The Mother Brain Files: Pie Vs. Fruity Pebbles

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The Mother Brain Files: Pie Vs. Fruity Pebbles
By Mother Brain

On the Valentine’s Day edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, the bombshell announcement was made on who would be the special guest host of Wrestlemania 27. That honor was given to none other than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. This was the news that most wrestling fans around my age were waiting to hear for seven long years.  Having suffered through a down period in wrestling where the veterans are fading away and most young superstars are not grabbing the bull by the horns, the Rock returned in phenomenal shape and literally “schooled” not only the superstars in the back but also the younger fans on what makes a superstar “entertaining”. Now the main man, Cos, already blogged about the highlights of the promo (which can be found here: The Rock Returns to host Wrestlemania 27!). I’m going to focus on what the Rock’s return really means for the top WWE star, John Cena.

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Looking back to the Attitude era, the Rock was hated so much by fans because of his clean cut Rocky Mavia gimmick that a heel turn was necessary for long-term stability in the company. But he really didn’t get seriously over with the crowd until late 1998-early 1999 just as he embarked in heated feuds with Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Then in late 1999 when Austin was out on an injury for nearly a year, the Rock took over as the new face of the company. Everything the Rock would do as a character caught on: His theme music, his memorable catchphrases, the people’s eyebrow, the people’s elbow, etc. Was he the best wrestler in the ring? Definitely not; however, he lucked out in his WWE run by working with the best in the business (Austin, Foley, Triple H, Ric Flair, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, etc) as well as once-in-a-lifetime bouts with Hulk Hogan and even Bret Hart early on his his career. The Rock knew how to entertain a crowd whether it was the “This is Your Life” segment with Mick Foley or sing Elvis songs in the ring with a guitar. He could play face and heel successfully at various times in his career and as a company face, he would purposely struggle to win the WWE Championship to keep the fans glued to the TV every week. When he would win the title, it would happen at the most unpredictable moments that were not Wrestlemania (King of the Ring 2000, Vengeance 2002, etc).

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Once the Rock transcended into the film career, John Cena came along in 2002. His rise was similar in that he started as a bland babyface who turned heel and cashed into the popularity of rapper Eminem by turning into a thugged out white rapper who “battled” his opponents in the ring before matches. The concept was silly. Yet Cena got over quickly with the crowd. Once he switched over from Smackdown to Raw, however, the rapper gimmick everyone fell in love with was dropped in favor of being a mixed hybrid of marine/WWE Mark/street brawler who lives by a mentality of “hustle, loyalty, and respect”. The end result was a good portion of male wrestling fans resenting him due to his kid friendly image, lack of in-ring ability, one dimensional promos, and the lack of a edgy personality that Austin and Rock had. Nonetheless, women and children pop hard for Cena at live events, buy his merchandise, and support whatever he does be it movies or music. While he has attempted to prove his worth as a company player by working with veterans like Triple H and Shawn Michaels, most of Cena’s opponents are young stars (mostly heels) who are only built up as monster heels and end up getting defeated in the end much like Hogan’s opponents in the 80s. As the company star, Cena refuses to change.

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These past 7 years in wrestling have been a wild roller-coaster. There have been high points and low points. But the highs are nowhere near the creative highs of the Attitude era. What we have now is a neutered company restructured to target children which means that the adult fans like myself are being subjected to lackluster feuds and storylines, bland characters, and scripted promos. This is everything that the John Cena/WWE PG era represents and the current state of the business overall is more reminiscent of the mid 90s when everything was down across the board before WCW’s nWo and WWE’s Attitude direction saved the business. Yet, as soon as the Rock returned to Raw, it represented more than the WWE attempting to increase the chances of a strong buy-rate for Wrestlemania. It was clear evidence that the John Cena era is not strong enough to draw the kind of money and ratings that the era of Austin and Rock did a decade ago.

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Does it equate to a Cena vs. Rock match at Mania? Probably not. The Rock is clearly not back full time and Cena is not going anywhere for a long time; however, unless Cena reverts back to his old rapper gimmick and prove he can hold his own with the Great One, I believe the younger fans will begin to think twice about him. It’s sort of the reverse of the Toy Story 1 premise where Andy completely neglects his precious Cowboy Woody in favor of the hi-tech futuristic Buzz Lightyear. All you have to do is watch that promo again and see how fewer fans than normal were actually pro-Cena as soon as the Rock started ripping him in his promo. It may not signal the end of the PG rating. But the real question is will it be the ultimate turning point in John Cena’s run as the top babyface of WWE?

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