It's March 14, 2004: Wrestlemania XX.
The Rock 'n' Sock Connection has reformed to take on Evolution (Batista, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton) in a handicap tag match. After a well fought contest, Rock 'n' Sock finally succumbs to the will of Evolution, as Mick Foley is pinned by Randy Orton following an RKO.
After the match, Mick Foley and the Rock share a brief celebration and leave the ring to thunderous cheers. As of that moment, it was the Rock's final match and one of the last times we saw "The Great One" live on WWE TV.
Fast forward seven years.
On the February 14, 2011 episode of RAW, a "special guest host" of Wrestlemania was to be announced. This is something that had never been done before and rumors and speculation were flying everywhere. We all hoped for the same outcome, but we didn't build ourselves up too much. Right before the guest host was to be announced, a limousine pulled up and a woman stepped out.
Just like that, our dreams were crushed.
But at the final moments of the night, Justin Roberts appeared on the mic and said "Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome your guest host of Wrestlemania..." The crowd fell mostly silent as one by one the lights were shut off until there was only darkness.
A storm cloud—complete with lightning—briefly appeared on the Titantron before going blank again. A few suspenseful seconds passed until "IF YOU SMEELLLLLLLL, what the Rock...is cooking!" blared out over the stadium. The crowd erupted in, quite possibly, the biggest pop in wrestling history.
And at that moment, finally, the Rock had returned.
He delivered a very heartfelt promo, apologizing to the fans for leaving them and promised that he would never go away. The moment was complete with The Rock telling Michael Cole off, calling out the Miz, and, of course, dissing John Cena.
From this moment, the Rock and John Cena have been engaged in an epic war of words. It started in 2008, when John Cena dissed The Rock for leaving for Hollywood. As much as I hated to admit it, John Cena had a point. The Rock didn't just retire—he left for good. Very rarely did we see The Rock, and most of the times we did see him he appeared on the Titantron.
John Cena even addressed these circumstances the following week, delivering a promo (via rap) that made a lot of haters side with Cena again. The Rock followed up Cena's rap with one of his own, which Cena followed up with yet another rap.
Somewhere along the line, peole started taking sides.
Many of us can't help but side with the Rock because, well, he's The Rock! Then, there are those who haven't forgiven or forgotten about the Rock's abandonment and have now sided with Cena. It pains me to hear people dissing The Rock and even implying that Cena is better (a very subjective matter, yes, but still one that annoys me).
The purpose of this article is to remind you guys why we, the MILLIONS, still have a "People's Champ" in the Rock.
The Rock had a seven-year career with the WWE. After those seven short years, the Rock had accomplished everything he set out to do.
He was the youngest WWE champion ever (until Brock Lesnar broke that record, but what can you do?). He won the Royal Rumble. He became one of the most iconic superstars of all time. He was the main event at Wrestlemania. He defeated Stone Cold in what is now "The Rattlesnake's" final match.
After accomplishing so many feats, championships, and achievements, it's very honorable for him to retire while he's still in his prime. He didn't stay on top and become champion 50 times just because he could. He didn't stay around and squash green talent just to prove that he was still the best. He went out in style, helping a couple of new guys get over (Batista and Randy Orton).
Sure the Rock's motives were a little selfish (accomplish everything there was to do and then leave), but it's not like he didn't give back to the business.
He was there to lose to Stone Cold at Wrestlemania XV. He was there for the epic double-turn at Wrestlemania XVII. He lost the WCW title to Chris Jericho. He put over Brock Lesnar, a feat that Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't want to do and actually walked out just to avoid it. His final year was spent out of the spotlight to pave the way for the newer generation. His final match helped put over Randy Orton and Batista (not like they weren't being put over before that, but still, it was their first Mania).
The Rock is one of the most influential superstars of all time. The show Smackdown was practically named for The Rock (due to his catchphrase "Lay the Smackdown" or sometimes "Layeth the Smackethdown!").
Many superstars today have practically modeled themselves after The Rock. The Miz holds his microphone in a similar fashion and has mannerisms similar to the Rock. Superstars everywhere are performing the People's Elbow out of respect (CM Punk and more recently, The Miz). Even John Cena acts similarly to the Rock (mainly when he's yelling into the mic) and has a signature move similar to the People's Elbow (the Five Knuckle Shuffle).
Are you still mad at the Rock for leaving?
Well, then let me fix that in this paragraph. The Rock never left WWE for rival company. He was a WWE man his entire career and even kept his moniker of "The Rock" for a few years, before dropping it in favor of his real name. This is unlike Hulk Hogan, who left WWE for WCW, practically killed the company that made him, until WCW failed, then came back with his tail tucked between his legs, but was still treated like royalty.
Same for Ric Flair.
I already mentioned Stone Cold refusing the job to Lesnar and today's top stars squashing new talent (not going to mention any names but....John Cena, Triple H, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Undertaker, Big Show). I don't hear any complaints about Macho Man not returning either (not a knock on Randy Savage, who is one of my favorites of all time).
Plus, after seven long years, the Rock finally returned.
Isn't it a little redundant to diss him for leaving when he's back now? It just seems that a lot of the reasons people have for dissing The Rock are things that can be said about other superstars who are constantly praised by the same people.
And I dare you to name one wrestling fan that hates The Rock, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Rey Mysterio, AND Ric Flair.
I dare you.
In conclusion, John Cena and The Rock are currently in the middle of a war of words. Obviously, they will finally meet face-to-face on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
What will happen on that fateful day? Well, a lot of us probably already know, but remember: anything can happen in Sports Entertainment.
We all found that out on February 14, 2011.