WWE WrestleMania 28: Will John Cena vs. the Rock Be the Biggest Match Ever?
This year's WrestleMania main event was announced one year in advance, live on TV in front of millions...and millions of fans.
This fact alone means something big and unique is on the horizon.
As stated on WWE.com, ''In the most anticipated WrestleMania clash in history, John Cena will collide with The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII (...)'' in what is supposed to be ''(...) a dream match for the ages.''
Everywhere on WWE programming, Cena vs. The Rock is billed as the biggest match in WWE history.
However, one can wonder if that statement is accurate.
Isn't it exaggerated to pretend it will surpass Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania 3 or The Rock vs. Stone Cold at WrestleMania X-7?
I don't want to sound too negative, but I want to get the facts straight and raise my voice against WWE's claims about the upcoming battle between the current top dog and an iconic wrestler who only made sporadic appearances in the last eight years.
So, will Cena vs. The Rock be the biggest match in WWE history?
My answer is NO and it's not to spoil the fun and the anticipation surrounding the encounter.
Without further interruption, let's see why I answered NO to the question at hand and, don't worry, I will not bash The Rock or Cena.
1- The Impact on the Opponents
If we're talking about the biggest matchs in history or even about the Top 25, it must mean something for the wrestlers involved.
There should be an impact on the career of at least one of them.
Hulk Hogan's popularity reached a peak never seen before or after (except maybe in Stone Cold's case) at WrestleMania III.
That famous slam on Andre cemented Hogan's legacy and contributed to build his legend.
The impact on Andre's career was not as important as for Hogan, but it strongly marked the beginning of the end for him in the ring. It added an extra facet to his already legendary career when he became a monster heel for the first time.
Another example to illustrate my point is the WrestleMania VI main event, when The Ultimate Warrior became a true legend in front of a crowd of over 67,000 fans (including future WWE wrestlers Edge and Christian).
Not only did he become the first ever dual champion in WWE history, but he received the torch from none other than The Hulkster for a crucial transition between two eras.
What will it do for John Cena and The Rock's respective career?
Cena is already the biggest name in the business and his battle at WrestleMania XXVIII will change nothing for him. The crowd is already divided about his character and his heel turn is yet to be completed.
Even with a run on the dark side, we all know Cena will be back to his top babyface status sooner or later.
On the other hand, The Rock is already an icon who already has his own chapter in the WWE history book.
His match against Cena won't change his legacy, no matter the result.
2- The Wrestlers Involved
In 1987, Hulk Hogan was on the very top, enjoying his third straight year as the WWF Champion.
He was the biggest name in the business and his reign is often considered as the golden age of the company. He was famous outside the world of wrestling and he was a genuine mainstream media superstar.
Hogan was an icon and he was known worldwide.
Andre The Giant was not far behind Hogan regarding fame despite his best years already behind him. Billed as undefeated for 15 years while still remaining an unmatched attraction, Andre was in his last run before his health issues put him on the sideline.
In other words, both Hogan and Andre were on top.
Even a few weeks before the opening of their act leading to WrestleMania III, no one thought a clash between them could happen. But, the unthinkable happened when the gentle giant joined forces with the evil Bobby Heenan to turn on Hogan, his great friend.
The tables were set for an epic showdown.
At over 300 pounds and 6'7'', Hulk Hogan was not meant to be a typical underdog, but the creative team managed to make it happen in a brilliant way.
Not only did they glorify Andre being undefeated for 15 years, but they also exaggerated his billed weight and size.
In 2012, John Cena is without a doubt the biggest name in the business and is in his prime. In no way he is presented as an underdog despite his weird program with Kane in which he suffered several beatings.
In the end, he lost many battles, but Cena ultimately won the war.
On the other hand, The Rock is not exactly in his prime despite being in great shape for a 39-year-old former wrestler.
He is not washed up, but he only wrestled once in the last seven years and he is more a part-time legendary wrestler. This isn't 2001, when The Rock was under the age of 30 and one of the biggest names in the WWE.
The WrestleMania X-7 main event between him and Stone Cold Steve Austin was certainly bigger than this year's confrontation. The Rock was not far behind Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan in term of popularity.
In 2001, the two biggest icons in the business battled on the biggest stage of them all.
Austin was already a legend and was still on the top. He may have been towards the end of his career, but Austin's popularity was at its peak.
3- The Era
It's a sad statement for a diehard fan like me who has loved the WWE for over 25 years, but I feel almost no passion from today's fans.
Nowadays, you won't see fans becoming crazy to the point of almost causing a riot like in the '70s over a wrestling match result.
You won't hear half the fans in the audience crying because their favorite wrestler lost the World Championship, like when Bruno Sammartino lost against Ivan Koloff.
In the '80s, there was Hulkamania and the Macho Madness but there is no "mania" or "madness" in 2012.
Of course, we still hear huge pops from the crowds, but it's nothing compared to the "Raising Hell" noise in the audiences when Stone Cold's vintage glass shattering emerged from the speakers.
The pro wrestling business was simply bigger and badder in the '80s, in the late '90s and in the early 2000s. The Attitude Era marked the peak for the WWE and, unfortunately, we are witnessing a slow downfall.
I don't want to sound too negative, but after the Attitude Era peak, the only direction the WWE could head to was south.
The company is doing great in a business perspective and there is no bankruptcy in sight, but there is less passion overall for the business.
The pay-per-view buy rates and TV ratings constantly decline, but these are just numbers and WrestleMania continues to score great ratings despite the other pay-per-views doing poorly over the last two years.
4- The Impact on the Business
To be tagged as the biggest match in wrestling history or at least one of the biggest, the fallout, not necessarily the result, must have a huge impact on the business.
