Oftentimes in wrestling, like professional sports, when one era ends and a new one begins, we are quick to name someone the next this or the next that .
The NBA has done it since the moment Michael Jordan called it quits.
Baseball tries to call big time hitters "The Babe Ruth of their generation."
There isn't anything wrong with making the comparisons on the surface, but what it does to the fans watching at home and to the people who pay to see it live, is keep them from seeing a performer or athlete for what they are. It strips anyone of having their own individual identity.
I can think of no better example for this than the often-heard, yet mostly unnecessary comparisons between The Rock and John Cena. I find this to be a little tiresome and a bit unfounded. Now, the people who like to make the comparison will tend to pick a side and tell you who is better and why. That's fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have one too and I hold a strong preference for one of them.
What bothers me about doing this is that you are taking two guys, from different eras in WWE and wrestling history, and lumping them into a category that doesn't exist. This hinders not only the legend of The Rock, but also the ability for John Cena's character to grow.
This whole Rock vs. Cena thing hurts Cena more than it does The Rock. I am by no means a member of Cenation, but I am not one of the millions of people who hate the man either. I look at him with open and honest eyes.
Here is why making the comparisons are tough and a little unfounded:
The Rock was a product of the most successful and greatest era in wrestling history, the Attitude Era. Nobody will ever forget how wonderful the product was during this time. It can be argued that the best year in WWE history was 2000. The Rock's popularity skyrocketed to new heights, as he carried the load that year with Austin being out due to injury. He was a huge sell and a media sensation.
John Cena is in the new era that people are simply dubbing as "PG" now. Wrestling isn't as hot, the quality of talent isn't as high, the writing isn't nearly as good, and the crowds are pretty tame. Cena appeals to the kids and he sells a lot of merchandise.
However, when it comes to people over the age of eighteen, he's not too popular. It's two guys from two different eras being lumped in because they were both the "faces" of the organization at some point or another.
The Rock was a top guy during the top era in the company's history. The WWF, as it was known during the Attitude Era, was a better product.
It's pretty cut and dry. The storylines were better, the wrestling was better, the promos were better, the feuds were better, crowds were amazing and loud, and titles actually meant something.
It was such an exciting program to watch. Every Raw and Smackdown was two hours of unpredictable excitement. Even the theme songs for the shows were better then. There was something magical about that time in wrestling history. It was even during the Monday Night Wars with WWE and WCW. I think that the worst thing to ever happen to WWE was buying its competition. Since then, things have changed, with the need to be the best and to put out a nearly flawless product diminishing.
John Cena has been a part of the era we have now, one that has began around 2005. Since he won his first world title in that very same year, he has been "the guy" of this era. He had a fresh gimmick with the whole "rapper" thing, and fans seemed to love to hate him in that smug heel role. Over time, he got over with the crowd and the WWE creative team decided to push him into the babyface realm. While this did wonders at first, people began to get tired of his shtick, his inability to sell, or wrestle very well, and now his reaction is 50/50 in every arena.
I think it has far more to do with the WWE pushing him and his babyface character in the wrong direction. His promos are very cheesy and stale, his wrestling moves are predictable, and having him change his finishing move name have all contributed to getting people to cheer for the heels when they go up against John Cena.
I say all that to say this: John Cena is a talented man.
Watch him in 2003 and 2004. He was one of the best, if not the best, on the mic at the time. His matches were okay, but you loved to hate him. His rap battles were epic and he was just a fun guy to watch. I put most of the blame on WWE for watering down Cena. He has more talent and fun in him than they seem to be allowing him. As long as those shirts sell though, none of that will matter to them.
Now with that said, I have a smaller and more opinion-based reason for the comparison to stop: The Rock is simply better .
He was a better wrestler, entertainer, sold more tickets, had more fans, etc. I found his character to be the most creative and exciting character in WWE history. His promos are the best ever, and he could hold a crowd's attention without even saying a word. His ability in the ring wasn't legendary, but he held his own. He had great PPV matches almost every month in 2000 and 2001.
He was a great seller and excelled as both a heel and a face. He carried the company to epic heights in 2000 and when his music hit, everybody stood up and paid attention (same with Austin).
John Cena is a talented man, but The Rock was, and is, the better overall package. Watch how crowds react to Cena and go back and watch what happened every time The Rock cut a promo, his music hit, or he won a title match. The guy had a whole arena chanting his name by simply telling them to.
Cena comes out to mild applause and piped in crowd noise from the WWE production truck during his promos and entrances (listen closely). The Rock is the better of the two and crowds around the world have made that known.
I feel bad for Cena. He gets a very unfair shake sometimes and probably deserves to get a better image then a "Rock wannabe" or "Poor man's Rock." Let the man be what he is and like him or hate him for that. Living in The Rock's shadow isn't fair to him or the WWE fans.
Give the man his own legacy and leave The Great One to his own. If you smell what I'm cookin'.