Douces Wild: Wrestlemania 28 Retrospective Part 3
Match 7: CM Punk defeats Chris Jericho to retain the WWE Title at 22:20
When you have a good story going on but it isn’t bombastic or over-dramatic, should you add a new dimension to the story to make it seem more “interesting”? That’s the question that hangs over the head of this match and the entire build of this feud between two men who consider themselves the Best in the World. At Survivor Series, in Madison Square Garden, CM Punk defeated Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Title in what was a huge moment for the company but the argument could be made that it was more out of an attempt at damage control then honestly rewarding Punk. I say damage control because the company had pretty much ruined the Summer of Punk 2011 angle that had made Punk one of the most talked about wrestlers throughout the summer and turned what could have been a very dull summer into something very intriguing and interesting. Fans thought that when Punk cut that legendary Pipe Bomb promo, he was going to become the Stone Cold Steve Austin for THIS generation. Many were looking at John Cena as sort of the Hulk Hogan of the era and people were looking for their Stone Cold…….the fans thought they had it in CM Punk but that was until the WWE stepped in to get a little too hands on with it. The idea of Punk winning the WWE Title in his hometown of Chicago and leaving the WWE with it was a genius hook but it was one that fans honestly didn’t trust the WWE to deliver on….would they REALLY let CM Punk go to ROH or NJPW or anywhere else with THEIR WWE Title? Well…….the company didn’t think that was a good idea so they decided to end the most intriguing part of the entire Summer of Punk angle in a mere 10 days so that the WWE could run the Punk/Cena rematch at Summerslam 2011. After that, the entire thing was pretty much, in my opinion, screwed up by these two guys…….
Triple H and Kevin Nash’s involvement in the entire angle ended up killing the whole thing and thus it took Punk a good long while to recover from it. The company felt that giving Punk the WWE Title at Survivor Series would help and in a sense, it did but also it just seems like a consolation prize to give to Punk for screwing him over. On the very first RAW at 2012, Chris Jericho made his return to the company after being away for about a year and a half……many salivated at the idea of Jericho vs Punk for the title at Mania and it seemed like the logical step to go. Jericho’s 2012 comeback was quite fascinating…….it was the one where he come out, ran around and posed for 10 minutes……and then leave without saying a word on the microphone. Jericho promised before the Royal Rumble that it was going to be the end of the world as we knew it, promising us something that I don’t know if Jericho would have been able to deliver. However, Chris Jericho did not win the 2012 Royal Rumble……..Sheamus did. Jericho was the original plan and it was certainly the one that made the most sense but apparently, it was just a little too obvious and the company swerved the fans at the last minute with Sheamus winning. In reality, Jericho should have won the match in hindsight…….it would have added more to the story between he and Punk, it probably would have helped Sheamus in the long run and they wouldn’t have dicked around with the Jericho/Punk storyline like they did. Once they finally got the match announced after a convoluted Elimination Chamber match where Punk accidentally knocked Jericho out and then Jericho winning an arbitrary battle royal to finally get the shot. Originally, the match was built on the precipice of who is better and Jericho’s jealousy at Punk for allegedly copying his gimmick to get himself over. Punk had been calling himself the self-proclaimed “Best in the World”……..Jericho was the self-proclaimed “Best in the World At What I Do”. Jericho accused Punk of stealing his shtick to get to the top: stealing his catchphrases, stealing his move set, stealing everything! The story there was that both men came from the same mold of working their way up throughout the world……in fact, they were two of the last batch of guys who did that in their words. However, in Jericho’s mind, he’s more entitled to the “Best in the World” moniker because he knows that many young wrestlers working at this time pretty much took an aspect from him and molded into their character.
Jericho accused Punk of being the biggest Y2J knockoff of them all…….the cocky attitude, the swagger, the mic skills…..everything that made Punk what he was at the beginning of this feud, Jericho claims that Punk stole from him. As we all know that Punk is a guy who marches to the beat of his own drum, as does Jericho, and both are very opinionated when it comes to character, matches and decisions being made. Both men ARE very similar……and we also know that both of these two are two of the best wrestlers on the roster, making their match the most must see match, from a wrestling perspective, on the Wrestlemania 28 card. Hell, these two were flat out saying in promos that they are going to steal the show and that they were going to have the best WRESTLING match on the card and we all know that these two can deliver in that. Jericho even picked up a few wins on Punk leading up to the PPV in tag matches and stuff of that nature, all in an attempt to getting into Punk’s head and throw him off his game. So for about the first 3 weeks of the build towards this match, the feud was simple: two great wrestlers, one WWE Title…..who is the best of these two? Simple but effective and that’s all you need. You’ve already got the big overly dramatic match with the Hell in a Cell match and you also have the big pomp and circumstance match with Rock/Cena…….this show is sadly not being sold on Punk/Jericho so basically, all they have to do is keep the story simple, get fans to tune in and steal the show at Wrestlemania. Once you get past Wrestlemania, you can add more fuel to the fire since the rematch, if there was to be one, was going to be a major part of the Extreme Rules PPV the next. However……..that’s not what this company did, now did they? Now, the original idea that Jericho and Punk had for this story was to continue the story that Jericho was better than CM Punk and that he was the true Best in the World, even to the point where Jericho was going to TATTOO HIS INITIALS ONTO CM PUNK’S BODY!!! No, I’m not joking, go read Jericho’s third book!! In fact, Punk was going to actually fly his tattoo guy to the arena and actually have him show Jericho how to do it and to do it properly!!! Of course…….the idea was nixed by Vince McMahon due to the potential blood that could come from that. But imagine that…….Jericho was actually going to tattoo his initials on Punk’s body to prove how much better he is than Punk…..THAT’S AWESOME!!! And Punk is the kind of guy who would do it too……this is a guy who allowed someone to use a cheese grater to attempt to scrub off his tattoos back in Ring of Honor!!!
