There’s something interesting happening in the ‘WWE Universe’. Just under a year ago the match of John Cena vs The Rock was finally announced. The announcement after Wrestlemania XXVII (which The Rock would make an appearance as guest host) came after a great feud between the pair in the lead up to that event. In fact the feud between Rock and Cena would be so strong it would detract from Cena’s main event WWE title match against The Miz, which in turn was built fairly badly. To further The Rock’s part in the feud he would eventually abuse his power to interfere in what was a really strange match anyway, restarting it after a double count out and immediately screwing Cena. Frustratingly we would have to wait a year to see the resulting match between the pair, however in the last month I have become re-interested in what has resulted in an off beat and unique story.
Over the course of the last year we have seen the feud, which has been built in a series of sparse instalments, based on ‘twitter wars’, trending topics and satellite feeds without seeing very much of the two stars interact with each other in the physical realm. All the while Cena has been pushed in a slightly more knowing way having to overcome a series of obstacles the likes of which he has never before faced; a wrestling ‘terrorist’ (in the form of CM Punk) absconding with the WWE title only to later haunt and taunt when Cena finally thought he’d won the ‘war’ and the title again (all the while also managing to save his own job), a second fleet of terror in the form of The Miz and evil R Truth who seemed to have formed themselves in a more extreme but less effective version of Punk – all the while having to team with The Rock himself, and of course most recently Kane presenting Cena with the idea that the audience had began to turn on him forcing Cena to ‘Rise Above Hate’. This has been building all the way to Wrestlemania season, where we would finally get the main feud for the much hyped match.
What we have been presented with in the last few weeks as a result however, actually feels embedded with a decent history between the pair. But more interestingly than any beef these two men have with each other, is the beef that the audience have and are beginning to declare about both men. And I think we are in position where the WWE as well as Rock and Cena have been caught slightly off guard. We have seen various promos establishing a war of words between the two over a number of weeks, however increasingly we are hearing boo’s for The Rock… and less for Cena. What has gone from a disgruntled crowd with building fury against Cena has begun to turn since the Kane feud. Cena has dropped some of the nice guy act, (notice he has ended every promo recently by dropping and in some cases throwing down his mic ‘Pipebomb’ style), he has began adapting to the crowds criticisms and he has also adopted a lot of ‘reality era’ traits. And by ‘reality era’ I suppose I’m referring to dressed down insults that reference something outside of the gimmick, something that indicates John Cena the person, rather than ‘John Cena’ the character, dislikes something about Dwayne Johnson, rather than disliking something about ‘The Rock’. This is another element that I first recall CM Punk doing to Randy Orton insisting on calling him ‘Randall’. It seems obvious to me that the reason Cena has this over The Rock is because he has a greater understanding of the current, which makes sense. The Rock is relying on tried and tested formulas to win cheers from the crowd – there are a lot of cheap pops in The Rock’s repertoire. Yes, he is creating trending topics instantly (another first that is great to witness), such as now popular ‘Fruity Pebbles’ and more recently ‘Kung Pow Bitch’, however in terms of ingenuity this is really the same stuff he would come up with in the 90’s, which is interesting as so many Internet fans have been asking for the 90’s back, but ultimately it doesn’t mean anything and is, quite frankly, slightly dumb by comparison, if not catchy.
Last Monday for me the turn became evident. The crowd interacting with everything The Rock had to say and also seemed really into Cena too (having his home town crowd surely helped), however during part of The Rock’s confrontation with Cena, the crowd did something I didn’t expect, they began to chant ‘Tooth Fairy’. The Rock was mid rant, throwing his cartoon insults at Cena when the audience themselves threw the softest sounding insult they could, directed at Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne Johnson the actor, not The Rock. However in a story line where The Rock has insisted that the two are the same, it does beg the question how much do the audience still truly believe in The Rock? In one chant, all of The Rock’s one liner ammunition was slightly compromised.
Whatever the match is like at Wrestlemania we have seen a first, a unique story that has relied on social media and audience participation in a way never before seen in this form of entertainment. I’d like to finish on a note that when Hogan faced The Rock at Wrestlemania X8, the audience shocked people and turned Hogan who came in as a major nWo heel to a babyface, and the crowd was really split. I think this is another unique moment for the WWE audience as it is really unclear who takes which position in the Cena/Rock feud. The match is sold as Face vs Face, however to many Cena is a heel, to some (and increasingly so) The Rock is a heel – there are combinations of which wrestler falls into which slot depending on the audience memberis and it will be interesting to see what the crowd think on the night. As a fan I am finding myself in a unique position, in that I am actually routing for John Cena to win. And that truly is a first.