WrestleMania 28 Preview: The Cult of Insecurity

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Despite what I said about my experience as a wrestling announcer, I find myself in a familiar position on WrestleMania night: Shivering with anticipation for the evening’s proceedings, preparing myself for an intense letdown. It’s a strange thing, the wrestling fan’s relationship with Wrestlemania, and while many fans now might be happy with the show because it’s given Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA a chance to get their names out there, while they may claim to be in it for the Hall of Fame, the FCW talent performing during Wrestlemania week, the Highspots.com reception, or the weird excuse to take a week off of work, the fact remains that this is Wrestlemania, and that wrestling fans have come to expect a lot from what the WWE bills the Showcase of the Immortals. No matter how good or bad the build, no matter how good or bad the card, no matter how good or bad the actual show, we care because we’ve been primed to care for so many years, because the old adage that “Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment” is, on one night, actually true. If wrestling is my religion, than this is my Christmas.

This has been a weird road to Wrestlemania for me. As of June 3, I’ll be training to become a wrestler myself, and, as such, have been watching Raw and SmackDown! less as a form of free entertainment than as a means to watch an incredibly well-produced training video. Yes, I’ve been paying attention to the stories, and yes, my heart skips a beat whenever Daniel Bryan pulls out a cheap win or Chris Jericho ekes out a small package victory over CM Punk, but my interest in learning how to wrestle, coupled with a course schedule that makes it impossible to catch a whole show, means that I’ve been following the events by proxy, that I’ve had to read recaps of Raw and SmackDown!  and formulate for myself the whys and wherefores of certain feuds. Is it possible to catch up on Raw and SmackDown! later? Sure. But beyond maybe a Punk/Jericho or Daniel Bryan segment here and there, I haven’t missed a whole lot, and the point of Raw is its live nature—there’s more energy when you’re watching stuff happen as it unfolds. So, if I get anything wrong, that’s my feeble excuse. Please believe it. I only just learned that Randy Orton and Kane are having a match at Wrestlemania because Kane shook his hand once, months ago. I just thought Kane was a magnet for RKOs.

While Wrestlemania may be a sucker’s game, prone to over-analysis and disappointment, I am ready to play. So ready, in fact, that I’ve gone back through history to note that the event, as it (and I) have aged, has dropped its formerly charming taglines in favor of declarative statements that are both too descriptive and too hyperbolic. Wrestlemania III’s tagline, for example, was “Bigger! Badder! Better!” which was unequivocally true. The event was the best Wrestlemania to that point (and remained the best for awhile), set an indoor attendance record, and acted as a prototype for pretty much every Wrestlemania in the future. This Wrestlemania, for those of you who somehow don’t know that The Rock is facing John Cena in the main event, has been tagged as “Once in a Lifetime,” which may or may not be true. Wrestlemania 27, which was hosted by The Rock, was “The Biggest Wrestlemania Ever,” which it wasn’t. Wrestlemania 25 was “The 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania” despite only being the 24th. These, my friends, do not compare to taglines like “What the World Has Come To” (WM II), “The MegaPowers Explode!” (WM V), “The Ultimate Challenge” (WM VI) “Heat!” (WM 13) or “Where it All Begins…Again” (WM XX), vague baubles of information that somehow served as a theme for the evening, as opposed to a bit of copy the show could never live up to.

If I were coming up with the tagline to this year’s show, I would have taken a hint from the WrestleManias whose themes came from specific matches, like “The Macho/Flair Affair” from XIII, only my tagline, somehow, covers every match on the card. This year’s Mania should be branded “The Cult of Insecurity,” as every match, from the pre-show tag team title bout to the main event between Cena and the Rock, has been about just that: Insecurity. This isn’t necessarily a factor in the show’s storylines (though in some instances, it very much is), but it’s there, haunting the show. Why else have the past four weeks featured mostly talk between the participants in the shows four main events? Why else would the only bit of physical interaction between John Cena and The Rock be their mutual show of strength on poor Mark Henry? Not that I don’t understand why the WWE would wait for a single punch to be thrown between the two of them until we’ve paid for it—this match, after all, has been built-up for over a year, and any kind of physical contact between the two could spoil their eventual confrontation—but there’s been no way to alleviate the awkward tension growing between the two, and, as demonstrated by this tastefully scored music video documenting the Steve Austin vs. The Rock feud leading into Wrestlemania X7, a bit of violence never hurt nobody’s buy rate:

