MIAMI – This wasn't just a WrestleMania XXVIII main event one year in the making. It was a "Once in a Lifetime" Match, an epic battle that redefined the legacies of two of WWE's most legendary Superstars.
To put it simply, winning this meant everything for John Cena and The Rock. ( PHOTOS)
All the heated confrontations, personal attacks, and physical aggression that forged one of the bitterest rivalries in history, finally came to a boil on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
In front of a Sun Life Stadium record-crowd of 78,363, the leader of Cenation and The Great One both delivered in the toughest fight of their accomplished careers. But only one man would be able to leave WrestleMania with his head high, knowing he seized the rare opportunity to change how he's remembered for all of eternity.
Before the match even began, excitement filled the air as MGK performed a rousing rendition of his hit song Invincible. MGK left no doubts as to who he was rooting for, saying the WWE Universe was about to see "one of the biggest egos get beat by one of the biggest underdogs," referring to the leader of Cenation as the underdog. Cena strode down the entrance way sporting a brand new green T-shirt emblazoned with his "Rise Above Hate" mantra, and expectedly received a mixed reaction from the WWE Universe.
In another sensational musical performance, Flo Rida matched MGK with his own hit songs, Good Feeling and Wild Ones before The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment emerged as cameras flashed seemingly everywhere throughout Sun Life Stadium. It was clear from that moment on who had the crowd advantage between these two icons.
Shortly after the bell rang, Cena sent The Rock tumbling with a show of power to send an early message to start the contest. The Rock didn't flinch and promptly returned the favor with a shove of his own that tossed Cena down to the canvas. The Great One proved that he didn't miss a beat despite the ring rust, as he executed a couple of hip tosses and a very crafty la magistral rollup for a near-pinfall. Cena looked shocked as he took a breather in the corner of the ring.
The Rock soon asserted more of an early advantage, forcing Cena to roll out of the ring to regroup to a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. But Cena began to build momentum by using his power to wear down The Rock with punishing suplexes and a vice-like bearhug around Rock's midsection. The Brahma Bull then reached down for a second wind and rallied back before both men found themselves laid out by a double clothesline.
The personal nature of the rivalry was on full display when The Rock attempted to mock Cena with his own "You can't see me" hand motion. The decision backfired, however, as Cena caught The Great One with a massive Attitude Adjustment and nearly got a three-count. The Rock soon answered and nailed a vicious Rock Bottom of his own, but couldn't keep Cena down.
As both men started to show signs of fatigue, they began to try whatever it would take to gain an edge in the matchup, including a pair of excruciating submission maneuvers. The Rock slapped on a Sharpshooter, Cena answered by rendering his opponent almost unconscious with an STF. But neither Superstar would give up, proving their outstanding will to win in the face of severe physical and mental exhaustion.
After Rock managed to slip out of an Attitude Adjustment attempt, he nailed the much-anticipated People's Elbow, but it still wouldn't be enough to defeat the leader of Cenation. In a remarkable show of strength, Cena reversed a crossbody from the top rope and lifted The Rock straight into an Attitude Adjustment. Even more remarkably, The Great One somehow kicked out.
With The Brahma Bull on his back in the center of the ring, Cena had his best chance to put his rival away for good and win the exhausting showdown. One mistake -- one moment of ego -- would ruin everything for the leader of Cenation, though. Perhaps still dwelling on the exchange earlier in the match when Rock poked fun at one of his signature gestures, Cena tossed his armband and tried to imitate the People's Elbow to a tee.
Using the extra bit of time to recover, The Rock bounced back to his feet before Cena could execute the maneuver, and drilled him to the mat with a Rock Bottom for the 1… 2… 3!
Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and now John Cena: The Rock has conquered them all on The Grandest Stage of Them All and cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest WWE Superstar of all time.
The expression on Cena's face said it all as he sat in the middle of the entrance way while The Rock raised his fist in celebration, soaking in cheers and more camera flashes from the booming crowd.
Cena could've been set to enjoy a "Once in a Lifetime" victory over The Rock. Instead, he'll have to replay the final moments of the match in his mind forever.