Because Vince McMahon nixed the idea, he was the one who came up with the idea for Jericho to insult Punk’s formerly alcoholic father. Now for those of you who have watched Punk’s run in Ring of Honor in the past, Punk had already used his father as the basis for a feud with Raven back in ROH in 2003 so it wasn’t an original idea whatsoever. In fact, Vince probably heard about it from someone and passed the idea off as his own like he was some great genius, I could TOTALLY see that happening!! So Jericho proceeded to call Punk a fraud, that his straight edge lifestyle was all a lie because he was trying to bury the demons of his alcoholic father. Jericho insinuated that being an alcoholic was in Punk’s blood……he was born with it because of his father and that Jericho was going to beat Punk so bad at Wrestlemania that Punk was going to forego his entire Straight Edge lifestyle and turn to drinking. Punk came out and told audiences that what Jericho said was, indeed, true about his father being an alcoholic but Punk has since forgiven his father for his actions and that he uses his father’s story as motivation to be better, especially since Punk’s father had battled and beaten his addictions. However, Jericho came up on the Titan Tron and eventually revealed a whole new piece of information that not a lot of people knew about…….Punk’s sister and her history with drugs. Now, the father is something that is relatable but it’s not exactly uncommon……we see how Punk’s father’s lifestyle shaped him into the man that he became in life but to hear that Punk’s sister also dabbled in drugs really paints a very uncompromising picture on Punk’s family life and probably explains Punk’s bitterness towards the world that he seems to have. I also enjoyed the tease of Jericho bringing up Punk’s mother…….only to reveal that she did nothing wrong and was a saint but then revealed that Punk was consummated out of wedlock and Jericho called him a “bastard child”. So……in the span of 3 weeks, we go from two men fighting for the WWE Title to prove who the Best in the World truly is……..to alcoholic fathers, drug addicted sisters and bastard children!! It’s like we’ve walked out of a wrestling promotion and into an episode of Game of Thrones for Christ’s Sake!! And I really do like Jericho bringing all of this stuff up to get into Punk’s mind and I love it…….but didn’t feel a little forced or even a little rushed? To me, this seems like Jericho should have been doing AFTER he lost at Wrestlemania, to hype up the match at Extreme Rules between them……not BEFORE their match at Mania. It’s almost as if the writers didn’t trust the story and felt that this match also needed this overdramatic hook to it just to get people to pay more attention to it and now you’re placing another set of expectations on a match that didn’t need them in the first place.
At the end of the day, you were going to sell this match on the quality of the action and the storytelling these two could bring out…….the Game of Thrones scenario was unnecessary. And you’d think this company would have learned from the Triple H/Randy Orton debacle just 3 years prior that adding a “if Punk gets DQ’d, Jericho wins the title” stipulation is DETRACTING from the match rather than ADDING to the match. The difference is that Triple H and Randy Orton need weapons and violence to have great matches against each other because without them, they aren’t the most enjoyable of guys to watch with each other…….Jericho and Punk don’t need weapons, they are just as great without them. However, I’ll be damned if they didn’t spend the first 5 MINUTES of this match trying to beat it over your skull about that “Punk better not get DQ’d” stipulation where Jericho kept trying to bait Punk in by taunting him about his father and mother then cowering in the corner as Punk kept pounding on him. So the match isn’t about who is better……the match is about Punk’s revenge and if he can control his temper……which I would be fine with if the match actually needed a hook like that to be good, which this one didn’t need. After that, however, this match does something interesting: it gets BETTER!! There is one spot in the match where Jericho flat out suplexes Punk out of the ring to the floor in probably the nastiest spot of the entire show and thus begins the story of Jericho’s assault on Punk’s back and that’s when we are back to the original story: who is better? And just like that, the match turns on a dime and it becomes the fantastic match that I knew these two could have……I was really caught up in the action rewatching this and I felt that they had earned my respect after losing my interest early on. Punk and Jericho worked very well together and while this may not have been their first match against each other, it was certainly their best. And like I said earlier where these two didn’t need weapons or over the top violence to get their point across……it gets proven here as these two have ZERO problems in pounding the absolute shit out of each other. Their chops were vicious, their moves had extra snap against each other, submissions had extra torque, kicks and knee strikes were more vicious……they took their intensity to a whole other level and the fans started playing along once they came alive after the very disappointing first 5 minutes. They were buying into every counter, every strike and every near fall…..and kudos to these two as you watch the match, you still think that maybe, just maybe, Jericho has a chance of pulling this thing off!!