All of the important stuff is there: How evenly matched the two are, how much each wants/needs to win, and, unsaid, how important the match is to the company. As for disrespect, both Austin and the Rock use each other’s respective finishing moves on one another, which is, all good wrestling fans know, taboo. The lead-in to Cena/Rock, by comparison, has been somewhat of a letdown for three reasons, two of which I’ll explain now: First, when the Rock was announced for WrestleMania 27 and when he said he was never leaving what he considered to be his home, I think we had a somewhat unreasonable expectation of The Rock that he’d give up the rather lucrative business of making movies that gross hundreds of millions of dollars in favor of having matches against Jack Swagger on SmackDown! The second reason, which has a lot to do with our utopian understanding of The Rock’s promise to never leave, is that we expected him to verbally emasculate John Cena on a weekly basis, so upsetting our stalwart Fruity Pebble that he’d be forced to get mean, lest the former Dr. of Thuganomics fall on his sword.

I don’t think any of us were ready for the realization that The Rock may have peaked around Wrestlemania 27, the nexus of his best Cena-related material, that Cena would actually stand his own against The Rock, that, in many instances, The Rock would actually look weak compared to Cena. Yes, it was a great moment when the Rock told Cena on Raw this past Monday that beating him meant that the Rock would own Wrestlemania victories over Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and Cena—three of the biggest draws of all time—but there’ve been so many missteps on the path to that statement that, at times, it’s seemed like The Rock wasn’t aware that he had a match. It’s gotten to the point where there are some audible “Rocky sucks” chants, and while the reaction to John Cena at last night’s Hall of Fame ceremony could be looked at as an omen of what the fans want, it’s really more of what Cena’s been receiving since 2007 in a venue designed to attract the company’s “knowledgeable” fanbase, the exact group that’s declared Cena persona non grata. The Rock continues to get an amazing reaction every time he comes out, but the way he does his thing and the way the crowd responds feels more like a sitcom or a well-rehearsed (in some cases poorly rehearsed) stand-up routine. His endless mea culpas to the fans, his pauses to smile and flex his inhuman musculature, his endless Twitter references—all of them lead me to believe that Dwayne Johnson is not comfortable in The Rock’s skin, and it’s exactly that kind of insecurity which has permeated the whole card, previews and predictions of which follow…

WWE Tag Team Championships: Primo and Epico (champions) vs. The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel

In year’s past, the “pre-show” match would be taped as an exclusive addition to the WrestleMania DVD. This year, however, the match will be streamed live on YouTube and WWE.com, in the company’s effort to increase its visibility in the realm of social media. This is good for pretty much everybody involved, as The Usos and Primo and Epico are both great tag teams (though they are somewhat generic), Justin Gabriel is pretty good, and Tyson Kidd might be the most underrated wrestler in the world, capable of putting on a good match with anybody, on any given night. Given time (the match is slated to start at 6:30, a whole 30 minutes before the show properly gets underway), this could be a show-stealing bout, but it will also be emblematic of the WWE’s lack of faith in its tag team division, which was supposed to be headlined by the team of Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. Were Evan Bourne not suspended and injured, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this match on the main card. Instead, it features a team that formed on Thursday.

Granted, Kidd and Gabriel deserve the spotlight, but I don’t know if it says much about the titles that a duo who’ve yet to compete together already have a shot at the straps. Pragmatically, both men have reigns as Tag Team Champions under their belts, so I guess that gives them enough credibility, but they’ve got a few other tag teams who could have gone in this slot. If they gave more time to those tag teams to establish themselves as something more than a pair of similarly dressed men, perhaps there’d be no problems in the WWE Tag Team division. As it stands, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if this devolved into a battle royal, much like last year’s Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan tilt for the United States Championship.

WINNERS: The Usos.

Maria Menounos and Kelly Kelly vs. Eve Torres and Beth Phoenix

I love women’s wrestling, so it kind of pains me to know that Beth Phoenix will likely be pinned by the host of Extra, this despite months of WWE programming making it clear that no current WWE Diva can get the job done. Menounos, for what it’s worth, looked pretty good in her one wrestling match, and standing around talking about Hollywood gossip in front of a host of slack-jawed troglodytes has probably prepared her well for the stress of competing before a crowd that will likely top one million paying viewers. Despite that, I will not be able to get over the lack of Natalya in a non-farting capacity, nor the rumors that this was supposed to be Beth Phoenix vs. Kharma, who made a rather triumphant return at this year’s Royal Rumble.

