Rock vs. Cena: Analyzing their signature maneuvers
In less than two weeks’ time, The Rock and John Cena will collide for the second time in as many years, meeting in an epic WrestleMania rematch that will put Cena’s bid for redemption against the enduring legacy of The People’s Champion. Add The Great One’s WWE Title to the mix, and this gem has an air of destiny about it.
As the WWE Universe knows from last year’s WrestleMania, a bout as big as this can often come down to a single missed opportunity. In their recent Q-and-A session on Raw, Rock and Cena alluded to their previous contest and how each man had either taken or given “everything they had.” But what, exactly, is everything they have? Before the two iconic Superstars clash again at The Show of Shows, WWE.com dusts off our Academy of Wrestling Arts & Sciences white coats for a comprehensive analysis of both champion’s and challenger’s in-ring calling-cards.
- Technical name: Fall-forward lifting side slam
- Strengths: Unlike many signature maneuvers, the Rock Bottom doesn’t take a lot of effort or planning to set up. Often, it comes down to catching one’s opponent at the right time. The People’s Champion has sprung the maneuver out of nowhere on countless occasions in the past, including WrestleMania XXVIII, and its relatively simple execution only adds to the maneuver’s deadly unpredictability. A simple burst of strength lifts The Rock’s opponent off his feet, a sweep of the leg initiates the plunge, and the combination of gravity and Rocky’s raw power handles the rest.
- Weaknesses: With a simple setup comes a simple escape, and a devastating one at that. Any Superstar with quick reflexes and the ability to keep his wits about him has only to deck The People’s Champion with a swift elbow to the side of the head once Rock moves into position to execute the Rock Bottom. The effects of the blow could daze The Great One enough to mount an offensive sequence against him, robbing The Rock of his momentum. Part of the move’s weakness also lies in the man himself. The Brahma Bull has rarely been one to put an opponent away without taking an extra second to soak in the moment, and a prospective recipient of the Rock Bottom might find himself with an extra minute to escape should The Rock pause for a bit of gloating.
- Technical name: Standing fireman’s carry takeover
- Strengths: Thanks to the nigh-unmatched power of the 10-time WWE Champion, a deceptively simple maneuver has become one of the most feared, debilitating attacks in all of WWE. Once John Cena jettisons his victims from the fireman’s carry position, it’s no 10-story drop from his shoulders to the mat, but the Cenation leader punctuates the attack by hoisting his foes higher into the air instead of just dumping them off his shoulders, amateur-wrestling style. The added boost increases velocity and, because Cena keeps his opponents’ necks hooked until the very last minute, sends the Superstar down to the mat with a bent back, making the impact all the more formidable. Even The Rock would admit: The maneuver packs quite a punch.
- Weaknesses: For all its simplicity, the Attitude Adjustment is a difficult move to escape. If a Superstar is to evade Cena’s signature slam, it must be done quickly and fluidly, sliding off Cena’s shoulders before he has time to lock in the fireman’s carry hold. This also leaves Cena open to attack from the rear, so a Superstar must also have his follow-up attack ready to go if he’s lucky enough to avoid the AA. If you possess the athleticism of, say, Dolph Ziggler, writhing free of the maneuver mid-fall is not out of the question either. Barring that, however, it’s best to follow the advice of old-school flight attendants should you find your attitude about to be adjusted: Put your head between your knees and kiss your you-know-what goodbye.
The People's Elbow
- Technical name: Running elbow drop (with theatrics)
- Strengths: There’s no way around it: This is just a fun maneuver to watch. Its strengths, though, are more symbolic than anything else. Oft imitated but never equaled, the combination of The Great One’s enthusiasm and the raucous reaction of the WWE Universe somehow transform the maneuver into a personal moment between The People and their Champion; a love letter of sorts to the WWE Universe. The vicious impact of the elbow itself — a straight shot to the sternum — similarly delivers decimation on an intimate, if no less effective, scale. It’s a simple move writ large, and one that comes with a healthy dose of humiliation for anyone unlucky enough to receive it. As for the juke-jive routine The Rock does before dropping the elbow? Well, what’s the point in pinning someone if you don’t get to have a little fun with it?
- Weaknesses: As John Cena was made woefully aware at WrestleMania XXVIII, the People’s Elbow takes a long, long time to execute ( Photos: Cena falls short). An average-clocked People’s Elbow consumes close to 10 seconds, including the time it takes to run the ropes. But in a bout where every moment is of the essence, that’s plenty of time for a Superstar to mount a last-minute burst of resistance. Cena learned this to his detriment when he hubristically attempted to put The Rock away with a People’s Elbow of his own at last year’s Show of Shows, only to be cut down by The Great One mid-attempt.
STF (Step-over Toe Foothold)
- Technical name: Step-over toehold sleeper
- Strengths: The Cenation leader bears down on his opponents in this smothering submission maneuver, placing his full body weight atop his foes while wrenching their knee to the side with his own legs. As John Cena works the joints below the waist, he strikes simultaneously above by wrapping his tree-trunk-like arms around an opponent’s neck and squeezing until they cry uncle. The move frankly works in part to Cena’s astounding strength and formidable mass, but the double-faceted nature of the attack — both legs and lungs are compromised — all but ensures certain victory.
- Weaknesses: There aren’t many. A Superstar has to either be very lucky or very, very strong to escape this all-encompassing submission hold. Sometimes it’s a matter of mat awareness and position. If the hold is locked in near the ropes, it’s not unheard of for a Superstar to break it by grasping the cables. Other times, though, Superstars must haul themselves over to the ropes to accomplish the same goal. Of course, managing that with only one free leg and the 251-pound John Cena on your back isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not without precedent. Given that Cena always initiates the hold by grabbing onto an opponent’s ankle, a quick-thinking foe can evade defeat by rolling onto his back and kicking Cena in the face, but again: Like all the maneuvers in these Superstars’ arsenals, you have to anticipate it before it happens, which is no easy task. Whether that’s a skill that The Rock possesses will be revealed in a matter of days.