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So as any wrestling fan can tell you, The Rock is back. Sort of. Really, he's back for just a limited time to build interest for Wrestlemania in what is otherwise most definitely an "off-year" for the company. A lot of the big stars are gone, retired, or getting older, and they desperately needed some star power to sell buys for this year's event, so in comes The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to spice things up. Whatever the reason, it's generated a lot of excitement in the wrestling world.

Rock's first night back he cut a promo the likes of which hadn't been seen in the business in years. In it he called out the guy who has been the face of the company in Rock's absence, John Cena, over some comments Cena made awhile back to the media. Cena effectively called the Rock a liar and criticized him in interviews for saying he loved the company and wrestling fans when he was in Hollywood making movies, rather than lighting up Monday Night Raw and selling PPV buys. So when The Rock came back, he called Cena to task for running his mouth about arguably the biggest star pro wrestling has ever had. Every week since has ping-ponged back and forth from Rock to Cena to get their rebuttals on what the other has said. The war of words has even reached the internet, where John Cena made the following comment on his official Twitter recently, which was in response to apparent internet rumors that he was murdered:

"CeNation. Apparently last night I was shot dead by a group of thugs. I also was apparently owned by the rock. Both just internet rumor. :)"

So who owned who? Let's see based on some of what each man has said as of the date of this writing (3-15-11).

 

THE ROCK JOHN CENA
"So lemme get this straight. The WWE has gone from the powerful Austin 3:16 to the dominant and iconic "Can you smell what The Rock is cookin?" all the way too..."You can't shee me. You can't shee me. You can't shee me? What are you playing? Peekaboo?" "You left us hangin high and dry to play a fairy with a tooth?"
"Believe me, we all can see you. We all can see you. A blindfolded, sleeping, stuck-in-the-basement Stevie Wonder can see your monkey ass. How the hell do you think we can miss? You come out here with your bright-ass purple shirt, and before that your bright green shirt, before that your bright orange shirt. You run around here lookin like a big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles." "I'm like a big purple pinwheel, Rock, so go ahead and blow me."
"The Rock came back to RAW, kicked down your door, and addressed you like a man, and what do you do in response? You rap...to me? You rap......to me. You address me...in the form...of rap." "Now you gotta tell your family you just got school by Barney's turd."
"I helped open the door, John Cena, for you. Paved the way for you. And what do you do? You publicly insult and knock The People's Champion?"

"That's your material, you can have your joke back. Just don't go racing to Witch Mountain, Rock, cause your mountain is brokeback."

"The Rock is back to scratch a major itch. So enjoy your fruity pebbles you yabba dabba bitch." "The Rock's new movie, well it's nothing like "Walking Tall." He spends the movie in a bowling alley polishing my balls."
"Don't even think about it. No, don't do "yo." No, no gang signs, don't do that. Don't even think about rapping. No, John Cena, you're not gangsta, you're not from the hood." "And is it Rock, is it Dwayne? Pick a side, come on son. If I was you, I'd stick with Rock, cause Dwayne ain't got a Johnson."

"John, I know that when I left 7 years ago you took the ball and you ran with it, right? But you didn't run that far. It's ok. "

"That's called a first-round knockout, now you know that I'm not playin. Run your mouth all you want dude, it doesn't matter what you're sayin."
"Look at it like this. Kermit the Frog, Barney the dinosaur, and now you. And not only that, think about the demographic that you've dominated. John Cena, you own the 2-5 year olds, they love you." "What he couldn't afford a plane ticket or a helicopter? No, see Rock chose to stay home and read off a teleprompter."
"But the truth is, do you know why you'll never be as good as The Rock? Tell me. Yes, John Cena, because you're not that talented. It took such a big man to admit what you just did. The big elephant in the room, he's gone." "They say The Rock is unbeatable, he'll put John Cena on the shelf. But after last week, the only thing Rock's beating is himself."
"The Rock and all the millions and millions, we've seen your awful movies. You don't see us crying." "And I'm so glad this thing is over so I can cross it off my checklist. Rock didn't win, but it's okay. I'll give him a pearl necklace."

 

Of course, what you're not going to see talked about on WWE TV is how the company is/was doing with both men at the top. So, I did some research. First, let's look at TV ratings from Monday Night Raw, which is the most common measuring stick used for determining popularity at any given time. The ratings I'm looking at are the average ratings for Monday Night Raw broadcasts while each man was the WWF/E champion, as that is the guy who is counted on the most at any given time to deliver for the company. For this table, I'm not counting Rock's "WCW championship" reigns or Cena's World Heavyweight title reigns in here, just the main world title. Each man has had seven runs with the WWF/E championship to date.