I remain of the opinion that the WWE Diva’s division is three or four pieces away from being great, perhaps better than at any time in the company’s history. Until their recent effort to mine the independent scene hits the mother-lode of experienced, tremendously talented female competitors though, this is exactly the sort of Wrestlemania match the division will spawn. It’s too bad, though, as Eve has made noticeable strides in her ring-work of late and, now that she’s a heel, will probably drop the booty popping from her repertoire. Maybe Menounos’ broken rib will result in her being replaced by Kharma and the match won’t be an awkward celebrity showcase like Snookimania last year, but when it comes to the WWE Divas division I’ll always be living in the future, dreaming of the stuff they could be doing, trying to ignore what they actually promote.

WINNERS: Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos.

Randy Orton vs. Kane

Like I said earlier, I thought this match was happening because Kane was a magnet for RKOs. As it turns out, Kane once shook Orton’s hand and, now that he’s back and preaching to us the value of embracing hate, he intends to make up for that embarrassment by beating Orton. See? This Wrestlemania really is all about insecurity! As for Orton, he looks pretty listless out there, telling Kane that he already embraces hate, hitting him with RKOs every time the two are within ten feet of each other, but this is generally how Randy Orton’s feuds go. I continue to find it amazing that people cheer for a guy who tells them “My name is Randy Orton, and I will literally murder this man because I am not a good person,” before kicking his opponent in the head during this, the era of concussions, but hey, the fans make the wrestler, and who am I to argue with legions of folks in Orton’s knockoff Affliction gear?

WINNER: Randy Orton.

Team Johnny (David Otunga, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, The Miz, and Drew McIntyre) vs. Team Teddy (Santino, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, The Great Khali, and Booker T)

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be a fan of David Otunga in any capacity…man…I don’t know what I’d do. As a member of The Nexus and CM Punk & the New Nexus All-Stars, Otunga was too plain, too green, too inconsequential for my taste. I felt kind of bad for the guy when Jerry Lawler started dogging on him and Michael McGuillicutty for being the most boring champions in company history, but he kind of had a point, and Otunga wasn’t exactly doing anything to disprove Lawler’s claims. But then CM Punk’s career took off, leaving the New Nexus All-Stars with nowhere to go, and Otunga started bragging about his law degree. He started dressing like a ripped Pee Wee Herman. He started sipping from a travel coffee mug. He was the charismatic moon orbiting Johnny Ace, the unlikely star of the CM Punk/Triple H/Vince McMahon/Kevin Nash/Alberto Del Rio/John Cena/Rey Mysterio/The Miz craziness that followed Money in the Bank, Ace being the uncharismatic, unheralded former star (in Japan!) who smart fans (and more than a few company insiders) credit with ruining the WWE’s developmental system. Both have been a ton of fun to watch, and it’d be a shame to see either go.

This match, though…I’m torn on it. On one hand, I really dislike the whole Money in the Bank thing (not the idea of a guy having a title match good for whenever, but the match itself), and am glad that it will no longer be sullying Wrestlemania with its plethora of unneeded, dangerous spots. Just the same, we have a match featuring a team of four former WWE or World Heavyweight champions going against a team of comedy mid-carders and a semi-retired wrestler who currently calls SmackDown! Not that Long’s team isn’t talented, but Ace’s at least features a bunch of guys who’ve been bumping against the glass ceiling for a few years; Long’s continue starting and stopping just short of it.

If we want to talk insecurity, this bout features Zack Ryder, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, R-Truth, Drew McIntyre, Mark Henry, and Dolph Ziggler, all guys who were marked for main event success sometime in the past two years. Mark Henry’s transformation from Sexual Chocolate to world-beater has been dramatic, but the poor guy got injured during his World Heavyweight Title reign and has been getting crushed by Cena and The Rock and Sheamus and Big Show and whoever needs to look impressive any given week. Ryder’s a self-made man, becoming popular due to a series of YouTube videos about how the WWE didn’t want to use him, which morphed into a series of videos about how the WWE didn’t use him despite how popular he was, which morphed into a series of videos about how great life is when the WWE uses you on a weekly basis. His role in the John Cena/Kane Rise Above Hate feud pretty much killed whatever Ryder had going for him among the set that made him popular, but he is still well-liked and has a freaking garden gnome, so the sky’s the limit for him. The rest of the teams feature dudes who’ve been given opportunities to cement themselves at the top of the card, but, for whatever reason, the ball continues to be taken away from them. Booker T’s inclusion is curious, but I suppose worthwhile. I suspect the line-up for this match was weakened by a plethora of injuries and future endeavorings—Long’s team would look better with John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, and Sin Cara (assuming Cara, at this point, got used to a WWE ring), and Ace’s, while stacked, could have used Christian and Alberto Del Rio.

