At WrestleMania 29 in the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., John Cena should defeat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the WWE Championship.
Of course, nothing in wrestling is ever certain—and it wouldn’t be beneath WWE to throw out a curve and have The Rock emerge victorious, shocking everyone—but it’s hard to imagine any other result.
As the recent video package has noted, Cena considers losing to Rock last year to be his biggest professional regret. In something that’s a stretch for even WWE, he has also pinned his well-publicized divorce on the loss too.
Poor Rock is taking the blame for everything, isn't he?
Per the narrative, Cena has to win on April 7—otherwise he’ll just look like a joke.
There are also the practicalities to consider.
Rock is a highly sought-after movie star who is unable to take on the full WWE schedule—he’s been notably absent from the last two editions of Raw. While he might be able to get away with this short term, he can’t do it long term without serious fan resentment setting in.
A Cena victory at WrestleMania would also set up a rubber match somewhere down the road.
Thrice in a lifetime, anyone?
Of course, many fans will resent Cena’s return to the top of WWE.
Yes, after a few years off, the gaudy T-shirts, lame jokes and Five Moves of Doom are going to be firmly back in the title picture.
In fairness, these are perfectly valid complaints.
Creatively, his character has the same problems that it always did. He’s always going to come off as rather annoying and juvenile.
However, for WWE business, Cena's return to the top is absolutely the best thing.
Let’s look at the guy who has been on top for most of the past year: former WWE champion CM Punk.
For many people, Punk is very much the anti-Cena. Rude, obnoxious, covered in tattoos and bursting with attitude, he’s about as edgy a character as modern-day PG WWE will allow.
Jumping on his popularity with the IWC, WWE pushed Punk massively in 2011 and 2012, even giving him a year-long run with the WWE title. In autumn of 2012—following Cena’s time off after minor elbow surgery—Punk was even pushed as the indisputable top star of the show.
And the results?
The highly promoted Rock vs. Punk bout at the Royal Rumble also churned out a disappointing number. As WrestlingInc notes, it was only up 14 percent from last year. Considering this year had The Rock, that's not a huge improvement.
The message of Punk’s lukewarm title run is clear: What a certain subset of fans wants doesn’t necessarily apply to the overall audience.
Just look at how Raw’s ratings have turned around now that Cena is back on top and fighting for the title. Sure, The Rock is undoubtedly a factor, but it can’t just be him. Raw does well even when “The Great One” isn’t on the show. That’s down to Cena. (Numbers via PWTorch.)
OK, so Cena’s character is annoying to many older male fans, but what about everybody else?
The kids, their parents and female fans seemingly adore Cena for the most part, and they can provide plenty of money to the WWE through ticket and merchandise sales.
It’s also possible that his character could emerge from WrestleMania revamped and revitalized.
Viewers have already gotten hints at Cena’s darker side, when he discussed his anger and obsession with The Rock, as well as his troubled personal life.
So he’s never going to be an edgy, controversial character like Steve Austin, but he comes off as more human now than he ever has before.
It’s a good step forward and hopefully something that WWE will continue in the future. If anything will appease the crowd of Cena haters, it might be a more well-rounded and three-dimensional WWE champion.