This past week on Monday Night Raw, John Cena delivered what was easily among of the best promos (interview) of his career.
The subject matter was really no different than things we’ve heard from him in the past regarding his Wrestlemania 28 opponent Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. You know the drill– he discussed how Rock promised he’d never leave the WWE and how he only comes back in time to promote a new movie and not because he really cares about the fans. The big difference in his promo from Monday was that he spoke with a conviction and genuine passion that you rarely see from him nowadays. There wasn’t any of the typical B-level humor and cheesy lines we’ve come to expect. For the first time in ages it seemed that Cena was dead serious about getting his message across. In many ways it was as if Cena was delivering a genuine shoot (unscripted interview) as opposed to a typical WWE-style interview.
The unique irony to all of this is that Rock does legitimately care about the wrestling business and his millions of fans. He may be a full-time actor who is only able to make a few WWE appearances per year, but to somehow insinuate that he is faking his love for the business that made him a star in the first place is foolish thinking at best.
And this is where the real question I wish to address comes into play. Should current fans and WWE performers feel resentment towards Rock for becoming a success in Hollywood and returning to headline this year’s Wrestlemania?
On the surface I would say no, yet I can understand both arguments.
There is a definitely an underlying tension amongst many in the WWE locker room towards the Rock. Last year, both C.M. Punk and Randy Orton went public about their animosity. Earlier this week, Wrestlezone, a wrestling news site, reported a story about a WWE star who anonymously tweeted the following comments about the Rock/Cena feud:
“[The Rock] comes in to use WWE to get back the audience he lost doing Disney movies, which is fine but he’s been back over a year and name one person he helped make a bigger star since then? No one. He’s here for himself, he keeps to himself, and he keeps someone who’s actually touring here all year from making a bigger payday at the bigger shows. It’s all about making this the “biggest” Mania of all time. OK, then what do we do the rest of the year? Who’s been made? You think he took ANY blame for Survivor [Series] not drawing? Of course not, but how do you feud with a guy on the Titantron? Cena nailed the guy dead on tonight. Say anything about HHH, Taker, etc. still being in the top spot but if they were needed to work the road, they would and they would still work their asses off as much as they needed to. Rock is out for Rock and the idea he’s here to better anything but his own wallet is the biggest work of 2012.”
Wow. Someone is obviously a bit salty! However, in my opinion, those feelings are a huge positive for the progression of the Rock/Cena feud. Cena’s promo was apparently representative of a prevalent mindset amongst those on the current roster and there is no better thing in today’s business than to inject real emotion into a wrestling storyline.
On the flipside, nearly everyone will admit that having Rock and Cena in the main event will possibly make this the highest-grossing Wrestlemania in history. It’s a genuine dream match, the likes of which WWE hasn’t been capable of producing in quite some time. Last year’s show with Rock serving as guest host did the second-biggest PPV numbers of any wrestling show in history. It doesn’t take a genius to predict this year’s show should easily topple that. The revenue generated from having Rock wrestle will guarantee everyone on the show will come out with a significantly larger paycheck.
I believe there is an inherent jealousy factor to all of this. It must be a huge morale killer to all the top guys on the current roster to realize that no matter how hard they try and successful they become, they will never be able to draw the type of money and attract the mainstream attention of Rock. The painful truth is that it took a less than part-time guy to come back and make wrestling seem relevant again to the masses. Ouch!
And is the Rock to blame for this? No. It isn’t his fault that WWE has failed to make more transcendent stars like himself and Steve Austin over the last decade. Cena is their biggest star, yet will likely never attain the level of success and track record as a genuine drawing card that Rock has.
In fact, Rock is unlike any wrestler in history. He debuted with WWE in 1996 and was a bonafide household name by 1998. Of course, professional wrestling as a whole was in a boom period in America during that time and nearly everyone who became some type of a big star in the WWE or WCW became an enduring star to a generation of fans. But make no mistake about it, Rock and Austin were the biggest.
It was only natural that his charisma would translate into success on the silver screen. For decades, wrestlers had dabbled in acting, yet Rock became the first, and only, to become a legitimate breakout star and has starred in many of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits for the last several years.
If I had the option between being body slammed every night or attending red carpet premieres around the world, I wonder what my choice would be? I think I’d take my chances with acting.
The simple truth of the matter is that Rock has nothing left to prove in wrestling. He’d simply done all there was to do. He achieved a level of fame, respect and global recognition that has really only been achieved by three other wrestlers of the modern era (Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Austin). Are we to crucify him for deciding to move on and reach new plateaus?
Writer’s note: This story also appeared as a guest post on the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Weekly website at http://www.f4wonline.com/more/more-top-stories/96-wwe/24408-guest-post-should-fans-resent-rocks-success