The Stomping Ground: The Rock or John Cena? / Santino Marella at WrestleMania XXVIII

Welcome back to another weekly instalment of The Stomping Ground. As always I am your host, the most consistently entertaining man on Pulse Wrestling, Mike Gojira.

Originally I planned on focusing on one topic (surprisingly, no one else has pulled THIS one out of their ass yet so I’m really grateful), that being whether to root for The Rock or John Cena at this year’s WrestleMania. However, a new development has arisen here at the Pulse, one that I feel the need to address.

But for the sake of organization, I’ll start things off with Cena and The Rock.

John Cena vs The Rock: Whose Side Are You On?

This past Monday on Raw, homegrown WWE hero John Cena fired the first onscreen shot of 2012 at his WrestleMania opponent, Dwayne Johnson. Cena essentially called Rocky out on being a Hollywood shill whose promise to remain loyal to the WWE from now on seems to only be good for one month per year. Immediately following that promo, two of my best friends texted me with the same response: “Cena’s right. I’m rooting for him.”

That got me thinking, which is why you’re reading this particular nonsense right now. We know that, from now until April 1st, both men will be campaigning to get the crowd on their side. Before anyone makes a rash decision on who to get behind (which is par for the course around here), why not analyze both men and their respective careers?

John Cena started his wrestling career in UPW based out of California in 2000. The WWE scouted him and brought him to OVW (back when it was their farm league) in 2001. He debuted in the big leagues in a shoot-style match against Kurt Angle in June of 2002 and was a babyface until October, when he turned heel and assumed the gimmick of a rapper. Cena remained a heel for an entire year before turning face at the 2003 edition of Survivor Series. From there, he defeated Big Show for the United States Championship at WrestleMania XX and ended JBL’s year-long title run at WrestleMania XXI. That’s when Cena became the new Hulk Hogan and “Super Cena” was born.

Dwayne Johnson began his career as Rocky Maivia: a portmanteau of his father, Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia. Maivia debuted at the 1996 Survivor Series and went on to defeat Triple H for the Intercontinental Championship the following year. Fans began to turn on his goody-goody demeanor as the Attitude Era hit full steam. Rather than force Johnson down our throats as a face, the WWE brass had him join the Nation of Domination and the heel known as The Rock was born. Rock eventually forced NoD leader Faarooq out of the faction and feuded with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H. When the Nation disbanded, Rock teased a face turn in the Summer of 1998…until he became the figurehead for Vince McMahon’s Corporation at that year’s Survivor Series. After running roughshod over the WWE Superstars as the WWE Champion, The Rock was betrayed by Shane McMahon and became a fan favorite. Once Johnson’s movie career took off, he returned intermittently in the ensuing years. Throughout this period of his career, Rock was a face with the exception of 2003 when he played the part of a smug Hollywood sell-out. He would then make brief appearances here and there as a face, culminating in his much-publicized return at last year’s WrestleMania.

Both men began their careers as unknowns, with the exception of Rock’s bloodline used as a selling point. The major difference is that, at the time of The Rock’s rise to superstardom, the WWE used crowd reaction to turn him heel.

So why was this done for Rock and not Cena? The answer is quite simple.

As Rock was making his way up the ranks, he was nowhere near the main event when the crowd spit on his image, so it was an easy investment to make. Besides, most heels who eventually turn face do so because the fans demand it and it’s a simple transition at that point. With Cena, the company was banking on him to be their flagship wrestler and stupidly had no one waiting in the wings to take his place. Thus, when the fans turned on him, the company effectively ignored it because they had nobody ready to be the number one face of the company should Cena go bad. Couple that with the amount of children who look up to Cena (and thus their paying parents), and you’ll see how the WWE painted themselves into a corner.

And here we are, with a month between now and WrestleMania XXVIII.

The Rock is doing what he does best. He talks a good game and knows how to push the right buttons. He doesn’t need to explain himself or his behavior, and the live crowd seems to ignore the reality that Rock is not here to stay. Technically, The Rock is the heel in this arrangement and it’s Cena’s job to prove that he’s one-dimensional. We’ll have to wait and see how Rock responds next week and, more importantly, how the crowd reacts. It’s an uphill battle for John and, for the first time in years, Cena truly is the underdog.

