Tuesday 20 March 2012

Popularity Contest

What should be WWE’s lead feud going into their biggest show of 2012 is actually little more than two grown men in a childish name-calling contest. Yes, I’m talking about John Cena and The Rock.

One Rock Bottom at Survivor Series aside the two men have yet to get physical with one another. That’s not something I was expecting. When the two agreed to face each other last year I assumed that they would engage in some worked shoot promos for a while before eventually getting physical with each other to heighten interest in who would come out on top when the Miami supershow rolls around.

I think a big part of the problem is that The Rock just isn’t The Rock anymore. Watch his current promos and compare them to the stuff he was coming out with during the height of the Attitude Era. When was the last time Rock referred to himself consistently in the third person? That used to be one of his trademarks but it’s now a trait that makes only sporadic, and seemingly random, appearances. That’s also the case with the people’s eyebrow: ‘The Great One’ used to make a huge show of flicking his right brow skyward, yet I can’t remember the last time he did it.

Instead of simply walking to the ring with a microphone and talking about how he’s going to lay the smack down on John Cena’s “roody poo candy ass” the Hollywood star seems more concerned with pretentiously talking about how he’s entertaining people and taking them on a journey. That’s not what people want from The Rock. They want a man who refers to himself in the third person spouting catchphrases that they can sing along to, and who will nail anybody who gets into the ring with him with a Rock Bottom. The current approach just makes Rock come across as an arrogant, braggart heel.

His delivery has deteriorated. He was visibly riled when Cena referenced the notes he had on his wrist on the February 27th RAW and was more than a little wobbly in his “history lesson” promos on the RAW from Boston. It was his karaoke attempt at We Will Rock You that stands out most though. What a horrendous display that was. It demonstrated just how much Rock has become accustomed to working from a script.

In short I think ‘The Great One’ has lost his ability to adlib and think off the cuff. For a headline wrestler that can be considered catastrophic. Doubly so when they have The Rock’s reputation.

It doesn’t help that this program has brought out Cena’s best qualities. The guy’s been booed for years because he has become a kids’ act that most adult males (who comprise the majority of any WWE event) cannot relate to. His work against The Rock has begun to change that. He’s still getting booed and will certainly not hear many cheers at WrestleMania, Miami being Rock’s hometown and all, but he’s done something that this time last year I wouldn’t have thought was possible: he’s got people laughing along with jokes cracked at The Rock’s expense.

Most fans that boo Cena boo him not because they dislike him but because they’re bored of him. Most of his feuds see him say and do the same things and after so many years it’s boring. But when Cena gets serious and cuts scathing promos such as those he’s cut in recent weeks against The Rock it reawakens memories of ‘The Doctor of Thuganomics’, the heel character Cena played that became so popular WWE was forced to turn him face. That’s the guy the people that boo Cena want him to be, not a walking merchandise stand.

This is the John Cena that fans want to see

Cena’s chief argument against The Rock has always been that he’s in Hollywood while ‘The Leader of the Chain Gang’ is at every show doing everything he can to send the fans home happy. Perhaps that’s finally begun to win some people over. The counterargument that Rock travelled the roads and attended every show years ago is absolutely valid and one I personally agree with, but I can see why people would be feeling angry at Rock about now. He returned a year ago to say that he’d never leave again, then made sporadic appearances for the rest of the year, often not appearing for months on end.

Personally I’ve begun to favour Cena because of The Rock’s sloppy, slapdash, and embarrassing approach to his promos. I’m sure he’ll be in great condition when it comes to WrestleMania and that the match itself will be memorable no matter what the two combatants actually get up to from bell to bell. Rock rose to the top based on the strength of his verbal skills and currently makes a living as an actor. That he’s this bad at promos is pathetic. No matter how bad Cena’s wrestling may be, no matter how he may monopolise WWE TV the year round, at least he’s consistent at what he does and hasn’t failed to live up to expectations.

I know who I think deserves to win at WrestleMania.

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