The following consists of a series of emails between Chris Cash and Nick Paglino that has been formatted into an exclusive WrestleZone.com column.
Chris Cash: Leave it to good ol’ JR to set everyone straight when it comes to the internet rumblings of the Rock’s "return" to the WWE. Wrestling fans have every right to think that Johnson is back for good; it’s "exactly" what he said during his promo on Raw.
Quick aside: the entire segment from the build-up to the actual promo was absolutely phenomenal. The Rock was on top of his game and the crowd was red hot making for one hell of a Monday Night Raw moment.
My issue is not with the fact that the Rock will NOT be wrestling John Cena at this year’s WrestleMania. I believe that they will be able to get plenty out of him in a variety of other ways. However, if there’s not going to be a payoff of Cena/Rock, why have him go in that direction at all?
From the looks of it, crowds will more than likely be pro-Rock during any altercations between him and Cena, so how can that possibly help your number one box office attraction heading into the biggest show of the year?
But, I do question what will come of this as well. The danger involved in The Rock’s promo last night is that he’s NOT going to be around for good, and there might be a decent portion of viewers who will be disappointed when he leaves the company again after WrestleMania.
Knowing that Dwayne Johnson will be off to filming his next movie in no time, it becomes vitally important that John Cena and The Miz come off looking strong heading into and after the big PPV. Afterall, they’re the regulars in WWE, not Johnson.
To answer your question though, Chris, simply saying The Rock will be at WrestleMania will undoubtedly boost PPV sales as casual fans will expect the unexpected. Sure, Rock has said he’ll never wrestle again, but most people will be satisfied with one last Rock Bottom or one last People’s Elbow. So WrestleMania certainly will benefit from The Rock’s presence as far as one night is concerned, but WWE has to think long term as well, and feeding Cena and Miz to a Rock Bottom on the biggest night of the year does NO good for either of them post-WrestleMania.
Chris: I agree with you and think that the pressure is going to be directly on John Cena. The Miz can take the verbal abuse from the Rock in the coming weeks and it will only help him in the eyes of the people by simply sharing face time with the "Great One". Cena is the one that has to carry himself perfectly on the mic to offset how good Johnson will be night in and night out.
Comparisons have always been made between the Rock and John Cena as the WWE seems to push Cena in that direction with his promos, his signature Five Knuckle Shuffle (People’s Elbow) and the fact that he tries everything possible to get the "people" behind him. This time around though, I don’t think they can afford to have Cena try and match the Rock when it comes to their upcoming back-and-forth’s. I see Cena losing that battle every time. I believe they need to either let Cena do what got him over in the first place (rapping and that creative type of humor) or have him go completely serious.
The truth is clear: the Rock left the WWE to go make movies; John Cena is still there every single night performing for the people. The majority of fans may still cheer for the Rock, but Cena will gain more respect as none of his critics can deny his work ethic and loyalty to the WWE and its fans.
Cena can’t fire back at The Rock with Michael Cole jokes or silly character voices/jokes. That’s The Rock’s shtick and he does it better than Cena. Audiences will always be drawn to the truth, so Cena needs to go that route when he responds to The Rock. He needs to talk about how Rock "abandoned" the business to make movies, and he needs to make light of The Rock’s worst movie and bury it on TV. I gotta be honest, though, I fear that’s not going to happen. Case in point, Cena’s Twitter response to The Rock’s return. Here it is:
"Rock was in rare form tonight. It was great to see him enjoying himself out there. Even if it was at my expense. I’ve been called a lot worse. Just glad to see him back in action."
What is he a politician? This is Pro WRESTLING, not Pro "kiss Rock’s ass and make friends with him." People loved Steve Austin because he was anti-establishment. He hated the baby faces as much as he hated the heels. Wrestling is a form of entertainment that emulates VIOLENCE and FIGHTING, so the audience doesn’t want to see its stars "play nice" with each other.
Go for the jugular Cena. Rock did it last night, and you need to follow suit next week. And in the end, because we’ve seen John do it before, I believe that Cena has the ability to get the heat back.
Chris: Speaking of heat, I have a crazy idea? Is it not time for the talked-about John Cena heel turn? I know WWE has good reasons for not turning him heel, but from an entertainment standpoint, it’s going to be a big deal when it does happen. Randy Orton is over enough to take the position as "top babyface" and a returning Triple H (although he may come back heel too if they are setting up a Triple H/Undertaker match for WM) could allow for Cena to make that move.
John Cena is the one guy who’s heel turn will make the same type of impact as Hogan’s turn did in ’96. Personally, as a fan, I’m ready for it sooner rather than later.
A heel John Cena could sure help build some new faces as well.
Nick: From a creative stand point, Cena should have turned heel back in ’73. His baby face act is stale and redundant. But WWE keeps battling between what’s best for the company creatively and what’s best for the company financially. But why do people ignore the fact that the two are very much connected? A lot of critics argue that it would be silly for WWE to turn Cena heel since he’s the "cash cow" for the company, but what most people don’t consider is that you have to risk big to win big.
Smart, creative booking will draw money, and I think it’s a cop out not to turn Cena heel simply because he sells more shirts as a baby face. Realistically, WWE is not going to fall apart and go bankrupt if John Cena turns heel, so WWE needs to take that risk.
In the long run, I think WWE can profit just as much from Cena being as big of a heel as he has been a face. Remember, John started out on the "dark side."