The Rock is incredibly valuable to the WWE—even the biggest Rock haters can’t deny that.
He’s a big reason why WrestleMania 28 garnered more than 1.2 million buys and was the highest-grossing event in WWE history, and his WWE Championship against CM Punk at the 2013 Royal Rumble helped the pay-per-view generate a whopping 60,000 more buys than it did the previous year.
Like him or not, The Rock equals dollar signs, and his value to the WWE can’t be questioned. But if we’re going to talk about a WWE superstar who makes the company a ton of money, we’d be remiss to leave out John Cena.
For the better part of a decade now, Cena has been the WWE’s top draw and its biggest money-maker, going virtually unchallenged for the company’s top spot until recently, thanks to the rise of Punk. But despite Punk becoming the WWE’s clear-cut No. 2 full-time star, it’s also clear that Cena stands alone as the most valuable performer in the company.
Yes, even more valuable than The Rock.
While The Rock shows up from time to time to have a match, appear on a few TV shows and then go away again for a while, it’s Cena who is—unless he’s injured—is in the trenches every day of every week of every year. Heck, Cena even guts it out through his injuries at times when many other superstars wouldn’t even consider doing the same thing.
But it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cena is arguably the hardest working man in all of pro wrestling. You don’t get to the top of the business purely by luck. You get there by hard work.
Cena is living proof of that, as—whether you’re a fan of his or not—he’s been busting his butt for the WWE for more than a decade now and has been doing it as the face of the company for almost as long. Along the way, he’s risen to the top spot in all of pro wrestling, and no part-time star will ever change that.
The Rock may result in a PPV buyrate increase here and there, and he may even make the TV ratings go up from time to time. But the reality is that, while The Rock may bring a ton of value to the WWE, he isn’t as valuable as Cena because he isn’t around as much as Cena.
It’s a situation that you can compare to professional baseball. You ever notice how rare it is to see a pitcher (whether a starter or closer) win the MVP award? That’s not a coincidence.
Starting pitchers may make 30-something starts a year, which translates to about one start per week or roughly one out of every five games. Similarly, closers may pitch an inning or two a few times per week.
But the everyday players—and they’re called that for a reason—are, barring injury, out there on the field working their tails off for 162 games a year. That’s why you see those players racking up MVPs. They’re more valuable to their team than someone who only plays in 20 percent of the games.
That’s also exactly why The Rock isn’t the MVP of the WWE and why Cena is.
Just like the MLB pitcher helps his team win a World Series title, The Rock helps the WWE remain the unquestioned king of pro wrestling. But just like the MLB pitcher doesn’t bring as much value to the team as its best everyday player, The Rock doesn’t bring as much value to the WWE as the company’s top dog, John Cena.
This isn’t to say that The Rock doesn’t have a place in the WWE. Any World Series-winning manager will tell you that his team couldn’t have won it all if his best pitcher didn’t help the team win once a week.
But when The Rock shows up to the WWE once every few months, he’s doing the same thing that the prize pitcher is doing. He’s working far less often than his “teammates,” but he’s probably making considerably more money than they are.
There’s no doubt that The Rock is racking up the dough during his WWE run, and he may be helping the company pick up a few “victories” here and there. But Cena is on the field each and every week making sure that his team heads to the title game.
He’s the one who’s selling more merchandise than anyone in the company. He’s the one who’s working house shows and wrestling dark matches at TV tapings. He’s the one who’s going to be around this summer.
But The Rock? He may be selling a boatload of t-shirts, but he won’t be performing at the WWE’s next live event or appearing on TV all throughout the summer.
While The Rock certainly has his place in the WWE, just like the MLB’s pitchers do, he can never truly be considered to be the MVP of the team he hardly ever plays for.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!