The finish is fantastic as Punk attempts the Anaconda Vice after the GTS proved to not work against Jericho but it was also because he wanted to punish Jericho and make him submit for the things he said. Jericho viciously kneed his way out of the hold and once again, we get more counters and it’s only fair that Punk add extra torque to his submission after Jericho finally dusted off the old Liontamer out on Punk during this match along with the more well-known Walls of Jericho. After more counters, Punk finally caught Jericho in the Anaconda Vice again and this time, he actually alters his body to where Jericho can’t hit him with the knee strikes to get out of the hold!!! So with that, Jericho has no choice to tap out because Punk is free to just torture him and Punk gets the win on this stage. Obviously, the feud continued and the stuff leading into Extreme Rules just wasn’t nearly as good in my opinion: part of it was that a good portion of it was ridiculous (like the hypocrisy of CM Punk having to take a sobriety test on national television because some people saw him “drinking” some alcohol that Jericho sent him and that Punk would be stripped of the WWE Title if he was proven drunk…….WHEN DID THAT RULE GET IMPLENTED INTO THIS COMPANY?????) and of course, you had two of Jericho’s infamous blunders the next night on RAW where he slipped on the “Jack Daniels” (once again, Jericho and Punk wanted to use real Jack Daniels, which shows Punk’s commitment to the story, but Vince shot it down and told them to use iced tea) and the bottle broke in Jericho’s hand before it even hit Punk’s head……classic unintentional comedy. Their match at Extreme Rules was also a great little match as well and while it also suffers from lack of pace at times, it still was a fantastic match in its own right and my favorite part of the match is Jericho interacting with Punk’s sister, who was in attendance in the front row, and after she slaps him, Jericho goes to hit her and Punk dives out of nowhere. To me, THAT match solidified Punk as the champion in my eyes and it showed that if they kind of wanted to pull back on the John Cena gravy train to solidify Punk, this would have been the time but sadly that did not happen and Punk got even further devalued as the year went. But as for this Wrestlemania match, I find that it has probably aged a little better than you’d think……mostly due to the fact that you don’t have the massive amounts of expectations that this match MUST be a classic even though it’s pretty close. Once you get past the “angle” stuff, the match is the absolute wrestling awesomeness that we knew we would get from these two……I award this match a 9.0 out of 10 and while it may not match up in drama to the Hell in a Cell match, it is the best pure match on the entire card!!
I guess I should also mention that it’s around this time where the following happens: Brodus Clay comes out to dance with his “mama” and her Bridge club, Machine Gun Kelly performs two songs before John Cena’s entrance and Flo Rida performs two songs before The Rock’s entrance. Two words describe my feelings on these three things: FAST FORWARD!! I mean, my outlook on Rock vs Cena is already polarizing enough and I got these three horrible mini-concerts taking up an extra 30 minutes to really annoy me even more, which doesn’t help this match’s cause but I am still going to look at it objectively.
Main Event: The Rock defeats John Cena at 30:53
Ah yes, the true reason as to why I’ve decided to do this review and let it be known that this will not please everyone. One of the main reasons why I watch wrestling is not just to see these larger than life characters battle each other onscreen but to see a good story unfold. Storytelling is one of the most important aspects to a wrestling match…..without it, you’re just watching people do moves to each other without rhyme or reason. And how much must one be able to judge a match based on its lengthy build, insane crowd reactions and the money the event drew without getting into the storytelling and the actual match…..where both may not be as good as you’d think. In order to do this justice, let’s go back and begin at the beginning: February 14, 2011. On this night, The Rock made his long awaited return to the company in his first true onscreen appearance in years……obviously, the fans lost their minds and I honestly felt that electricity jolt as well seeing Rock back in a ring after all this kind. It felt like Rock had never left as he cut a great promo, bringing back old jokes, mocking Michael Cole……stuff that legitimately made me happy. That is…..until we got to the TRUE reason for Rock’s promo. The Rock talked about how the company has gone from Austin 3:16, the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment and the Hulkamaniacs to…….You Can’t See Me? Rock’s jab at asking if it’s a game of peekaboo was pretty funny but that’s where Rock pretty much laid it out as to why he was back: he was back to save this company from John Cena and bring back the days or memories of the Attitude Era. Rock was basically the voice of the people, the ones who had grown tired of Cena’s childish antics, his constant “never say die” attitude, his constant victories and destruction of great wrestlers and the entire WWE machine being behind this guy who, in reality, wouldn’t have been able to survive the Attitude Era with his gimmick……not even 1996 would Cena have survived. But here we are, in this day and age, and Cena is a relic of the past……an ode to the days of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior in terms of pandering to the children and women moreso than the boys, teens and men who watch the show more religiously……and Rock was back to put him in his place. Rock calling Cena out like that was something that everybody latched on to because he was right……we were tired of John Cena and we wanted our Rock and Austin back!