I hope Johnny Ace’s team wins, though it’s hard to see how a team with feel-good faces Kingston, Santino, and Ryder could possibly lose. From a storyline standpoint, Ace has been bullied around by Long, who has just recently sown the fruits of being unfair to the roster’s heels. Long’s comeuppance would be a valuable lesson to the people who watch wrestling for its message of anti-bullying. Also, while Long has had a good, insanely long run as the GM of SmackDown, tag team matches aren’t really the company’s bag anymore, and with The Undertaker on such a one match a year deal, there aren’t many more matches ol’ peanut-head knows how to book.

WINNER: Team Johnny.

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes (champion) vs. The Big Show

The focus of this feud has been The Big Show’s absolutely horrible Wrestlemania track record, with Cody Rhodes hoping that the World’s Largest Athlete is insecure (ha-ha!) enough about his failings there that he’ll be vulnerable to further embarrassment. I’ve actually enjoyed one of The Big Show’s Wrestlemania matches (against Floyd Mayweather), but Rhodes has a point and has been persistent with it, airing videos of The Big Show embarrassing himself, beating the guy up with giant, cherry-red boxing gloves, using his name as a euphemism for deification. If ever a man deserved to get beat in a wrestling match, it’s Rhodes, who has been the consummate doucheheel for the past two months. I can’t bring myself to be in Big Show’s corner though, as his response has been to continue smiling and laughing with the fans, yukking it up while Rhodes has his way with Show’s credibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if this match ends up being Big Show’s “Wrestlemania moment,” but Rhodes, who stole the show last year with Rey Mysterio, has been looking for an in-roads to the main event picture for pretty close to a year. My guess (and hope) is that this is his moment, and that this won’t be something The Big Show needs to be embarrassed about.

WINNER: Cody Rhodes.

World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (champion)

At last year’s Wrestlemania, despite a physical build-up and a few good to very good matches between the two, the scheduled United States championship match was relegated to the pre-show. It then morphed mid-match into a battle royale that was won by The Great Khali. As if embarrassed by that turn of events, neither man has mentioned their prior history, instead going into Wrestlemania as unlikely Royal Rumble winner and unlikely champion, respectively, two parts of the match least likely to have not been made a triple threat title match featuring Randy Orton. I’m glad for it, though, as Daniel Bryan is my homeboy and Sheamus has constantly been a surprise since his somewhat lame WWE Championship run against John Cena, despite not coming up with an interesting good guy persona. This seems like a terrible waste, as Sheamus could have been the great defender here, sticking up for Daniel Bryan’s bullied girlfriend. After all, Sheamus often says that he was picked on for being short and fat—why not rescue poor AJ, who is being emotionally held hostage by the World Heavyweight Champion?

This feud, perhaps more than any other, has been noticeable due to its lack of physical confrontation between the combatants. The most meaningful interaction the two have had was Sheamus declaring his intent to face Byran at Wrestlemania. Since then, Sheamus has been kept in a holding pattern of short matches and lame jokes about Ireland. Daniel Bryan has, in turn, solidified himself as the WWE’s best heel, a modern, vegan Macho Man who uses his cunning, his wits, and his woman to offset the fact that he’s not as imposing as the vast majority of his opponents. His title reign has been a joy to behold, and his build going into this show has involved several awesome matches against CM Punk, but this feud hasn’t been much to write home about beyond Bryan’s continued dickery and AJ’s doe-eyed infatuation with her man:

I have a sinking feeling that Bryan’s reign atop SmackDown! is at an end, as Sheamus has been on a massive roll since his summer feud against Mark Henry came to an end. It makes sense, though, as a Guerrero/Benoit style post-match embrace with fellow ROH alum/Best in the World CM Punk just isn’t going to happen. Maybe, when Sheamus has the title, he can finally point out how Bryan hasn’t exactly been a star to poor little AJ.

