The match between John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania 28 in 2012 was billed as “Once in a Lifetime.” Cena and The Rock headlined that show in Miami, but of course, did it all over again the following year in the shadows of New York City. Their match in 2012 was actually booked the night after WrestleMania 27, marking the first time in WWE history that a WrestleMania match was planned (on camera) a year in advance.
Both matches between John Cena and The Rock closed out those respective WrestleManias, and while the show in 2013 included the bout being contested for the WWE Championship, original plans called for the title to be defended the previous year at WrestleMania 28. This, according to former WWE writer, Brian Mann, who shared the nugget with SportsKeeda recently.
Mann was a writer on the WWE creative team in 2011 and shared that original plans that year called for John Cena to carry the WWE Championship from the time he won it in May at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view all the way up until his clash with The Rock the following April. As you recall, The Rock cost Cena the championship during the main event match with The Miz at WrestleMania 27. Ironically, John Cena and The Miz are feuding heading into this year’s show in Orlando.
As depicted in the featured image of this article, The Rock returned to RAW on May 3 to celebrate his birthday. During a backstage segment, John Cena offered The Great One a championship opportunity at WrestleMania as his birthday gift offering. That was no accident, as WWE officials had it in their minds that that was the match they were building towards and that show gave them the opportunity to tease it.
The plan was for John Cena to retain the title throughout the remainder of 2011 by virtue of several one-off feuds with various other WWE superstars. He’d retain against The Miz at Over The Limit and then R-Truth at Capitol Punishment. However, the plans would get thrown for a loop less than two months after Cena first captured the belt.
As you recall, CM Punk beat John Cena for the WWE Championship at the Money In The Bank show in July that year. The main event provided a dramatic backdrop to Punk’s contract negotiations with the WWE, as his deal was set to expire the day of the pay-per-view. As it happens, John Cena was suggesting his potential opponents to WWE officials for the build to the match with The Rock.
So it was Cena’s idea to defend against Punk because John thought Punk was leaving and the event was in Chicago, Punk’s hometown. Their program was memorable because no one really knew which direction Punk was leaning at the time and it offered a real-life component to their storyline. Even after Punk won, people didn’t know whether he’d come back or if he was walking out with the title. Regardless, Punk became hotter than anyone in the company ever imagined, and Vince McMahon made the decision to switch champions to take advantage of his momentum.
Mann revealed that he and the rest of the writing staff pleaded with Vince to keep Punk off television until SummerSlam once they found out he had re-signed. This would have helped build the unknown, but Vince decided he wanted him back two weeks later. Punk, of course, would beat John Cena again at SummerSlam, only to lose the belt to Alberto Del Rio who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase after Kevin Nash attacked Punk.
Cena would regain the strap at Night of Champions but drop it shortly thereafter at Hell In A Cell. Much of the storylines during this time were done to set up a main event tag match at Survivor Series between John Cena and The Rock against The Miz and R-Truth. Punk would win the belt back at that event and memorably hold it for the next 434 days before losing to The Rock at the Royal Rumble in 2013.
So, finally the WWE got their wish that a match between The Rock and John Cena would include the WWE Championship. Cena would win at WrestleMania 29, but it’s certainly interesting to wonder how things would have gone down had the title been involved in their first encounter instead.
[Featured Image by WWE]