Cena’s beef with the Rock, on the other hand, was the fact that Rock was basically a hypocrite. Yea, sure, Rock can talk a big game about the Attitude Era being great and he’s back to save the people from him but…….Rock left. Rock left to go be a movie star and became an even bigger icon as a movie star to secure his status as one of the greatest pop culture figures of the last decade……and Cena didn’t like that. In Cena’s words, Rock gave up on the fans, the wrestling fans, to go hang out with Arnold Schwarzenegger, battle with Vin Diesel on the big screen and dress up as The Tooth Fairy and in a sense, Cena’s right……Rock DID leave. So going into Wrestlemania 27, we had the established ideologies of these two but there was one problem: Cena wasn’t fighting Rock at Wrestlemania 27……he was fighting The Miz……for the WWE Title……in the main event of Wrestlemania 27. So, Wrestlemania 27 did a ton of buys with Rock coming back to be the Special Guest Host for the event and yes, Miz was not really part of that whatsoever because the entire focus was on what was Cena and Rock gonna do to each other? Rewatching Wrestlemania 27, I was left hollow and it’s probably the worst Wrestlemania of this decade……probably the worst Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 15 (not that 16 was better but there are at least some good to great matches on that card, it’s just disappointing because we were expecting more…….the same goes for 25, even though that HHH/Orton match sucked hard). Sure, HHH/Taker was arguably the best match of the night (I’ve seen some praise for Punk/Orton as well) but it does have one of the worst Wrestlemania matches of all-time in Michael Cole vs Jerry Lawler (the entire segment featuring the match, entrances, videos and aftermath totaled 30 minutes and 47 seconds……yes, I timed it)…..Cena vs Miz is one of the worst Wrestlemania main events of all time. Miz felt like a joke champion, he never felt like he was in Cena’s league, I felt that these two got screwed for time, I felt that Cena was very lethargic and unexciting in this match (probably one of his worst performances in a big match environment) and I think it did Miz no favors whatsoever…….it just felt like they were stalling for the count out so that the REAL star of the match, The Rock, could make his presence felt and that’s what he did: he cost John Cena the WWE Title at Wrestlemania……despite the fact that Cena won the belt at the next PPV anyway. On the very next night on RAW, Cena laid down the challenge: Wrestlemania 28……Rock vs Cena. Rock accepted and off we go.
This one was a big deal but I apologize when I admit that I didn’t get that rush of electricity from that announcement, probably because I knew it was already going to happen…….sure, actually hearing it was cool but I knew that they weren’t just going to have Rock come back, jabber with Cena and not have it lead anywhere. This isn’t Rock/Hogan, which gave me goosebumps despite the fact that I was never a Hogan fan and Rock wasn’t my favorite guy ever…..that in-ring segment where Rock told Hulk Hogan “How about you headline one more Wrestlemania WITH THE ROCK!!!” is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen and the match is as well (I’ve gotten kinder to it and learned to appreciate the moment). Rock/Cena, in all honesty, should be on that level: Rock should be the older lion looking to be confronted by the young cub in John Cena…..just like Hogan and Rock from 2002. And this match was taking place a little over 10 years later from that match so it’s only fitting that this match be the way to go. However, after that announcement, the rumor mill started: Was Rock actually going to do it? Was Cena gonna stay healthy? Was the WWE going to keep their word and deliver on this match? Was it going to be for the WWE Title? Outside of the WWE Title being on the line, the answer to all of those questions was a big fat resounding “YES!!” The most impressive thing, of all of that, was Cena remaining healthy for the entirety of the year…….a heck of a feat in today’s age but Cena was able to remain healthy the whole year, something Rock didn’t have to worry about since he would be off making movies and such. During that timeframe, it felt like Cena was going to actually hold the WWE Title until Wrestlemania since he took part in mini feuds against The Miz and R-Truth so it seemed like it was so far, so good……until some guy named CM Punk sat down Indian style at the top of the entrance ramp and proceeded to alter things up in a huge way. Obviously, Punk mentioned this match during his long Pipe Bomb promo, how he was angry that “Dwayne” got the main event spot over him made him sick (it’s been rumored that Punk/Cena was supposed to main event Wrestlemania 27 but it was given to Miz instead) and how he called both Rock and Cena the biggest ass kissers of Vince McMahon. The entire Summer of Punk was a godsend of epic storytelling and the potential chance for a new hero to rise up in the middle of this Cena/Rock propaganda and turn eyes away from them…….Punk was the cog on the system, the fly in the ointment. However, the WWE made sure to put a massive halt to Punk’s momentum, cut off the story and appeased to Punk by giving him some of what he wanted but not everything and Punk went back to being the little worker bee that he was supposed to be. Yes, I do believe to this day that one of the main reasons as to why Punk’s push was halted was due to the fact that it would take time and eyes away from Rock/Cena.