Cena fans will cite his unwavering optimism and loyalty when defending their hero at WrestleMania. Rock fans will claim he is the more entertaining of the two and he’s not a tool. Honestly, we’re stuck with Cena for the foreseeable future and Rock is going to only make special appearances here and there. No matter the outcome of their match, this is the truth.

And yet I’m still going to root for The Rock. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

Santino Marella: WrestleMania Superstar?

Earlier this week, our own Kyle Fitta posted a blog discussing why he believes Santino Marella should face Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. While his logic seems to be based solely on a weekend’s worth of reactions (remember my “wait-and-see” attitude?), there are a few flaws in his argument.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Santino Marella’s role in the company is a comedy wrestler, and that’s perfectly okay. Everyone has their place in the pecking order. Am I saying that people should be content with where they are and not try for that big promotion? Hell no. There’s no reason to believe that Santino went into the business to be a comedian.

There’s also no reason to believe that he DIDN’T get involved for that very reason.

Allow me to put things in perspective. A part of me has always wanted to join the wrestling “circus,” as it were. And who among us hasn’t dreamed of being THE top guy in the world of professional wrestling? But reality sets in as I realize, “I’m a short guy, I’m not well-built, and I don’t think I could handle the tough lifestyle.” I’m comfortable knowing that, if I ever did join the WWE, I’d probably wind up being a manager a la Bobby Heenan or a comedy C-lister like Santino.

I am a fan of Santino’s work. Sure, some of the skits come off as extremely corny and downright idiotic, but I always crack some semblance of a smile when I see him. He also shows some skill in the ring, but only enough for a two-minute match. That’s not any fault of Santino’s: the company purposely books him this way to make him appear weak and pathetic. That’s the character he portrays. He’s a goofball underdog. It’s what makes him so endearing.

So when he gets a mini-push in the Royal Rumble last year, a spot in the Elimination Chamber, and a near-fall on the World Heavyweight Champion, OF COURSE he’s going to get a huge reaction.

With that out of the way, I need to address the belief that Santino should be involved in some way with the World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. I get Kyle’s reasoning; if the WHC match is pretty much guaranteed to be at the very most 4th from the top of the card, there’s no risk involved with putting Santino in the bout. I just don’t see how it’s a plausible choice to make when the company is dead-set on pushing Sheamus as Randy Orton’s replacement. Taking Sheamus out of the match would be asinine, and adding Santino to make it a Triple Threat really doesn’t add a risk to Sheamus’s chances. Santino’s best bet is going after a midcard title. That way he can still be an underdog challenger going after a title belt that doesn’t take away from the main event scene.

Zack Ryder is in a similar position over on Raw. The fact that he used social media to get himself over showed the WWE that they could no longer ignore the Internet. We’re paying for it now with overexposure, but at least they got the message. As it stands Ryder will never main event until he’s allowed to wrestle longer matches and ditch the comedy act. The same goes for Santino. And if you don’t believe me, consider this:

Right after Santino’s big push, right after his almost-victory at the PPV, right after his appearance in the Battle Royal that nearly ended Wade Barrett’s career…….

He was in a stupid skit with Heath Slater, “training” his absurd Cobra sock puppet. On a LIVE edition of SmackDown, guaranteed to draw more eyeballs to their TV sets.

If the company had any interest in pushing Santino as Mr. Fitta would like, what they did was counterproductive. I’m sorry, but I just can’t see Santino Marella challenging ANYONE for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania.

Mike Gojira’s Fave Five

1. Daniel Bryan: This was a tough one, since both DB and CM Punk had a hell of a match on Tuesday night. However, I have to give the top spot to Bryan for the overall character development he’s had in the past several weeks. On top of that, he helped Santino look like a million bucks on Sunday night.

2. CM Punk: Was there any doubt? He had an awesome match with Daniel Bryan on SmackDown that made me forget about the rest of the crap we had to endure before the main event. And he called out Chris Brown.

3. Santino Marella: The Milan Miracle had a stellar week, but I doubt it will amount to much. Still, it was fun to watch.

4. John Cena: He let loose a great, heart-felt promo on Raw that pretty much legitimately summed up everyone’s grief toward The Rock. And he wasn’t cheesy or corny about it, either.

5. Triple H/Undertaker: For their joint promo about being the end of an era. Actually, it’s kind of sad that my Fave Five this week consisted mostly of promos and not wrestling itself.

I’ll see you all next Thursday for another edition of The Stomping Ground. There won’t be a SmackDown recap this weekend on account of the fact that I already posted it here.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.


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