There must be some historical value attached to the outcome.
Take the Montreal "Screwjob" for example.
The immediate aftermath of the match was the birth of the Mr. McMahon character and it became the basis of the Attitude Era. What's more, the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels confrontation at the 1997 Survivor Series was bigger than the upcoming Cena vs. The Rock.
In fact, I don't see how a scenario where this year's WrestleMania main event will change the WWE landscape.
WrestleMania III's main event placed the WWF on a new level never seen before.
From that moment the already strong kingdom started to become the huge multimedia empire we know today.
Steve Austin defeating Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XIV is another example of a match that changed the face of pro wrestling since it's cited as the official start of the Attitude Era.
From that moment on, Stone Cold's legacy was cemented and it contributed in making him the biggest name in WWE history beside Hulk Hogan.
There were also many matches that could be considered as big as Cena vs. The Rock or even bigger on a historical point of view.
Once again, Hogan's name resurfaces with his "Icon vs. Icon" encounters when he lost against The Rock at WrestleMania X8 and when he defeated Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 2005.
Steve Austin winning the 1996 King Of The Ring tournament and the birth of "3:16" are, to me, bigger than Cena vs. The Rock.
The 1992 Royal Rumble match won by Ric Flair is a great example of huge historical value. For the first and only time, the WWF Championship was on the line at the January classic.
If we fast forward in 2001, Chris Jericho becoming the first ever WWF Undisputed Champion at Vengeance became a unique moment in the WWE history books. On the same night, Jericho defeated The Rock and Steve Austin to accomplish the unthinkable.
Regarding matches of epic proportions, look back before the WrestleMania era, when the WWF Championship really meant something.
If there is a big match that can surpass Cena vs. The Rock in terms of magnitude, it's Bruno Sammartino defeating Buddy Rogers in 1963.
That match marked the beginning of the longest World Title reign in pro wrestling history. On that day of May 1963, Sammartino started a 2803-day reign as the WWF Champion.
It's hard to believe, but he reigned supreme for over seven straight years.
To continue in the same vein, what can be said about Ivan Koloff defeating Sammartino to end his unreal reign in 1971? It completely shocked the pro wrestling universe and the fans in the audience could be heard crying.
Pedro Morales against Bruno Sammartino at Shea Stadium in 1972—a match that ended in a draw after 75 minutes—is considered the biggest wrestling match of the 20th century by many purists.
I don't hesitate for a second to call it bigger than Cena vs. The Rock.
5- The Hype and the Storyline
The Hogan vs. Andre storyline started in January 1987, only three months before WrestleMania III, but it shocked the world.
Andre's heel turn completely surprised everybody and the broken friendship was pure gold for the viewers.
In the weeks leading to WrestleMania III, the hype transmitted through our TV screens and was followed religiously week after week on the syndicated TV shows. Every wrestling fan was excited about the match and felt it would make history.
The excitement even reached the general audience and the WWF didn't need mainstream media superstars to sell the event.
It became a unique happening with a simple, effective angle—the ultimate underdog approach.
I was only 10 years old when it happened and I still remember that famous Piper's Pit segment when Andre ripped off Hogan's T-shirt and necklace.
On top of all that, the Hogan vs. Andre feud was forced down the fans' throat like Cena vs. The Rock. It was a story that wrote itself, with the pieces of the puzzle getting together naturally.
The fans really, I mean REALLY, wanted to watch that clash.
As a last example, the Savage vs. Hogan at WrestleMania V, with the two biggest names in the business in 1989, could be cited a bigger than the Cena vs. The Rock feud.
In my opinion, it created one of the most intense and emotional encounters in WrestleMania history and the showdown created unforgettable TV moments I still remember 20 years later.
Is there any fan that can honestly say they're dying to watch the upcoming Cena vs. The Rock battle?
I won't answer for every fan, but, I for one am not excited about the WrestleMania XXVIII main event, and, correct me if I am wrong, but I feel no actual buzz amongst the fans, Internet or in the live audiences.
There is no solid storyline behind the match and it's based solely on their social network war. There is no actual animosity between the rivals and the tension between them is too artificial.
It seems the WWE is everywhere nowadays, but just not as strong as before.
If we take a look on the Internet, you'll find CM Punk's feuds against celebrities and all those tweets by The Rock and John Cena, but only the diehard fans will follow those tweet wars.
There is nothing done to ignite the casual fans' interests and the one-hour special scheduled to air on the USA Network one week before WrestleMania will be too little too late.
In addition, the vignettes featuring Cena and The Rock on WWE programming are cute and even entertaining sometimes, but it's not getting the fans on the edge of their seat.
A legendary feud must be built on WWE television programming, week after week, with the rivals appearing on our screen constantly to add gas on the fire.
Sadly, the WWE is currently missing the boat with the tweet wars and The Rock's pre-recorded promos.
Cena vs. The Rock will undoubtedly be a huge match, but saying it will be the biggest in wrestling history is just too much.
Their encounter could be something very entertaining, but for now, the WWE hyping machine is not working at full speed for a match of this magnitude.
The Rock appearing live for the first time since Survivor Series only five weeks before WrestleMania is far from enough—the real showdown should have started at least shortly after the Royal Rumble.
The Cena heel turn is coming too late and it is not necessary since The Rock will fight in his hometown. It's also no secret that Cena gets his share of boos from the crowds wherever he performs and, on April 1, he will get most of the heat from the hostile Florida crowd.
So, now that you have my take on the topic, I invite you to use the comment section to share your views.
Do you agree or disagree with my position? How do you all feel about this upcoming clash and how excited are you?