THE ROCK JOHN CENA
11/15/98 - 12/29/98 Average Rating 5.1* 4/3/05 - 1/8/06 Average Rating 3.8*
1/24/99 - 1/26/09 Rating 5.5* 1/29/06 - 6/11/06 Average Rating 4.3*
2/15/99 - 3/28/99 Average Rating 6.4* 9/17/06 - 2/2/07 Average Rating 3.7*
4/30/00 - 5/21/00 Average Rating 6.6* 9/13/09 - 10/4/09 Average Rating 3.3**
6/25/00 - 10/22/00 Average Rating 5.7* 10/25/09 - 12/13/09 Average Rating 3.4**
2/25/01 - 4/1/01 Average Rating 4.7* 2/21/10 - 2/21-10 No Rating
7/21/02 - 8/25/02 Average Rating 3.9* 3/28/10 - 6/20/10 Average Rating 3.2**

*Source: http://www.100megsfree4.com/wiawrestling/pages/wwf/wwfraw.htm

** Source http://www.gerweck.net/tv-ratings/

When looking at this data, some would argue that The Rock had a better supporting cast around him than Cena has had. In Rock's heyday the WWF also had the combined drawing power of Stone Cold Steve Austin, a full-time Undertaker and Triple H, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle, among others. Obviously, Rock wasn't carrying the show alone. But Cena's run on top has also had some big stars in a re-invigorated Shawn Michaels, Edge, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Batista, Rey Mysterio, and at least the occasional presence of Undertaker and Triple H, as well as guys who have been in and out of the company such as Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, and Jeff Hardy. Granted, these guys were not all on the same show at the same time due to the brand split, which has meant less TV time for the biggest stars, but to say Cena hasn't had enough help in carrying the show isn't fair to a lot of other guys that have been there.

A better argument can be made that the WWE product just isn't what it was during Rock's time. Almost nobody is going to argue that overall the "Attitude Era" was much more entertaining. The booking and creative ends were much better, the mid-card guys were much more interesting and well-developed, and the tag team and women's divisions were a hell of a lot more entertaining than anything they've had to offer in recent years. The fact is, a lack of competition has undoubtedly hurt the WWE's overall product. This can also help explain some of the lower ratings later in Rock's career as the downward slide had already begun.

Originally, I had planned to do a similar chart showing PPV buyrates comparing PPVs each man headlined (and by headlined I mean the last match on the show, not the current practice of promoting 2-3 matches as the "main event"). However, I decided against this because it is really comparing apples and oranges because so many different factors have affected PPV buys the last several years that it would simply unfair to John Cena to do a comparison. The economy is down and PPV prices are up, meaning less buys overall, regardless of who is on the card. There's also the brand-only PPVs WWE did for a long time that hurt buyrates during Cena's tenure. When only half the company's roster is featured on a card, there's going to be a lot fewer "must see" matches and a lot more filler on any given card, which has nothing to do with Cena as a draw.

And hell, just for kicks, let's look at each man's movie success, as each man fancies himself an actor and that has come up in their war of words. Everything from the table below is from IMBD.com. For this table I'm looking at the box office success as well as the IMBD movie ratings (how many stars out of 10) of movies each man had a starring role in. I emphasize starring role. I'm not looking at lesser roles (such as Rock's role in "The Mummy Returns") or cameos (such as his role in "RENO! 911:Miami"). I'm only concerned with films in which either man was a major player in the movie, and thus pivotal to that movie's success.

 

THE ROCK JOHN CENA
"The Game Plan": 90.6 million gross, 6.2 rating "The Marine": 18.8 million gross, 4.5 rating
"The Scorpion King": 90.3 million gross, 5.4 rating "12 Rounds": 12.2 million gross, 5.4 rating
"Race to Witch Mountain": 67.1 million gross, 5.8 rating "Legendary": 0.2 million gross rating, 5.5 rating
"The Tooth Fairy": 60.0 million gross, 4.8 rating  
"The Rundown": 47.6 million gross, 6.6 rating  
"Walking Tall": 45.9 million gross, 6.0 rating  
"Gridiron Gang": 38.4 million gross, 6.8 rating  
"Doom": 28.0 million gross, 5.1 rating  
"Faster": 23.2 million gross, 6.6 rating  

 

Once again, some things must be pointed out in fairness to John Cena. First, he doesn't have nearly the body of work yet that Rock has (although if you want to compare Cena's three starring roles to Rock's first three, those movies were "The Scorpion King," "The Rundown," and "Walking Tall").

Second, you can again point to Rock's supporting cast as another possible factor. Rock has shared the screen with stars such as Michael Clark Duncan, Ashley Judd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Johnny Knoxville, Karl Urban, and Billy Bob Thornton. On the other hand, Danny Glover and Robert Patrick are probably the only people you would even recognize from any of Cena's movies.

Lastly, Rock has had the benefit of working on bigger budget films from bigger studios that have much better support and get wider and longer theatre releases than what Cena has had. Let's face it, WWE films is not exactly a premium vehicle for getting a movie seen. Of course, this can lead back to a chicken-or-egg debate. Is The Rock a bigger movie star because he has more exposure? Or does he get more exposure because he's a bigger star?

So, with the evidence before you, as well as arguments and counterarguments for and against the raw numbers...who owns who? You decide for yourself.