By Adam Testa
11:40 PM EDT, March 12, 2012
When a match between John Cena and The Rock was announced the day after WrestleMania last year, many people wondered how WWE would keep the momentum and interest for the inevitable collision strong from a whole year.
Most of the build-up seems logical -- or at least sensible. The Rock disappeared for months on end, going back to Hollywood and amassing a stockpile of ammunition for Cena to use against him.
When he returned, he teamed with Cena in a Survivor Series main event, with the focus of the match not even being on their opponents -- The Miz and R-Truth -- but on the threat of animosity between the two.
That "classic" match features an unforgettable ending, as the two easily disposed of their opponents before even teasing dissension between the two. After that, the Rock disappeared again, making only sporadic appearances, mostly via satellite.
But now that the Road to WrestleMania has officially begun, Rocky has been a permanent fixture on Raw, engaging in multiple wars of words with Cena. Just who is winning the battle is up for debate, as fans continue to debate the general topic, as well as to whether or not Rock has been holding back to make Cena look good.
But while all the microphone confrontations, and even the tag match, represent common-sense booking, there was one thing no one could have predicted a year ago: Tonight's "Rock and Rap Concert" on Raw.
John Cena fired the first shot, opening the show adorned in his rap attire -- and even using "Basic Thuganomics" as his entrance music. He did a simple, yet effective rap bit that got over with the crowds in the arena and on Twitter.
The promo was a great start to the show, and the Cleveland crowd played a big role in that. Seeing Cena use the “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona is great for nostalgia and throwback, but I have a feeling fans would tire of it quickly if Cena ever attempted to resurrect it full-time.
When The Rock came out at the other end of the show, he had his work cut out for him.
Immediately, I was let down, as Rock took 10 minutes to cut a promo before even starting his song. The point of tonight's challenge was to deliver the message via tune, which Cena did. Rock, on the other hand, had to rely on more homophobia, sexual innuendo and even Telletubbies to get his point across.
When he actually started his "Rock concert," the song wasn't bad, but it was clear Rock had notes on the stand in front of him. Better to read from notes than his wrist, I suppose.
His rendition of “We Will Rock You” even had lyrics on the Titantron like a giant karaoke machine. Disappointing, Rocky, disappointing.
At the end of the night, this victory once again belongs to Cena. I have more respect for his off-the-cuff or memorized performance than Rock’s longer-than-needed promo and songs on the stand that were likely written by someone else altogether.
Disagree? Leave a message in the comments below.
** Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler had a nice long television match that made both men look strong. It's kind of sad that the best Ziggler will have at WrestleMania is a spot in a 12-man tag team match. He deserves much more for his consistent work and improvement this year. If Sheamus wins the belt from Daniel Bryan on April 1, an extended feud between these two for the title wouldn't be a bad option.
One small quibble about the match, though, was that it was interrupted to show an interview with Bryan and AJ in the skybox. I like this form of promo, but it would be nice if it was done on a split-screen or an in-set video box, so as not to distract from the in-ring action. The fact they hinted at a possibly abusive relationship between Bryan and AJ is also kind of unnerving. It's one thing to be controlling, as a heel, but going to extremes won't benefit anyone.
** What should have been an epic confrontation between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker felt a little flat, mostly because of Taker's botch on the date of WrestleMania. That kind of took all of the energy out of things. Other than that, even, the promo seemed basic and didn't seem like anything special or extraordinary between these two legends. The segment ended with Triple H coming out in a suit and giving the DX crotch chop to The Undertaker. This match is still doing little for me, personally.
** Randy Orton put Jack Swagger away in a surprisingly competitive match. The bout was pretty good, and it was a shock to see Swagger get so much offense against Orton. After the match, Kane's music and pyro hit, but the masked monster was nowhere to be found. Being that Kane has dominated Orton so much in recent weeks, it makes sense that he'd pull back and play mind games instead.
** The Miz tapped out to CM Punk to lose out of his spot on Team Raw. It really seems like Miz may be left without a WrestleMania match. Hopefully, if that happens, it fuels a comeback angle for him later this year, as I'm still a proud Mizfit. The match itself was good. Afterward, Chris Jericho took his feud with Punk to the next level, saying he learned Punk's father is an alcoholic and that Punk is straight-edge to try and find solace for his desire to consume alcohol. Jericho said he'll leave Punk a broken made, who has hit bottom, forcing him to alcohol. Well, that was ... awkward ... Apparently it was a throwback to Punk's feud with Raven in Ring of Honor, but I'm not sure it's appropriate for WWE's audience demographics.
** David Otunga and United States Champion Santino Marella were named as the captains for the WrestleMania teams representing Raw General Manager and Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long, respectively. Marella was then booked into a handicap match against Otunga and Mark Henry. The duo destroyed Marella, which brought out Kofi Kingston and R-Truth, who also fell to Laurinaitis' duo. Henry was confirmed for Team Raw, and one can assume Kingston and R-Truth will be added to Team Smackdown. As I've said before, I'm actually enjoying this feud, and it's a good way to get the midcard onto a packed WrestleMania card.
** Brodus Clay made his much-anticipated return to Raw after a six-week or so absence. It was good to see the Funkasaurus back, but the problem of just squashing jobbers seems to be continuing. Hopefully he earns a spot on Team Smackdown and gets the opportunity to have a real match.
** Zack Ryder looked to be healed, at least physically, as he had a backstage segment with Eve and Divas Champion Beth Phoenix. Ryder continued to look like a fool with his handling of the Eve situation. I had high hopes this angle would turn Ryder into a serious character, but that seems less and less likely the longer the angle goes on.
** I've been a long-time "Psych" fan so it was nice to see James Roday appear on the show. He didn't do anything of major significance, but he also didn't make a fool of himself like some other guest hosts. I'm looking forward to The Miz's appearance on the show this week.
Sheamus d. Dolph Ziggler
David Otunga and Mark Henry d. Santino Marella
Brodus Clay d. Jinder Mahal
CM Punk d. The Miz
Randy Orton d. Jack Swagger
Tonight’s Raw was a strong episode for the Road to WrestleMania. Heading into the show, I had low expectations, based on the amount of talking and promos that had been promoted. I also had no idea what would come of the Rock and Cena’s concerts. In the end, we received a night of quality in-ring action and strong microphone work, well, from everyone except the forgetful Undertaker. If we get a few more weeks of shows like this one, I’ll be a very happy camper.
Comment of the Night
“Undertaker takes longer to walk to the ring than Jinder Mahal’s match. And no one complains.” – Justin Ruff, @justinruff
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun