Talk about your all-time schizophrenic promo battles. The Rock and Cena angle has been all over the map in recent weeks. Keeping up with what exactly is going on here has led to debate on all sides of the wrestling world about work and shoot, professional and unprofessional, selling and no-selling. All viable arguments, and it’s currently impossible to determine who is right and who is wrong. Ultimately, the answers to all of those questions don’t matter. There are two extremely important elements here, and they are what matters: are Cena and the Rock selling Wrestlemania and will both or either of them have been put into a better position when April 2nd comes around?
Things have gotten a little out of alignment here. This past Monday, John Cena gave his empty arena promo all about how this match at Wrestlemania means everything to him. He explained how he doesn’t just want to win this match, he has to win this match. It means everything to him. Simultaneously, Rock vignettes were airing with him making jokes and tearing down Cena as he always does. Cut to later in the night, John Cena comes out and begins cutting a silly promo while smirking. The Rock comes out, super serious, and cuts a promo of his own while Cena no-sells it and acts like the quintessential goofball that he has been for years.
What the hell happened there? Both guys completely flipped their scripts. Rock went from funny, silly vignettes to being serious in the ring while Cena went from saying his entire career is riding on Wrestlemania to smirking like a seven year old who is trying to annoy the teacher. Meanwhile, a lot of people are trying to figure out if this is all a work, a shoot or a mix. I love a good promo as much as the next guy, but I do have some problems with worked shoots.
Rock has said he will kick Cena’s ass and make him his “bitch.” Cena has said Rock will have to kill him to beat him. That’s all fine and good, but when you start mixing together work and shoot and you start trying to make the fans believe everything you’re saying is real… you severely undercut that when you then say you’re going to win a predetermined wrestling match.
This has always been my problem with worked shoots. You can’t tell me everything is real, but simultaneously try to convince me you’re going to settle it in a wrestling ring. There is a lack of balance there which has always bothered me. Ultimately, sell your match by selling your match rather than trying to sell who has the better punchlines. What does it matter who is funnier or says the more biting comment when no one is going to be holding a microphone in the middle of that match?
Some argument has been made that John Cena has been unprofessional in this feud while the Rock has been attempting to keep things balanced. No matter which side of that argument you fall on, it does have to be acknowledged that one of the biggest gripes anti-Cena fans have had over the years is John Cena’s failure to sell. In this promo battle with the Rock, Cena has sold nothing.
Imagine if Stone Cold Steve Austin cut promos on Vince McMahon and Vince just smirked the entire time. Imagine CM Punk going off on Chris Jericho and Jericho just laughing about it. You certainly submarine the angle when you fail to show that it actually matters or is important. It is ironic, because as John Cena has said this match means everything to him but Rock doesn’t care if WWE closes down, he is simultaneously undercutting the angle and doing damage to the business aspect of it. If you need proof that fans are getting pushed away all you have to do is look at the ratings over the past two weeks which have both involved face to face meetings between Rock and Cena.
Was John Cena pointing out the writing on Rock’s arm unprofessional, or was it planned? How about this past week where Cena smirked and smiled the entire time the Rock was talking and then began interrupting him while he was just finishing his promo? Nobody knows, and nobody will know for a while. Ultimately, none of this is as important as whether or not this program has made you want to see this match more or less.
I am a massive fan of the Rock, and though I dislike John Cena’s character, there have certainly been times where I have enjoyed his work. Right now the only thing that has me interested in this match is… I don’t know who will win. That’s it. The promos, the threats, the jokes, the undercutting has made me less interested. If I didn’t write columns, there’s a chance I’d just tune out until April 1st because everything between these two is beginning to frustrate me. Oh, and what are they doing next week? These two want to kill each other so much that on Monday’s Raw we get to see Rock signing and Cena rapping. To quote the Miz: “Really? Really? Really? Really?” That’s your Wrestlemania 28 build up.. musical battling. Oh boy.
On April 9th, the Rock will be gone. He will be filming movies until he comes back for the build up to Wrestlemania 29 (in whatever capacity he is participating.) On April 9th, will John Cena be in a position where he can ride the wave of excitement, bring PPV buyrates up and increase ratings or will we be back to the John Cena that the fans boo and the guy who makes silly “poopy” jokes, acts like Superman and continues to pummel his goodie two shoes personality into our brains? If John Cena doesn’t come out of this Wrestlemania either glowing and with a rejuvenated fanbase, or edgier and angrier, than this Wrestlemania could go down in history as the year WWE went to the mat for Cena and it didn’t work.
Regardless, if John Cena goes back to being the way he was and interest continues to flag while the Rock is out there signing on to do more and more movies, Rock’s words will prove prophetic and Wrestlemania 28 will be remembered as the time when Rock made Cena his bitch. You know what should be frightening about that? The Rock doesn’t even have to win to make Cena look like a bitch. Just ask post-Wrestlemania 18 Hulk Hogan about that.