Punches were thrown, bodies were tossed, and when the dust settled at Sunday evening's Royal Rumble, John Cena and The Rock—as they have so many times in their respective careers—emerged as the night's two biggest victors.
Now let's see them do it against each other.
Cena and The Rock headlined Wrestlemania 28 just one year ago, the latter dropping the former with a Rock Bottom to seal a victory in his return to the ring. The event was hyped for over a year and billed with the catchy epithet, "Once in a Lifetime"—an allusion to the match's unrepeatable nature.
And therein, it would seem, lies the point of contention for contrarian wrestling fans. Last year, we paid to see something "Once in a Lifetime." Now, you're charging me to see it a second time?
It makes sense on paper, but in practice, the argument is terribly flawed. It's like boycotting the World Series because the Yomiuri Giants weren't given a chance to compete. Why miss out on a potentially historic event because of semantics?
If you truly loved wrestling, if you're besotted with the WWE, then you should want the sport to do what's best for the organization. Cena versus The Rock drew massive ratings last year, and the rematch would definitely fare in a like manner. Even if you find yourself in the camp that's whinging "we saw this last year," would you honestly have the audacity to not purchase this event?
That's what I thought.
It stinks any time WWE makes narrative decisions based on financial affairs. But that's the nature of the sport; ratings are a palpable part of the narrative and need to be weighed in the course of making such choices.
The Rock has movies to promote this summer, and if he's simultaneously promoting Wrestlemania 29, more people will tune in. More people tuning in means more money for the league and more freedom for them to take chances in the future. It also means more potential fans watching two wrestling titans clash in MetLife Stadium—a sight that could get them addicted to the sport.
If you can get past the initial cognitive barrier of a one-year rematch, it's hard not to be titillated by the possibilities of The Rock-Cena II. It's The Rock, for God's sake—with the WWE Championship in his hand. How could you not want to watch that?
And what of Cena in all this? After last year's match, Eric Larnack of The Huffington Post wrote:
Cena needed to lose because it's the only way his character can go in an interesting direction; another predictable win wouldn't have done anything to break up the weekly monotony, and the audience was tired of having its intelligence insulted with the played-out corny "underdog" story.
But Cena won't be entering the rematch with expectations of a surefire victory. The script has been flipped as The Rock continues to submerge his toes in the icy waters of a full-fledged return.
If you think about it that way, The Rock-Cena II wouldn't be a played-out rematch of what we saw at Wrestlemania 28. So much has changed in the narrative that we'd basically be watching a totally different fight.
And that's a fight I'll pay to see.