So after that was taken care, we finally got to Survivor Series where Rock was going to have his first match in 7 years…..in Madison Square Garden, where he had his last match in the company back at Wrestlemania 20. It was to be a tag team match: Rock/Cena vs Awesome Truth (Miz & R-Truth). Now obviously, the draw wasn’t on who was going to win or lose, any person with a functioning brain knew who was winning this match……the point was to see Rock wrestle for the first time in 7 years and to see if he could still go in the ring. The Rock was admittedly the best part of that match: he looked great, he looked crisp, the fans loved him and everything he did was fascinating…….the other three, on the other hand, were unimportant and thus, they weren’t as interesting. Rock was able to get the victory by pinning the Miz and then after that, he gave Cena another Rock Bottom, just like he did at WM 27. So far……that’s two Rock Bottoms by Rock and no physical retaliation by Cena just yet. After that, Rock left to go film a movie (Journey to the Center of the Earth 2) while Cena had a very lethargic and stupid feud with Kane to eat up some time. Finally, the night after the Elimination Chamber, Cena cut a promo on the Rock. He called out Rock again for being a “sell out”, for leaving the WWE fans and that the fans didn’t see Cena leaving them to go make movies because……well……his movies sucked (don’t worry, Cena brought this up too). However, there was a real vigor behind what Cena was saying and it went back to the fact that these two did have legitimate beef with each other, mostly from Cena towards Rock of him coming back, hogging the spotlight and not working for it……the entire promo was the best promo of the entire Rock/Cena build. It actually got me excited to see this build, got me excited to see this match and it got me even more hyped up to see how Rock was going to respond……and this was less than 4 years after this match had already taken place!!! My favorite part about it as that while Cena is right…..there is a hypocrisy about what he’s saying and the hypocrisy is this: if Cena had gotten the movie roles, the fame and the fortune that the Rock had gotten……would he also still be there? It’s easy for Cena to sit there and say all of these things with a big catalogue of Straight to DVD movies to his name but what if he actually WAS in The Fast and the Furious Movies? What if Cena was cast to place a superhero in a superhero franchise? What if Cena was cast in dark thrillers? What if Cena got to play the gay guy in Be Cool? It’s a slight heel thing: get us to understand your point but we also kind of can see the hypocrisy behind that statement because if it was you, would you make the same choice as well?
The next week, the Rock made his return as promised and it was time for his response……fans had been waiting all week to hear Rock’s response to Cena’s harsh word and the moment had finally come!! And all I was left with was……..ok, whatever. Rock’s promo on the 2/27 RAW was not good……it was basically the Rock pandering to the audience and it also showed that Rock may have lost a step on the microphone due to rust. It was a basic cut and dry babyface promo……the kind of promo that we constantly give JOHN CENA shit for but we let it slide because it was the Rock! Sure, in 2012, this was great stuff but looking at it now and taking off the nostalgic glasses……it’s easy to see that it’s not really a promo, it’s a plea to the fans to cheer for him and to not like John Cena. Yet, we’re not really given any reason WHY we should cheer for Rock over Cena…….yes Rock is the voice of the people but is Rock’s PERSONAL MOTIVATION towards wanting to defeat John Cena? Remember, Hogan made his intentions clear: he wasn’t going to let Rock make a name for himself at HIS expense and wanted to kick Rock’s ass to prove that he was still the man. However, we aren’t getting that from Rock……Cena has a clear personal motivation but Rock does not. Rock beating Cena just to please all the fans who cheer for the days of the Attitude Era to return is not motivation……it’s fan service (just like Zack Snyder stick all of these Justice League and other ridiculous characters and subplots into Batman V Superman). He says he is doing it for us but, in all honesty, what has Cena done that is so bad that Rock feels he has to beat him up for? Yes, his character is childish and all of the other reasons I mentioned earlier but honestly, it’s a little bit hypocritical because that’s exactly what The Rock was when he first started with the WWE…….it was only when he let his anger towards the fans fuel him and he was finally allowed to speak his mind when fans accepted him and with Cena, it was the other way around because Cena grew popular and over time, people grew tired of him. Another obvious reason as to why Rock wants to beat Cena is to prove that the Attitude Era was better than this Cena led Era (hence why Rock brought it up his first night back)…….but that’s kind of arbitrary because WE HAVE TAKER, TRIPLE H AND SHAWN MICHAELS INSIDE HELL IN A CELL DESPERATELY TRYING TO PROVE TO US THAT THE ATTITUDE ERA IS BETTER!!!! Hogan/Rock was a huge match but it also had its own little story and motivation for the characters because it wasn’t about which generation was better……it was about two men, stars of their eras, duking it out and both trying to prove points that they were the better man……it wasn’t about two eras colliding to see which era made the most money or had the better catchphrases…….Rock/Hogan worked on a personal level that Rock/Cena could only DREAM of accomplishing.
