Slater’s Signature Finisher: Was Rock v. Cena Really Once in a Lifetime?

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I have written about professional wrestling in various online forms since roughly 2005 or so. I have never received so much attention and excitement from people leaving comments than when I initially wrote about The Rock’s return to WWE in February 2011.

In terms of being a “big deal,” The Rock coming back to WWE for the first time in seven years was a pretty big F’n deal. He was a man who had become one of the WWE’s biggest stars during the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, during what has come to be known as the “Attitude Era,” the most profitable and – arguably – exciting era in professional wrestling history.

A cameo in a movie here led to a starring role in a movie there, which led to various extended absences from WWE. It eventually led to him quietly retiring as an active wrestler and making the transition to Hollywood film star. The Rock, who slowly switched to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and finally shed his wrestling name altogether, became a decently bankable movie star. WWE fans weren’t surprised by his comedic and dramatic range, but he surprised a lot of mainstream movie goers with his ability. He had moved on and most wrestling fans accepted that.

His 2011 return was to make an appearance at that year’s WrestleMania XXVII. In the buildup to that year’s event, The Rock started a small verbal feud with John Cena, the company’s current flagship star.

The night after WrestleMania, Rock made an appearance on Monday Night Raw and shocked everybody by challenging Cena to a match at WrestleMania XXVIII, a full year in advance. The year came and went. The match happened. WWE hyped it as one of the biggest matches in the history of WWE, on par with The Rock’s 2002 match with Hulk Hogan. As such, they released a 3-disc DVD set chronicling the year-long rivalry.

Rock vs. Cena: Once in a Lifetime contains a documentary looking at the evolution of Rock and Cena, as well as how they handled the feud over the course of a year, especially without Rock being there full time. Discs two and three contain all of their appearances together over the course of the year, beginning with Rock’s return in 2011 and ending with their match at WrestleMania.

The documentary is interesting, as it has some very candid comments from all involved. Cena is blunt when he mentions that he was number four on WWE’s list to try and make the face of the company, after it didn’t work with Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Randy Orton. Triple H echoed those sentiments, saying that nobody expected Cena to be the star he has become.

Cena’s infamous comments from 2009 are brought up by both superstars, as Cena was asked in an interview back then if he would ever leave WWE if his movie career took off. He then used that to take some shots at Rock, noting that if he loved WWE as much as he said he did he would make some appearances for the company. Rock discusses how those comments made him feel and how it fueled the feud.

Twitter played a prominent role in pushing the feud, as the interactions between @JohnCena and @TheRock were the only things keeping it going for stretches at a time. It struck me as a little odd watching Rock discuss Twitter. It seemed like he didn’t quite fully understand it during one scene when people were discussing trends with him. I also found it odd that Rock couldn’t type, as he was filmed sending a tweet and you could see him slowly hitting each key with his pointer fingers.

There were two highlights of this documentary – the bluntness of Cena and CM Punk. Cena is out of character, freely using profanity and being bleeped multiple times in various interviews. Punk is vocal about Rock not making more appearances for the company, noting that Rock said WWE is his family but that he doesn’t show it.

It all culminates with their match at WrestleMania. There are a lot of backstage scenes shown, with each wrestler hugging Vince McMahon after the match and the two talking to each other afterward. It’s a nice look at a part of WWE that they usually don’t let us see.

This is a decent disc. The only reason I don’t think it’s much better is because I feel like WWE over hyped this match. Yeah, it was a pretty big deal, but it wasn’t the biggest match in the history of WWE. It’s a cool documentary and a cool look into a match based on a real life issue. Take it or leave it if you’d like.

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