By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
All right, all right, get it out your system now. "The Rock vs. John Cena was awful! How could that rank so high up on your list?" There's a pretty elementary answer: because I have an emotional attachment to the it, more so with the build than the match itself, but I loved everything about the bout. For years, my ultimate dream match was Rock vs. Cena, and at long last, it had become a reality. WrestleMania 28 is among my favorite installments of all-time, a large part due to its iconic main event.
I remember reading rumors in late 2009/early 2010 that WWE wanted to do Rock vs. Cena at WrestleMania 26, but for whatever reason, those plans fell through. It wasn't until the following year that Rock made his highly anticipated return to WWE on the February 14, 2011 edition of Raw. I still get goosebumps watching that moment back. He announced he would be the special host of WrestleMania 27, though as soon as he name-dropped Cena's name, everyone knew it was only inevitable before they came face-to-face.
Weeks went by and Rock and Cena traded verbal blows, sometimes via satellite, culminating on the ultimate edition of Raw before WrestleMania. The segment ended with Cena laying out Rock with an Attitude Adjustment, so it was only fitting that Rock got even by costing Cena the WWE Championship in his match against The Miz (which is better off forgotten) that Sunday at 'Mania. We didn't get the show of respect I thought we would (that was saved for WrestleMania 29) but rather the first shot in one of my favorite feuds as a fan.
The next night on Raw, they did something unprecedented: set up a match one year in advance for WrestleMania 28. The live crowd didn't take too kindly to that because they wanted to see them throw down right then and there, but it was a bold move on WWE's part. What if one of them got hurt? Or creative plans changed? In the end, it all paid off. What followed was one of the most exciting build-ups in recent years with Rock and Cena going back and forth on social media and on various episodes of Raw, as well as at Survivor Series when they teamed up.
The excitement for this (supposed) "Once in a Lifetime" matchup was unparalleled. The energy in Sun Life Stadium in Miami was palpable. The outcome was unpredictable. Sure, I figured Cena would win after Rock had gotten the best of him several times in the past and he would be "passing the torch" to the leader of the Cenation in the process, but I couldn't be too sure. No one was. That was made it so amazing. You were either on Team Cena or Team Rock. There was no in between.
When I watched WrestleMania 28 live, I skipped over the entrances. We were already behind and I didn't want to be spoiled by social media. But watching those entrances back, performed by Machine Gun Kelly and Flo Rida, was super cool. Both artists did a tremendous job. Once Rock and Cena were in the ring standing across from each other, it started to sink in that the match I waited so long to see was about to happen before my very eyes. The reaction when the bell rang was incredible. It was on!
Similar to Rock vs. Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 18, the match would be ten times worse if you watched it on mute, but as they trade finishing maneuvers throughout the course of the contest, you can't help but buy into each of the nearfalls. That continued on for almost a half hour before Cena got full of himself and went for a People's Elbow only to run into a Rock Bottom from The Great One, leading to Rocky scoring the surprise victory as his hometown crowd roared. Cena sat on the stage speechless, shocked and disheartened (one of my favorite visuals of all-time by the way), and for the first time in years, WrestleMania concluded with yours truly questioning what would happen next, making that next night's Raw must-see.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #8: Money in the Bank Ladder Match, WrestleMania 24"
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