Professional wrestling fans (sorry Vince, but I refuse to call us the “WWE Universe”) are always hopeful that heat between two superstars in the lead in for a big match is legitimate. We’re hopeful that the on screen beef between the two combatants is as real off screen when the cameras stop rolling. That isn’t usually the case, but every once in a while, we’ll get a bone thrown our way that brings us back to the “Attitude Era.”
It didn’t take a “creative genius” in the Vince McMahon mold to know that Bret “Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels had a serious problem with each other in ’96-’97 that eventually led up to the “Montreal Screwjob.” The heat was palpable between the two, and it made each promo they cut together before that infamous night in Montreal a must watch. The hatred that both men had for each other brought the feud into the mainstream and had fans picking sides and cheering like European soccer freaks. It was so real that you couldn’t help but wonder if it was actually staged. The verbal jabs that Hart and Michaels threw at each other every week was one of the reasons the then WWF started taking back the ratings war from WCW. The summer of ’97 was a landmark time for the WWE, and we’re in one of those moments right now in the build up to WrestleMania XXVIII.
The John Cena vs The Rock feud started years ago when the leader of the Cenation took shots at the Great One for leaving the company to become a multi-millionaire. I know, how dare Dwayne do such a thing. Whatever. What separates this rivalry from any other in recent years was that Cena wasn’t just talking shit to build his character. When he first started taking shots at The Rock, it was perceived that Rock was gone from the WWE for good, and the match of generations would never happen. Shots were fired, but retaliation was never expected. So much for that premise.
But there is genuine heat between these two, and it’s making the lead in to ‘Mania as exciting as anything we’ve seen in the reality era. When Cena calls The Rock a champion with people & that he’s fighting for every wrestler in the locker room, it’s not just talk. As much as I have grown to loathe Cena, his dedication to this business can never be questioned. And when Cena busts The Rock’s balls about having promo notes on his left wrist, it’s another shot to the movie star. Why can’t Cena always cut promos like this? I don’t know, ask Vinny Mac.
And what makes The Rock so entertaining is his ability to tear up his rivals on the mic. The Kung Pao bitch chants resulted in a worldwide trend on Twitter within minutes, which shows how popular the WWE is right now. That’s why this rivalry will make for a legendary match come April 1. But what Cena and his fan base of women and children need to realize is that Dwayne is the reason this WrestleMania is as big as it is. He doesn’t have to show up every week. He is true star who is popular enough to come and go as he pleases. The true old school fans can appreciate that because having The Rock around 8-10 times per year is better than nothing. It’s also better than having The Miz main event a ‘Mania. Sorry, I didn’t mean to remind you of that train wreck from last year. Thank you again for saving that shit show, Dwayne.
Even though it’s professional wrestling and the non observers will doubt the legitimacy of this feud, there is no denying how personal this is. Two of the biggest stars in the history of the business headlining a WrestleMania was big enough, but knowing that they’d rather be dropped in acid than hangout together makes this as anticipated as any ‘Mania main event in history. So hate all you want John, but you need to get on your knees and thank The Rock for elevating your brand to a level that you never could.