The Rock vs. John Cena — WWE WrestleMania 28 Preview
This is it, folks. While WWE very cagily tried to market both its World Title matches and the annual Undertaker Streak vs. Whatever match as main events, we all knew a year ago what ‘WrestleMania XXVIII’s’ real selling point would be: The Rock vs. John Cena. I’ve already written extensively about the Rock/Cena promo battle of the past month or so, as I’ve loved every minute of it. Whether you think that John Cena has legitimately gotten the better of the Rock on occasion, or that WWE brass has asked the Rock to go easy on their top star, or that perhaps there’s legitimate heat between the two wrestlers – none of it really matters. What’s important is that people are actually talking about this stuff, having real arguments about how much of WWE’s top feud is real or scripted, because that’s when wrestling is at its most entertaining, blending fact and fiction into a hearty, satisfying kayfabe stew.
The obvious reference point for this match is Hogan/Rock from ‘WrestleMania X8,’ and it’s an apt comparison, as both featured the top star from a previous era squaring off against the present day’s alpha male. It’s different of course, on account of the much greater age and generation gap between the Rock and Hogan (Cena is only five years younger than Rocky), and the fact that Hogan’s star still outshines pretty much anyone else’s in wrestling history. But Rock and Cena being so much closer in age and stature actually makes this match more interesting in a lot of ways, as it really does feel like a clash of equals.
When WWE finally got around to building their ‘WrestleMania’ main event, they did an admirable job, and most impressively, they did all the heavy lifting of the past couple months without having either man lay hands on the other. It’s a difficult balancing act, booking a feud to keep things fresh without giving away the payoff of an actual physical confrontation, and while I wouldn’t have announced the match so early only to forget about it for months at a time, I’ve been impressed with how WWE has ultimately stoked fan anticipation to a fever pitch.
More than any other match on the card, this one feels like a toss-up – WWE could go either way with the finish, taking any of a dozen different fascinating detours on the way to it. Either man turning heel, either one winning and giving the other a sign of respect, a finish ruined by the Miz’s involvement –all of these and more are possible and I’d get a kick out of any of it. For my money though, I hope that, like Rock/Hogan, the current day guy ends up getting the win, as Cena’s character could really benefit from a clean victory over the Rock – it would definitely be a “passing of the torch” moment and would do a lot to validate Cena in the eyes of certain fans. Still, I wonder whether WWE would be so ballsy as to disappoint the Rock’s hometown crowd at ‘WrestleMania,’ a show that typically ends by making fans happy, not riling them up. I might end up thinking Punk/Jericho is a better quality match, but there’s not one thing on the ‘WrestleMania XXVIII’ card I’m more excited about than John Cena vs. The Rock.