Coming out of last night's Raw, the biggest topic of discussion online has been John Cena's promo on The Rock at the end of the show. After a long promo by Rock, Cena came out, cut a short promo where he pointed out notes written on Rock's wrist, promised to beat him up at WrestleMania, and left. The Rock appeared to be flustered and the scenario led to the biggest "work or shoot?" discussion online since CM Punk's promo in Las Vegas last summer.
While both wrestlers did tremendous jobs channeling their real-life feelings into great promos last night, I don't think Cena was shooting. Let's take a look at why...
Say what you will about WWE's faults when it comes to booking, stylistic choices, etc., but aside from a rare blooper, the production values of their shows are incredibly slick. The prodction team, run by Kevin Dunn, has a set style that's used to carefully hide any weaknesses: Quick cuts on the impact of a strike so you don't notice a wrestler potentially missing, careful camera choices to hide things they don't want you to see (fan run-ins, injured wrestlers being tended to, etc.), and so on.
With this in mind, there's no way they would have repeatedly used camera angles drew attention to the writing on The Rock's wrist. An accident here and there? Maybe. Repeatedly showing a crib sheet on a wrestler's arm during a promo? No way. They're too good.
See previously slide. This is The Rock that we're talking about here. If he was actually going to write down notes for his promo on his wrist, would he really stick his wrist out with the notes facing the camera over and over?
Once again, this is The Rock. He's never needed notes on his wrist before. Someone would've noticed it at some point in the past decade or so. Why would he start now? He's a great promo. There is no logical reason for those notes to be there other than setting up Cena's line. Cena needs to get the better of The Rock sometimes, and The Rock's first night back is certainly a good time for it to happen.
Ever since The Rock gave a shout out to his friend and WWE writer Brian Gewirtz on the Tonight Show, John Cena has been using their relationship in insults he's hurled at The Rock. The Rock is a phony because he needs a script writer to come up with his promos, but John Cena is real because he comes up with his promos on his own. The Rock having notes on his wrist plays into that. Blah blah he's so spoiled cocky Hollywood he can't speak off the cuff and so so on.
"I'm going to kick your ass at WrestleMania" isn't exactly a scathing response to being verbally excoriated by The Rock for fifteen minutes. His promo was completely empty without the line about the notes on Rock's wrist.
WWE is on a mission to try and get as many fans as possible to cheer Cena at Wrestlemania, which isn't going to be easy since he's always booed at Wrestlemania AND the show is in The Rock's adopted hometown of Miami. Still, Cena getting the better of The Rock in their first confrontation on the road to Wrestlemania plays perfectly into their plan.
Throw in The Rock "getting flustered" and swearing off-mic and you get a heated segment in front of a ton of viewers (Rock's return + long overrun = lots and lots of people) that did a great job of making fans want to pay to see two guys who really hate each other fight at Wrestlemania