Many pro-wrestlers have attempted to pursue careers outside wrestling, but none have had quite the success and genuinely good reception as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. At the height of his pro-wrestling career, The Rock, along with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin helped define a new high-water mark for the industry, with both men using their natural charisma and athleticism (I'm not saying they are great technical wrestlers) to propel themselves to stardom and entertain audiences and television viewers in numbers that to this day are a pipe dream of replicating. There are some fans out there though, who felt "betrayed" by Dwayne Johnson hanging up his boots and have longed for his return. In 2011, their dreams were realized, with the return of The Rock to the WWE as the guest host for Wrestlemania XXVII; little did they know though, that The Rock's return would set-up a feud with the company's top star, John Cena (a figure generally despised by Attitude Era fans who cheered for The Rock and Stone Cold) lasting an entire year and culminating in a history making main event at this year's Wrestlemania.
"The Rock vs. Cena: Once In a Lifetime" is a collection of that feud, kicked off by a slick, meaningless documentary offering only a few "backstage" glimpses. The documentary feels less like an informative program and more like a super-sized hype piece for the match itself. Gathering both participants for candid comments, it also interviews other WWE superstars for their opinion on the icon of one era facing the icon of the modern era at the industry's biggest event. For fans who watched it as it occurred or will see it for the first time on the set's more substantial "bonus discs," this program is a true waste of time, adding nothing of value to what, to be brutally honest, was a mediocre feud. While the feud itself lasted over a year, the actual encounters between the two were minimal, with The Rock wrestling only once match, partnered with Cena at the 2011 Survivor Series, only to disappear until February of 2012 to re-ignite the feud.
The feud itself is a series of promos with the two competitors disparaging each other week after week, with only a few true gems found in the process. For Rock fans, this is not the man on his A-game; Cena while immensely popular for his time, is a shadow of any Attitude Era icon and quite frankly struggles to find his footing in the feud. To his credit, his in-ring confrontation with The Rock that feels like a "worked shoot" and his calling out "Dwayne" segment may very well be the highlights of the entire saga, showing Cena has the tools, but is perhaps hamstringed by a different era of wrestling. The Rock quickly falls back on his insult humor and catchphrases, capturing the entire audience, week after week in the palm of his hands, although with some segments running 10 minutes or more, with the culminating match often months away, the feud becomes tiresome. Thankfully the match itself is truly heart stopping (to borrow a classic pro-wrestling commentary cliché) and both Cena and Rock fans should be happy at the result.
"The Rock vs. Cena: Once in a Lifetime" captures every televised moment of this epically long feud, for better or worse, and is the rare time that those who missed a storyline on TV can experience it for the first time in its entirety. That said, digesting it all at once, shows just how shallow and lackluster the yearlong hype was and more importantly, lets Attitude Era fans (like myself) know that wrestling has changed forever and so do our "heroes." The Rock is still The Rock, but Dwayne Johnson the person easily understands it's a short-term nostalgia run, the glory days are behind him and frankly, he's given enough to the business and "owes" the fans nothing. John Cena is a major part of WWE's future and isn't going anywhere; he won't last forever and maybe, just maybe, his "replacement" will capture some of the venom and edge that helped WWE reach unequaled levels of viewers.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features colorful, rich visual, marred only by some digital artifacts and minor digital noise at time. For the most part the WWE HD presentation translates well to DVD and is a marked upgrade over the old filming methods.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio track is a solid well-balanced affair, with the surrounds getting a good workout during arena segments. It's an admirable translation of the live atmosphere and like the video, a huge step-up from the pre-HD days.
The only extras are a small gathering of deleted scenes from the main program that are truthfully, more interesting than what made the final cut.
To make a long story short "The Rock vs. Cena: Once in a Lifetime" has its audience and they know who they are. Those wanting to see this history making feud in its entirety are best advised to rent the set, skip the documentary and watch the collection of promos and segments (including the two matches involving The Rock) as presented, chronologically from start to finish. Chances are if you didn't bother to catch it as it happened, you won't want to see it more than once. Rent It.