Imagine my surprise when the guy I don’t have 15 years’ worth of memories with started showing him up. And seriously, Cena killed on a few of those promos. If the talk of legitimate heat is true, it shows.
The Rock is epic. He is electrifying. That’s not a tagline; it’s the truth. Even his worst day is better than most guys’ best day. I completely get all of that. The last month has left me wanting a bit. I’m sure he’s having a great time, but The Rock doesn’t smile that much. I can’t help but feel I’d have enjoyed all of this a lot more if there was a little less Dwayne across the board. I’ve no doubt these two will put on a great match. Say what you will about John Cena, but he’s proven he can go the distance with a great performer, and they just don’t come better than The Rock, despite what we’ve seen the last month.