“Last year at WrestleMania, I told every single person that would listen that I needed to win that match, and I failed.” – John Cena
We live in a world of stories. Whether it’s about true love, the clash between good and evil, the tragic fall of the wanton traveler, or something completely different, there is no escaping the tales that every one of us craft in our lives.
One of the oldest and most real stories we all experience is that of failure. We are all human, and we all face challenges in life that we simply cannot overcome. The story rarely stops there though. While some wallow in their own inability, the greatest tales are of those who learn from their defeat and become stronger because of it.
At WrestleMania XXIX, John Cena writes the next chapter of his story in this same vein. For one year, Cena has had to deal with the fact that he lost, that despite all his promises he failed. Now, he has one more chance to show that he’s not the same man who failed on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Yet, in professional wrestling, the stories are rarely one sided. For every redemption story, there is a man not willing to give up or back down. The cause of the fall does not simply live in a void. There is a real person with their own motives standing tall and waiting.
The Rock is that man here. Gone for seven years, the Rock has come back, and he has now taken up the mantle of being WWE Champion once again. He is the People’s Champion, living in a moment he has been missing for far too long and not simply ready to hand over the mantle.
The Rock wasn’t born an icon, but he sure was bred to be one. As a part of an illustrious family and gifted with incredible athleticism, the Rock was made for this sport. It took some trial and error and one very unique idea by Dwayne Johnson himself, but it all came together soon enough.
Yet, despite seeming almost entitled to what he was given, the Rock always overachieved. He forced the gimmick of the Rock into the forefront. He became the number two even at times number one guy despite WWE already had the incomparable Stone Cold Steve Austin already at the helm.
Rock didn’t even stop there as he became a star above and beyond WWE. When Hollywood came calling, Rock found he could make the leap into a realm no one in wrestling had yet been able to conquer and had to make the toughest decision of his life to leave the company his family had helped build to explore every avenue.
He had to give up WWE for a time to make sure that the company was never a factor in his rise in Hollywood. He wanted to make it on his own or not at all, and he succeeded. The Rock became such a star that he saw an opportunity to finally bring himself back into the fold and reemerged in the WWE.
“I’m not here every single week. I was here every single week for years and years. That was my job, and I loved it. You see, the Rock was born and created here in the WWE, and I also know that if it wasn’t for the WWE and all of you the Rock would never exist. When I came back and said I was back and I was never going away, I meant it. Now, did it mean that I was going to be back at every single Raw, every night, every SmackDown, every live event? No, that’s not what it meant, and that was not what was ever expected.” – The Rock
With a fresh perspective and a new legion of followers, the Rock came back to be the man, but he ran into the one person who already considered himself the man.
A lifelong fan of professional wrestling, Cena built himself up to become a wrestler at a young age. On the surface, he didn’t have anything more than a great physique and a unique personality, but he certainly had the heart and passion to make the most of those attributes.
He came into the WWE as a young guy just looking to show his toughness and developed through a rapper gimmick into WWE’s future. He showed an undeniable charisma and appeal that transcended everything else. It made Cena the star of the show.
“I went from an underdog to odds on favorite, but I did it as me. Through all of this, the wins, the losses, the championships, the year when I didn’t win the big one at WrestleMania, the embarrassment, the humility, I’ve had to stand on my own two feet and do it as me.” – John Cena
Cena has now sat atop WWE for years, earning every accolade in this business. He broke records for WWE Championship reigns. He ruled the roost so well that he became the only man left.
While many came to challenge Cena and even defeated him, nothing fazed WWE’s ultimate Boy Scout as he always rose up and won again. Once Cena became the star, no one could stop him because no one could get inside Cena’s head, affect Cena’s legacy.
That was until the one man Cena had never expected to see again returned.
Take two of the largest personalities in WWE’s history and throw them in one ring, and you are asking for an explosion. For the past three years, it has been an eruption of egos and pride that has engulfed WrestleMania.
From the moment the Rock stepped into the WWE again, Cena has only had one real focus. As much as he would try to fight for the WWE Title and challenge stars from Del Rio to Punk, the Rock was always in the back of Cena’s mind.
