His recent promo work has involved more put-downs, and less pep talks than we have come to expect from the "PG" favorite. With Cena’s character lacking any kind of edge over recent years, it has been a change that is proving vital in creating excitement for the upcoming matchup.
Cena's character of just a few months ago would not have stood a chance against The Rock in a promo-cutting verbal exchange.
Even against what is quite possibly an intentionally weak portrayal of "The Rock" persona by Dwayne Johnson, Cena would have struggled to hold his own.
There has even been a noticeable difference in the voice he uses when talking with Johnson.
Put-downs that would have previously been given with light-hearted humor are now spouted with spiteful disrespect. This modification, alongside Rock falling short of his phenomenally high standards of promo work, has given this rivalry momentum on the road to WrestleMania.
This adjustment did not occur overnight—John Cena was given a transitional period in the shape of his feud with Kane.
With the focus of that storyline being the test of his character, it has meant that Cena has been able to make these alterations without them appearing sudden or random.
In the world of professional wrestling, where entire personality transplants can occur with no explanation, a more subtle change like this being given a transitional period is refreshing.
So whilst Cena may not have ‘embraced the hate’ and taken a heel turn, he has certainly come out of the feud slightly changed.
As the weeks go by, it becomes increasingly obvious that WWE’s intention is to use the Cena-Rock rivalry as a vehicle for the former to win over his consistently audible detractors.
While I don’t think that this will happen to the extent WWE would desire, they are going the right way about it.
The ‘never give up’ speech has become harder and, thankfully, much shorter. There is also less over-the-top humility and Cena is a more entertaining character because of it.
Cena’s adjustment in attitude (to avoid the pun this time) has meant he has not just competed, but arguably defeated Johnson in recent vocal battles.
While "Team Bring It" may wish to see Rock humiliate Cena on the mic, this would be detrimental in building tension for their match.
Cena at least holding his own has to be to the benefit of their contest at WrestleMania and, in the bigger picture, the benefit of fan interest in Cena.