So apparently Rock’s beef with Cena is that he isn’t in the Attitude Era and the Attitude Era (ROCK’s era) made more money and blah, blah, blah…….Cena came out to interrupt Rock. Rock’s promo, up to this point, had been fan pandering and stupid catchphrases he was trying to get over but Cena, on the other hand, was deadly serious. You have one guy treating this as sort of a “IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!!” kind of thing where Rock has returned for a special occasion just to show up and just have a match…….Cena was trying to make this into an actual feud with a storyline, build and teeth. Cena told Rock that he fought for everyone backstage and for all the fans that Rock abandoned before he made the infamous quip about Rock’s promo notes being written on his wrist. That……obviously……struck a nerve. I don’t know if Rock knew that was coming and he acted the shit out of it……OR……that was a legitimate dig (it’s hard to tell these days) but Rock was FUCKING PISSED!! You could just see in his face that Cena wasn’t playing around and that this wasn’t play time anymore, Cena was deadly serious. Rock’s recovery afterwards was sad since he was stuttering and flubbing lines and while the fans still loved him……Cena had been besting Rock in the promo department so far. On the 3/5 RAW, they ended up Cena’s hometown of Boston where Rock decided to take Cena on a “history” lesson, consisting of three painfully long segments of Rock trying to be entertaining and it just wasn’t working (well…..the first skit where he was tossing Cena’s merchandise into the water was actually pretty funny and the highlight of the segments but the last two DRAGGED). Then we pretty much had a reversal of the week before where this time, Rock was the aggressor and Cena was the one sitting there listening to Rock dish it out but Cena was just sitting there laughing. He was finding it amusing that Rock was attempting to mock him and to me, it was around this time that I was really hoping that these two would start coming to blows. More and more as this feud went on, I was waiting for them to come to blows……believing that it was EXACTLY what they needed to really add some fire and energy to this thing. Sadly, that didn’t happen and on 3/12, we were treated to a Cena rapping promo vs a Rock concert……both of which had good moments and were nostalgic but fell flat in my honest opinion. On the go home show, they had one more verbal confrontation to hype this match up and once again, I was just tired of them talking and was ready for them to just do SOMETHING to each other.
So, as we’ve discussed the build, I find myself at an impasse. There are really good elements in this story and build that could have been fantastic if they were touched upon further but it always felt like the company kept having these two pull back……there was even a rumor going around that Rock was specifically told to actually TANK HIS PROMOS so that Cena would look better in the buildup. THAT I have a problem with! I get it that Rock is a great talker, one of the best, and Cena may not be in his league as far as promo cutting goes but isn’t that a very lazy approach? I mean, if that was the case, that doesn’t make Cena look good if he’s just outdueling a lethargic Rock who isn’t even giving it is and that’s what it felt like at times. Rock’s promos were not good at all but maybe that wasn’t the case at all……maybe Rock’s promos just weren’t as good as they used to be and that is a very good possibility……that things are better left as nostalgia. Plus, Rock’s motivation blows and I don’t feel like these two hate each other……what we were witnessing was a gigantic popularity contest/circle jerk of these two. It wasn’t about who was better than who or these two hating each other…..it was about who had more Facebook friends or Twitter followers……and if Rock’s sole purpose is to beat Cena to show how much better the Attitude Era was, he sure was having a great time living in Cena’s era, wasn’t he? All of this verbal masturbation got so repetitive and boring that I had to literally stop watching the final two RAWs before this show because I had enough……I couldn’t take it anymore. This isn’t about hatred or who’s better……it’s about who’s more popular and who can get more likes on fucking Facebook. They can have Cena cut all of the empty arena promos that he wants, telling us that this is the most important match of his life, but at the end of the day, that is not the true intention of this match……this match’s true intentions are to sell tickets, get PPV buys and give the fans something to cheer about but it was done in a manipulative way that made us think that what we were seeing was fantastic storytelling when in reality, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was disappointed watching this build once again……disappointed and frustrated that this could have been so much better. I remember liking it at the time and thinking this was great stuff but 4 years later, I did even begin to realize how much this build and feud just does not hold up whatsoever. It was basically junk food……satisfying at the time and it feels all of the needs but when you stop to think about it, it really was bad for you…..just like this match and angle was.
