John Cena’s match against The Rock at Sunday’s WrestleMania 28 in Miami is billed as being a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. Cena, himself, likens the battle to Hulk Hogan taking on Andre The Giant.
But unlike Hulk and Andre, Cena’s match against the Rock carries with it a lot of real life animosity.
Chad Dukes had the opportunity to interview Cena on the Friday before the big match as festivities for the Grandaddy of ‘Em All got underway in South Florida.
The 10-time WWE champion has been a stalwart supporter of the company, having never strayed too far toward Hollywood without coming all the way back. The same cannot be said about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as Cena pointed out.
“The problem I have with Dwayne is the problem I’ve always had — you say you dig the gig, then f’n show up,” Cena told Dukes. “That’s the animosity I think a lot of our guys have.”
WWE holds roughly 250 live events each year all over the world with no signs of slowing down. The grind is non-stop for the bulk of performers, who Cena alleges have some of the same ill feelings toward his opponent.
“Showing up for the important (dates) is fine, but when you show up for the important ones don’t act like you were never gone,” he said.
“Here’s a guy who’s been gone for seven years, comes back and the first thing he says a year ago is, ‘I’m never leaving again and I love this place.’ Dude, you just got back off a seven-year hiatus.”
More than just a long break from the ring, it was the manner in which The Rock first stepped away from the business that Cena took exception to.
“In the whole process of reinventing himself, when The Rock became Dwayne Johnson, he was the first dude to say The Rock was dead, ‘I’m done with wrestling,’” Cena pointed out. “And he’ll give you some story about his psychological profile and why he wanted to do that… I guess I’m just a guy who would never say that.”
Both men have capitalized on the resentment to put forth a series of on-camera verbal exchanges in recent weeks that were anything but scripted. Neither held back.
So, when the former champion from West Newbury, Mass. saw that The Rock was having a hard time leaving the scripted world of Tinseltown behind and had written talking points on his forearm, he seized the moment and cut perhaps the most memorable promo in their build toward WrestleMania.
“That was something I saw right there. I wouldn’t have even said anything if I didn’t see it,” Cena recalled. “When I watch TV and I’m in the ‘Gorilla Position,’ which is right before you go through the curtain, and they have a TV there… I couldn’t believe it. Once I saw it the words became bigger and larger and his body was covered in words. It was like, I couldn’t ignore it. It became like the giant mole on the face. I had to.”
But it’s not all bad blood between the two. Cena will give credit where it is due, including acknowledging The Rock is the greatest performer in WWE history by a wide margin.
Perhaps that’s why the one gripe he does not agree with is the notion The Rock is “stealing” another performer’s spot on WrestleMania. He agreed with Dukes’ assessment that the Rock deserved to be on the card because he could fill the seats.