Inside The Rock vs John Cena ‘Once in a Lifetime’ at WrestleMania and why it happened the very next year

The Rock and John Cena was billed as ‘Once in a Lifetime’ at WrestleMania 28. The only problem was, it wasn’t.

The iconic pair would meet at the very next WrestleMania in a rematch. When you consider WrestleMania 28 garnered 1,217,000 buys, making it the most purchased wrestling event in history, with global gross sales in excess of $67 million, in addition to the event setting a new record for the highest grossing live event in WWE history, grossing $8.9 million, it becomes less surprising they wanted to do it again.

The Rock’s comeback sparked from a John Cena interview
WWE

And although the two men respect each other today, during the rivalry things got heated. The original plan was for John Cena to go over, but on the weekend of WrestleMania, Vince McMahon had a change of heart.

So what was the catalyst for the first meeting? The Rock had departed WWE for Hollywood in earnest around 2003 after a couple years of dipping in and out. He was truly gone after WrestleManai 20 in 2004 and would not be seen again until 2011 on WWE TV.

Of course, he was becoming a huge star in Hollywood during that time away. In 2002, a young rookie named John Cena made his debut. By 2005, he had won his first of now 16 world championships.

Cena essentially replaced The Rock, to a degree, as WWE’s lead babyface and a simple comment in an interview got The Great One to thinking.

“I had left and he had done a series of interviews, radio interviews and I just felt — someone reference me and said, ‘Hey, is The Rock coming back?’ and he said, ‘I’m not quite too sure.’

The Rock and John Cena knew they could draw a lot of money together
WWE

“I Just didn’t like how he said it and it stuck with me. Years later when I went back I talked to [chairman] Vince McMahon and we thought what if we actually took that and created this kind of thing. It’s perfect.”

Cena had never been shy about sharing his dislike for part-time performers. As one of the hardest working WWE talents ever, he felt he had every right to stand his ground.

“This is my take on The Rock, and he’s genuinely nice guy,” Cena said in 2010 before their feud. “I’ve met him, and he’s a fantastic human being.

“What I kinda get peeved about is, and I guess this is my flaw because I hear it everyday with young talent, mid card talent, with people aspiring to make it in this business, I hear ‘I’ve wanted to do this my whole life.’ Rock falls into that category. At one point he loved wrestling, and wanted to do this his whole life.

The Rock and John Cena had real heat behind the scenes
WWE

“Then explain to me why he can’t come back for an anniversary show, why he can’t make an appearance at WrestleMania. Simply put, it’s because he wants to be an actor, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“He’s a very good actor, he’s very successful, he’s done very well for himself, and associating with sports entertainment doesn’t do much for his acting career, so I get why he doesn’t come back.

“Just, don’t f*** me around and tell me that you love [wrestling] when you’re just doing it to do something else.”

The irony now, of course, is that Cena has done exactly the same thing and is now carving out a life in Hollywood. Funny how things change!

But, back to 2011. Rock came back to host WrestleMania where Cena headlined against then-WWE champion The Miz. He would ultimately cost Cena and the next night on RAW, the pair set up a match for the next WrestleMania a year in advance for the first time ever.

During the build to the match, the pair had a promo battle in the middle of the ring on RAW and Cena actually called The Rock out – one of the greatest talkers in the history of the business – for having notes on his arm to help remember his promo.

The Rock was instantly and visibly furious. From there, reports suggest backstage The Brahma Bull was ready to kill Cena backstage after the segment and The Rock admits they nearly came to blows.

“He’s a great guy. He’s one of the best guys out there, but here’s what we realised: If we wanted to build the two biggest matchups back-to-back and create something special in Miami and in New York, we’re going to do it this way.

“And we might fail miserably at it. People might think it’s not real or you run into the challenge of the potential for people to go, ‘It’s so real that it’s not real.’ But in this case it worked out very well and through all that edge and attitude and bite that we had and nearly coming to blows backstage and one night in the ring.

Literally, we were nose-to-nose, it was any second. And through that in a crazy, weird, completely unexplained way, we became great buds.”

Most reports have claimed that what Cena said was unscripted and nearly every indicator would support that.

The Wresting Observer reported that the time: “The verbal battle between The Rock and John Cena on Monday’s RAW Supershow from Portland was designed for Cena to get the upper-hand this time around.

“WWE officials are determined to get a 50/50 reaction for both men at WrestleMania 28 in Miami.”

Cena and The Rock wrestled for over 30 minutes at WrestleMania 28
WWE

Reports suggest Cena was meant to win at WrestleMania 28, but the weekend of the show those plans changed. Given the fact the show was in Miami, which is The Rock’s home town, it’s been speculated that played a role in having The Rock win and it gave WWE the ability to tell a longer story.

Much like at WrestleMania 18 with Rock and Hulk Hogan, the current star, the full-time guy is the one that has to end up with the victory. But, Rock did win and proclaimed on RAW the very next night that he would be WWE champion once again to secure his tenth reign.

“I think Cena had a little bit of a problem doing the job because here’s Cena carrying the torch for the last 10 years at that time,” said WM28 referee Mike Chioda.

“He was busting his a-s, day in and day out. Here comes the Rock back after so many years of being in Hollywood and he’s got to job out to the Rock?”

Chioda refereed The Rock’s big win over Cena
WWE

Chioda continued, “There was a little heat there. I think there was a little dissension, but, you have to go where the money goes. So, they put Rock over and I was happy about that. I felt bad for John in a way.”

Rock would win the WWE title at the Royal Rumble from the long-reining CM Punk the following year. At the same event, Cena would win the titular event to punch his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania 29. Rock v Cena II was on, but this time for the title.

Mostly because of an injury to The Rock in the match, the second outing wasn’t as good as the first. The finisher-fest ended with Cena getting the victory and Rock raising his hand on the stage for the true put-over. Some may argue that it was more significant for Cena to get the win this way, but many feel for CM Punk in that equation too. Maybe it should have been a triple-threat.

The Rock returned the favour and put John Cena over at WrestleMania 29
WWE

It did work out for Punk that year, to be fair. He got to give The Undertaker one of the last great matches of his WrestleMania streak.

As great as The Rock is, and he is, it seems Cena’s big win was more about The Rock than Cena. The eventual win was a byproduct of Rock getting his moment in Miami and another title run. Did it mean more for Cena when he did finally win? That’s debatable.

An emphatic first victory would have done just as much, one could argue. Perhaps the strongest motivator to do it again though was the incredible money made the first time around.
It’s Wrestlemania week, so join the talkWRESTLING team for a huge Mania preview show! Hear talkSPORT’s exclusive interviews with 5x WWE Champion Daniel Bryan & the first-ever British WWE Champion Drew McIntyre, plus “The Game” Triple H on why he doesn’t have a match this year, and WhatCulture’s Simon Miller joins us to break down the card. Enjoy!

The Rock says John Cena is now one of his best friends
WWE

Source: Sport

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