The first encounter between John Cena and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson back at WrestleMania 28 resulted in "The People's Champ" standing victorious over the man who would eventually become a 16-time world champion. The rivalry between the two originated from real-life comments Cena made about issues he had with part-time wrestlers who had left the business in favor of Hollywood, particularly Johnson. Cena would go on to beat Rock a year later at WrestleMania 29 in a "passing the torch" moment three years in the making, but former WWE referee Mike Chioda claims Cena had sincere issues with initially putting Johnson over.
"Had this match, you know, Rock wanted me to do it and everything, and I think Cena had a little bit of a problem doing the job," Chioda said while on AdFreeShows' Monday Mailbag (h/t Cultaholic). "Here is Cena, carrying the torch for the last ten years I think at that time, and he was busting him a— day in, day out. And here comes The Rock, back after so many years of being in Hollywood, and he's got to job out to The Rock?
"Well, of course, the show is in Miami," he added. "The Rock is a big Hollywood superstar now, and I think there was a little heat there. I think there was a little dissension. But, you've got to go where the money goes. I mean, they put Rock over, and I was happy about that."
Chioda continued, saying that both men had an incredible amount of pride heading into that match.
"Here are two guys that were making big money. And that's why, it's not even like, 'Okay, I'm getting big money for this match. I'll do the job.' It becomes about ego and pride. It really does," he continued. "When it comes down to it, money is not even the issue. It becomes an ego thing and a pride thing. "Like, 'I've been carrying this business for the last ten years, I should go around him first, then he'll go around me.' 'No, no, Rock's going to go around you first.' I'm sure John was pissed at Vince."
Cena's opinion towards The Rock and part-time wrestlers as a whole has greatly changed in the years since then. He admitted in an interview with The Sun last year that he regretted letting his rivalry with Johnson turn personal in the first place.0comments
"I said some things that were less than nice," Cena said. "He said some things that were less than nice. And I can assure you, in our line of work there is a grey area where imagination becomes very real and we were right in the sweet spot of that grey area, each watching the other's every move and not too happy with the other party."
"It was stupid of me," he added. "It genuinely was. That was my perspective at the time."