WINNER: Sheamus

WWE Championship: CM Punk (champion) vs. Chris Jericho

Insecurity: The Storyline! For the most part, this has been a great angle. Chris Jericho came back after those ominous end of the world promos, trolled the crowd, came up short at the Royal Rumble, and got to challenge CM Punk anyway. His motive was obvious to anybody paying attention to the work he did before his brief hiatus: As the guy who called himself “the best in the world at what he does,” it makes sense that he’d be pissed at a guy calling himself the best in the world.

Honestly, that’s all the feud needed. I would have purchased any pay per view with a Jericho/Punk tilt on it, and the Best in the World vs. Best in the World angle is one that looked to be building quite nicely through Jericho’s physical one-upmanship and his sneaky win over Punk in an excellent tag team match on Raw:

Put Punk, despite those setbacks, appeared unflappable, as evidenced by this face-to-face confrontation between the two:

Cockiness is reasonable from a guy who ousted Vince McMahon from his position of power, but wrestlers can’t be nonchalant forever. If Jericho’s failings at the Rumble and the fact that he’d been away from wrestling for a year made him feel insecure, he was, in bringing up Punk’s family and their demons, looking to bring M Punk down to a similar level of uncertainty. Jericho is tremendous at lending his feuds a touch of the personal—see his feud against Shawn Michaels—and Punk’s reaction to Jericho’s claim that Punk’s father was an alcoholic—near wordlessness (save him yelling “bullshit!” from the WWE’s biggest loudmouth—was a good appropriation of Punk’s Ring of Honor feud against Raven.

That particular part of the program (your sister’s a junkie, your mom’s a slut!) has gotten a little old, but the match still has that Best in the World vs. Best in the World hook, still features two of my absolute favorite wrestlers, and now features a CM Punk who is fighting for something more than pride or championships, which is something he hasn’t been able to say since his triumph at Money in the Bank. Formerly the voice of the voiceless, Punk is now the only man capable of defending his family’s honor. He’s good at playing out his emotions in the ring, as is Jericho. This *should* be match of the night. I’m afraid that anything less than match of the year will be a letdown.


Hell in a Cell Match; Shawn Michaels, Special Referee: The Undertaker vs. Triple H

It’s hard for me to take Triple H and Undertaker telling each other that they’re the last of their breed (wrestlers of the Attitude era, in case you haven’t caught on), when The Big Show, Kane, and Mark Henry are all wrestling on the same card and when The Rock has appeared on more WWE programming in the past year than The Undertaker in the year between this match and Undertaker vs. Triple H II. I wasn’t much for last year’s bout (and their match at X7 hasn’t aged particularly well), but the WWE keeps saying that it was an all-time classic and there are a ton of people who agree, or who are at least willing to pretend. The only way to top a match where the two guys hucked atomic bombs at one another for twenty minutes is, of course, to put the two under Hell in a Cell and add Shawn Michaels to the mix as special guest referee. I have to say, though, that it’s somewhat disappointing that Mick Foley wasn’t involved somehow, perhaps to give an in-depth interview on the subject of facing these men in such environs.

The WWE is not nearly as barbaric as it was when the Micker was getting hurled from gigantic structures, and I highly doubt anything nearly as crazy will happen here. The addition of Shawn Michaels (who was also involved in a more limited capacity last year) is what adds the match’s truly interesting wrinkly, as Triple H only took this match after Undertaker insinuated that Shawn was the better of the two. On the other side of insecurity, check the Undertaker’s hair when he makes his grand return: It’s glued to the brim of his hat.

This was such a good illusion that the next week, in a video package, they had The Undertaker shave his hair off. Since then, he’s been wearing a hood that he won’t take off under any circumstances. When that hood finally comes down tonight, it’d better look like Quato is sticking out from the back of Undi’s head. What’s a little baldness to the Lord of Darkness?

The match itself will be interesting. It could be great or could be terrible (but overrated); there is no middle ground. With any luck, Michaels’ inclusion will make it a little like Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker, from Summerslam 1997. There, Michaels, who had a deep hatred of the anti-American Hart, accidentally hit Undertaker with a chair, giving Hart the Michaels-counted pinfall. Not only did this lead to the Montreal Screwjob a few months later, but it served as the starting point for the Michaels/Taker feud that introduced us to Kane, led to the formation of D-Generation X, and, oh yeah, resulted in the first ever Hell in a Cell match, between Michaels and Undertaker.