So now, let’s get to the match and already, I’m halfway out of it due to the stupid and overlong concerts but all of that changed when these two locked eyes and actually was getting kind of excited because, lo and behold, THEY WERE ACTUALLY GOING TO HAVE PHYSICAL CONFRONTATION!!! Now, obviously, the thinking coming in was if Rock was going to be able to go in this match……in a tag team match, Rock remained hidden and only came in every now and then but did he still have the stamina to wrestle a whole match? Well, Cena suspected as such and he gained control of the match by working over Rock’s midsection with a very precise attack, trying to rob Rock of his wind. I was really digging the match around this time of Cena, who is more battle tested at this stage, wearing the ailing Rock down and Rock desperately trying to catch his wind and try to hang in this match with the younger Cena but was failing at this point. Both men finally exchanged trademark flurries of offense while also avoiding each other’s big moves until Cena landed the Attitude Adjustment for a near fall…..Rock immediately followed up with the Rock Bottom and also got a near fall. It was around this point that I honestly realized that the match was actually pretty, it was telling a good story and I was digging what they were doing…….but then I remembered that there were still 15 minutes to go, Rock looked fried at this point and they pretty much just ran out of things to do after that. This was followed up with Cena legitimately injuring Rock with the Flying Leg Drop, injuring Rock’s hamstring and it still is a nasty spot since Cena comes down with his full weight across Rock’s head and neck, bending forward at an awkward angle. At this point, Rock looked done…….as in, this man is about to pass out from exhaustion and now he’s injured too. Then we get to this LOOOOONG segment and it’s where this match just dies: both men spend the next few minutes applying their signature submission moves to each other. Now……for those of you who don’t know…….Rock’s Sharpshooter and Cena’s STFU are considered as two of the WORST LOOKING submission holds ever in the history of professional wrestling because neither knows how to apply the move properly and neither one looks like they are putting their opponent in any kind of pain whatsoever…..and these two do this to each other for about 5-7 minutes. This is where I realized that the detractors of the match have a point…….this match just stops dead in its tracks to me, despite the fact that the fans are still in love with this match and the electricity in the air is still moving. This wasn’t like Rock and Hogan where they legitimately built and built to their climax…….these are two guys who got to their climax, remembered they still had time left and decided to stall with each other before getting to their official climax!!
Rock was done at this point, Cena looked worn down……the match had been physically daunting, admittedly, but it had lost a lot of momentum for me. That death march in the middle killed this match dead and now it was time for them to recover from that. They went back to the near falls to get the crowd back into it and one of the more positive things about this match that I liked was that you did not legitimately know who was winning!! Sure, they were in Rock’s hometown……but that hasn’t stopped this company before from letting Cena win!! That was when Cena made his mistake: he EMBRACED THE HATE!!! The whole point of the Kane feud was for Cena to embrace the hate and in this one moment, at the end, he decided to embrace the hate and beat Rock with his own move, the People’s Elbow…….and it cost him the match. Rock won with the Rock Bottom after a 31 minute war with each other and my reaction was this: eh……it was all right. I did not watch this match live in Miami, I did not watch this match live on PPV……my experience with this match is totally objective and as an “after the fact” viewer and after the fact, taking all of the pomp and circumstance of this match, I find it to be pretty good but VERY overrated! I can see why people legitimately like or love this match and I won’t argue that, my point in this is to show people why I DON’T like or love this match. I can appreciate the pageantry, I can appreciate the yearlong build, I can appreciate the PPV buys, I can appreciate the crowd but, going back to my earlier question, where is that line that must drawn between fan and objective viewer? Where must I draw the line where I, objectively, take this match as is and grade it how I believe it should be graded? However, I then realized that a good majority of my score for this match was basically due to appreciation and respect for the company in pulling this off……not exactly on the match itself. A lot of my appreciation for the match has nothing to do with the competitors and their match but for the company’s ability to have pulled this off and made it a success. This wasn’t the match of legends that people made it out to be, this wasn’t the old vs new that it honestly should have been…….this was one big, gigantic exhibition match with tons of hype and a popularity contest to see who the fans would choose for more! There was no real story…..any story there was evaporated after the weeks of these two not showing their hatred, any real animosity seemingly died down as we got closer to the show and all of the interest that I had for these two characters wore thin as the match got closer. Then the match happened and I have to say that it did not blow me away like it did other viewers. Even Cena, sitting on the ramp looking disappointed afterwards, did nothing for me because I ALREADY KNOW THAT HE WINS THE REMATCH THE NEXT YEAR!!!!