“I don’t intend to go to WrestleMania XXVIII just happy to be there. I don’t intend to be honored to be along for the ride. I want to win. I need to win.” – John Cena before WrestleMania XXVIII
For the past three years, Cena has seen his WrestleMania legacy diminish as he failed to defeat the Miz then failed even worse in what he called the most important match of his life.
It wasn’t about championships. It wasn’t about legacy. It was about selling his point. Cena had run his mouth for years about how the Rock was gone. How Dwayne Johnson would never beat him, and there was no doubt for Cena about that.
For the Rock, he was there to compete. It wasn’t about Hollywood or the money. The Rock had enough of that to last a lifetime with more constantly coming in, but he didn’t have the world that he had left. He returned to give back and to experience the WWE once more.
He wasn’t one to listen to others run their mouths. Cena was just another critic to Rock, and the Rock was always willing to shut down his critics. At WrestleMania, he did just that. All the talk was over, and Cena’s words meant nothing more to the Rock than they ever had before.
The Ultimate Collision
“That’s the biggest difference between you and me. You think you can beat me. I know I can beat you.” – The Rock
At WrestleMania XXVIII, Cena made a promise. For years, Cena had made promises, and he always kept them. However, on that night, in front of a sold out crowd in Sun Life Stadium and the record breaking millions watching at home, Cena broke his promise.
He failed, and the Rock succeeded. It ate away at Cena because he had never had the chance for a rebuttal. Even when he tried to pass it off as just another loss the following night, it was eating away at Cena. It caused him to take a tailspin that left in the worst state of his career since becoming the man.
He tried to become WWE Champion again, and he failed. He tried to become World Heavyweight Champion again, and he couldn’t even do that. At the end of the day, Cena needed to get back his 2012. He needed to find some turnaround because everything he did revolved around his ability to keep his word. He couldn’t be the universal hero for everyone like the Rock. Instead, he created loyalty through truth.
Every step he took brought him further down until he made one last promise. “This Sunday, I will win the Royal Rumble.” Cena fulfilled that promise and began his road to redemption. Meanwhile, on that same night, another man made a promise and kept it as Rock defeated CM Punk and became WWE Champion. He took it the hard way and became even more of a hero, overshadowing Cena’s historic win.
The Rock now stands as the answer to all Cena’s problems. The WWE Champion and the man Cena has never beaten, the Rock is the symbol of Cena’s last step. If he wins at WrestleMania, he gets it all back and proves once and for all that he can be the man for WWE.
For Cena, a win on Sunday is his everything. If he fails, there is no answer. He can’t fail, not again. On April 7th, in Met Life Stadium, Cena must emerge the victor, and it can never be in question. Cena needs to leave the victor at any and all cost.
For the Rock, it’s not about the magical story. Cena’s obsession is laughable to the Rock because it shows that Cena doesn’t know how to get back up. The Rock has always gotten back up and then risen to greater heights. On Sunday, he looks in the eyes of an overly passionate man who will give him another clash for the ages for the WWE Championship he never wants to lose again.
The words have been spoken down to the last. Over the past three years, the Rock and John Cena have said and done everything they could to one another. There is absolutely nothing more they can say without a dynamic change in their relationship.
“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi
The point of this match comes down to one thing: the importance of a victory. The Rock winning proves his dominance as a performer and credibility as WWE Champion. Cena winning proves that he is indeed the man in WWE and can keep his word.
Cena wants to win while Rock feels confident in his upcoming victory. How far will Cena’s desire reach? Can he handle failure a second time? How far will he be willing to go to make sure he leaves WrestleMania the victor and what will his victory end up meaning if it is only for the sake of winning?
These are questions and thoughts that will plague viewers until the moment this match ends. These are the definitive thoughts that could help create one of the most transcendent and powerful matches in WWE history. When Sunday ends, the answers to these questions may just be the most important in WWE history.
“Greatness is a journey. It begins with the impossible and turns into the unforgettable.” – The Rock
“But greatness is never given. It is earned, so you work harder, dream bigger. Chase, capture, and conquer history. To become a legend.” – John Cena
“And legends live forever.” – The Rock