Beyond that, hopefully the match will be reminiscent of the pair’s better Hell in a Cell history—more Undertaker/Brock Lesnar than Undertaker/Kane, more Triple H/Chris Jericho than DX/McMahons. The cell may force the match to be more restrained than either 27’s endless, structureless brawl or X7’s arena-roaming slapstick, which is for the best. All of that being said, I’m really hoping that Michaels comes out of retirement in the aftermath of this match and puts Taker’s streak to bed next year. Guess how disappointed I’ll be on Monday!

WINNER: The Undertaker.

John Cena vs. The Rock

More than any other match on the card, The Rock and John Cena’s “once in a lifetime” encounter has been touched by insecurity. Surprisingly, the man who has seemed most uncomfortable throughout this whole affair has been The Rock, who has, at times, looked downright flustered in his quest to stick as many objects as humanly possible up John Cena’s ass. If there’s something the true build to this match has exposed, it’s that The Rock simply doesn’t fit with the WWE anymore, no matter how much the fans want him to. He’s certainly too big to be booed en masse, but, as I mentioned 4,000 words ago, there’ve been audible “Rocky sucks” chants from the same “adults” who so hate John Cena that they once rabidly cheered for a heel Great Khali.

Before Raw on Monday, the Rock never made it clear that he really knew he was in a match with John Cena, let alone that he wanted to win the thing. He’s vacillated back and forth between being Dwayne Johnson and The Rock, finally (and disappointingly) settling on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an odd hybrid of the two—somewhat humble man with one sentence, cocky man-of-a-thousand-catchphrases the next. You can tell he’s humble because he talks about his love of the WWE and no longer speaks in the third person. Cena has made it clear for a year now that he needs to beat The Rock, that his position as the face of the WWE means nothing if he can’t beat a dude who skipped town to star in The Tooth Fairy. He’s also made it clear that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is neither the man he requested, nor the guy the WWE Universe deserves to see. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to be blunt, kinda sucks.

Looking back on the past few months, it’s really hard to dispute any of Cena’s claims. Yup, Dwayne Johnson is sometimes, momentarily in The Rock mode, saying funny things about or to John Cena, but it seems like he peaked before Wrestlemania 27, a whole year ago, when he dropped Fruity Pebbles on the world and made it clear that he didn’t like or respect the new face of the company:

Since Wrestlemania 27, however, which was mostly derailed by The Rock’s presence (the very thing that was supposed to save the show, ironically), the list of things that The Rock has done makes Cena look, on paper, to be invincible. In a world ruled by logic, the fans would be chanting “Die Rocky Die” and buying more Cena merchandise than ever given The Rock’s need to write notes on his wrist, the creative bankruptcy of a phrase like “kung pao bitch,” awkward Photoshop promos that make it seem like The Rock doesn’t know where the hell he is or what he’s doing, and his abject failure…at karaoke.

Written there: "Kung Pao Bitch." I wish I were joking.

Sure, there’s been a lot of tension between Rock and Cena, but most of it has been in a “will or won’t the Rock show up” sort of way, which has been mostly uninteresting. I don’t care which millionaire loves the WWE more, who works harder, or who matters more to the legacy of the company. To go back to the Austin/Rock video way back at the beginning of this article and a point that I’ve already made: Those things were a part of what made the greatest feud in WWE history so great. They were also mostly unsaid between the two men. They were simply competitors with beef who fought and sweat and bled to prove the other man inferior. They wanted to beat each other; everything else was implied. That is simple, effective storytelling.

I can’t claim to know a damn thing about the innermost workings of the WWE, so it’s possible that this has all been an elaborate ruse and the Rock has been going half-speed on purpose, wasting whole Raws on his birthday and exuding insecurity by thanking the crowd for being there and bragging about fucking Cena’s mom not because he feels out of place, but more because he’s…acting. The story that’s emerged from this, even if it’s an intricate, nuanced fiction, is one that’s convoluted, one that makes me hope that this match is, indeed, a once in a lifetime affair. I love The Rock and I like John Cena (though, in The Rock’s eyes, that makes me a sad virgin) and I have little doubt that the two will have a match worth remembering and worth talking about for a long time, but I can’t believe that any storyline involving The Rock would make me wish that he’d just get tired and leave already, nor could I think of any angle involving him that, before tonight, would make me think that bringing him back was a creative mistake from the start.

WINNER: John Cena.

And now, for the cheesiest, best Wrestlemania theme songs of all time.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: Stars ga-la, stars galore, that’s what Wrestlemania has in-store.