So, is that my problem? Maybe I waited too long to watch this match? Maybe I should have watched the build more when it was happening or be there live in Miami to see it or watch the PPV live to get the full effect of it all. Well……here is my counterargument to that: if this match can’t hold my attention after the fact, after all of these years, that means that it does not hold up well with time. Hogan slamming Andre STILL holds up after all of these years later. Hogan and Warrior meeting at the Royal Rumble in 1990 STILL holds up to this day. Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth reuniting at Wrestlemania VII STILL holds up to this day. Austin defeating HBK for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania XIV STILL holds up to this day. Austin’s heel turn and shaking Vince’s hand STILL holds up to this day (even though many fans hate it……I am, SORT OF, not one of those people). Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero celebrating at the end of Wrestlemania 20 STILL…….well…….it holds up but not for the best of reasons to be honest. CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb STILL holds up to this day. Cena sitting there disappointed after losing to the Rock did nothing for me……it’s like watching The Lion King and not being sad for Simba trying to wake Muphasa up when Muphasa is clearly deceased. Rock vs Cena was a memory that has been completely forgotten at this point……..in fact, a lot of this show is like that and I’ll get into that in a second. At the end of the day, the repercussions of this match were ruined when these two decided to have this forced rematch the next year (despite all the marketing of this match being ONCE IN A LIFETIME) that admittedly did draw a lot of buys and a great crowd to New Jersey……..but that match is fondly looked at as being another one of the worst main events in Wrestlemania history……and boy, aren’t I looking forward to watching that one?! It didn’t feel like Cena’s biggest loss of his career because he had pretty much forgotten about it a few weeks later (although I currently hate John Cena’s character in 2012) and Rock instantly turned his attention away from Cena towards the WWE Title…….the match did its job and now it’s forgotten in time. At the end of the day, I have given the match (which is an upgrade from my review) a 7.5 out of 10 and that could honestly go towards a 7.0 or even as low as a 6.5 depending on my mood. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt due to everything it accomplished but as a standalone match and feud, this is probably one of the most disappointing and frustrating experiences I’ve ever had. If you think this match is better than this rating that I have given it, more power to you but as a fan of wrestling and as someone who appreciates the fine art of storytelling and wrestling…….this match bypassed all of that to be an event, to be a money draw and it loss the story and everything pro wrestling is along the way……basically, it sold out……just like what Cena called the Rock for leaving the Sports Entertainment business for the Entertainment business……isn’t that ironic?
So at the end of the day, this show happily sits at a C+ rating for me and a 6.5 out of 10 overall. This show is the complete epitome of whether a show is good just because it made a ton of money. Wrestlemania 28 will always be remembered by a good portion of fans but maybe not in the way it should be remembered……it’s remembered for the money it made but not so much for being an event that should be remembered. It was a night where the Attitude Era proved its dominance over today’s era and it showed that the WWE was more than willing to pander to the Attitude Era audience to suck them into the show instead of trying to create new stars and tell great stories. The first 4 matches of the card are disappointing and bland, the backstage segments and concerts are a chore to get through, Rock/Cena is very disappointing…….outside of Taker/HHH and Punk/Jericho, there is not a whole lot here for fans to go back and really rewatch. I believe that a big profit does not make me want to go rewatch a show or a movie……being a good movie or a good show is what makes me want to go back and watch a show or movie. It’s what compels me to spend more money on it instead of just saying “Well, that was fun…..well, time to move on.” A good PPV or movie allows me to go back and rewatch things that I had missed before, rediscover things and appreciate it more and more each time……this show did not have that affect. I was disappointed in this show, disappointed and frustrated. I WANTED to like this show, in fact I wanted to love it, but it kept me at such an arm’s length the whole time that I just never connected emotionally with it whatsoever. I have similar problems with this show as I do other Manias are this time: they are great in the moment but you start to be able to pick it apart once days, months and years take the luster off the show and you realize that it might not be as good as it once was……and that’s where I’m at with this show. It might be the biggest PPV of all time for the WWE and the one that secured the most PPV buys ever…….but that doesn’t make it good and that also doesn’t mean that everybody, universally, is going to connect to it emotionally and going to like it. Rock/Cena is the epitome of a bombastic spectacle without any kind of real food for thought……it’s a visual spectacle without any kind of real emotion to hook you in and it’s one that you kind of forget about after you’ve watched it……this whole event is like that and that’s why I chose this show in particular to review and take you on this journey with me. I wanted to show that not everybody likes this show and I wanted to come up with legitimate reasons as to why I don’t like this show as much as others. By no means is it a bad show but considering the expectations placed upon it, giving it just a simple Thumbs in the Middle is just disappointing……kind of like if Batman V Superman doesn’t make it to $1 Billion at the box office worldwide.
I hope everyone enjoyed this journey and please, if you have any comments or opinions you’d like to share……please comment down below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you everybody, take care and enjoy Wrestlemania 32!!!
Tags: wrestlemania 28