“If You Smell…”
Rocks Road to Wrestlemania in Years Gone By (Part One)
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Almost an entire calendar year to the day the match was made. At last years Wrestlemania it was announced that in his home town of Miami, Florida The Rock would clash with John Cena in what is being billed as one of the biggest, most high-profile matches in WWE history. Over the course of 12 months the hype has been building and in just three and half weeks the wait is finally over. You would think that this makes me excited, right? The live crowds and large sections of the WWE Universe seem to be excited. I, however, am not and this is why.
Making a match a year in advance is a massive call. Thats twelve months of work, twelve months of hype, twelve months in which to keep peoples attention and hold peoples interest. That is a huge ask of any two people on the roster. So then, when you consider that one of those men has been absent and only at a handful of live events during that time, having only one match at a WWE pay-per-view in that time and shouldering his share of the responsibility via satellite, pre-recorded comments and Twitter you may just begin to realise where my patience has worn thin.
I am no Cena mark. I never have been. I actually used to rather dislike him. Having Cena forced upon me every time I want to watch WWE over the last few years has not always been enjoyable. Cena has been in the main event, usually with a championship around his waist, for several years now. Cena has been the WWEs top dog and where thats all well and good the lack of change to the scenery has been somewhat tiring. With that said I have been very surprised to say that in recent times I, who once owned a Rock t-shirt and consider myself a fan, I have been all about John Cena as far as this “war” goes. Cena has worked remarkably well in a very tight spot, trying to keep air in the lungs of a feud with a man making rare appearances, armed with little more than a mic and a titantron or live satellite feed. What makes this situation even more disappointing is that when The Rock has been live on Monday Night Raw he has done, in my opinion, very little to further enhance the angle and quite frankly has been easily trumped and brushed aside by an impressive John Cena.
The Rock has been at two consecutive live Monday Night Raw events as of late and hopefully should be scheduled to appear at more between now and Wrestlemania and as much as I have been bored and frustrated with this current angle I hope to see it offer up some entertainment in the weeks to come. After all if this match is going to keep the current champions on the under-card then you would hope that it at least delivers! I felt it would be appropriate, as The Rock gears up for a return to in-ring action on the grandest stage of them all, that we take the opportunity to look back at the events of this week in wrestling history and highlight exactly what The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment has been offering the WWE universe at this exciting time of year in years gone by.
The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
At Wrestlemania XIX The Rock challenged his arch-rival Stone Cold Steve Austin to one more match on the grandest stage of them all. Arguably the two biggest, most impactful and most popular susperstars in WWE history had previously headlined Wrestlemania together on two seperate occasions. Austin prevailed on both occasions. On March 30th 2003 there were no championships on the line, only pride, as The Rock set out to do what he had previously failed to do and that is beat Stone Cold at Wrestlemania – in “Act III”. This battle would prove to be The Texas Rattlesnakes last, as he retired following it.
Three weeks before the showdown The Rock arrived on the March 10th 2003 edition of Monday Night Raw to be greeted by General Manager Eric Bischoff who informed The Great One that he would be wrestling Booker T that night. The Rock declined, claiming that match was not going to happen but that he would find his own opponent to face in the main event. In this hilarious backstage promo segment his hand-picked opponent would be revealed…but not before The Rock had taken an opportunity to share a song with the Cleveland audience.
Later in the show Eric Bischoff walked to the ring, mic in hand, to address his situation with The Texas Rattlesnake and made reference to his legitimate firing of Austin from WCW. Bischoff claimed that he deserved credit and that without him Austin would never made it to the WWE. Naturally Stone Cold would respond and as the two butted heads in the ring, The Rock couldn’t help but get involved.
With The Rock biding his time in his feud with Steve Austin, as he waited until Wrestlemania, it was time for the main event. The Rock and his hand selected opponent The Hurricane put on a decent match. After weasling out of his original, scheduled match with Booker T and backing down from a potential confrontation with his Wrestlemania opponent, Stone Cold Steve Austin would ensure that as Raw went off air that night he made his mark to further bait The Peoples Champion.
The Rock & Mankind vs. Batista, Randy Orton & Ric Flair
On March 14th 2004 at Wrestlemania XX “The Rock ‘n Sock Connection” took on “Evolution” in a three-on-two handicap match. The newly reformed former Tag Team Champions faced the “past, present and future” of professional wrestling, Dave Batista, the Intercontental Champion Randy Orton and the sixteen-time world champion Ric Flair.
The team of The Rock and Mick Foley were originally an unlikely combination. Mankind, desperate for The Rocks approval and respect would go out of his way in his attempts to impress ‘The Great One’ and usually his efforts would be met with little reaction. The comedic value of the team was never in doubt and this strange dynamic would lead to an unforgettable moment in the Attitude era and the history of Monday Night Raw when, in 1998, Mankind presenting The Rock with his “This is Your Life” would mark the highest rated segment in the history of the WWEs flagship programme.
Six years later and the pair were best of friends and on March 8th 2004, just six days days before Wrestlemania and after weeks of Foley falling prey to the assaults of the powerful trio of Evolution, The Rock would return to Raw with only one thing on his mind – cheering up his friend and tag team partner. On this night The Rock would present “Mick Foley – This is Your Life!” However before The Brahma Bull could get to the ring we were treated to a very funny encounter with one of his “fiercest rivals”!
Later in the evening the time had come for The Rock to “finally…” come back to Bridgeport, Conneticut and return the favour of his former Tag Team Championship partner. Would it live up to one of the most watched segments in Raws history? Would Evolution plan to ruin The Connections party less than a week before their match at Wrestlemania? Well, in my opinion, it certainly didn’t disappoint!
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Thats all for today folks. However trust me – this does not quite cover all the exciting moments from The Rock in this particular week in wrestling history. Check back over the next day or two where I aim to cover what is arguably the most relevant road to Wrestlemania the Great One has ever had with Cena just around the corner on April 1st!