REVIEW: WWE The Rock vs. John Cena “Once in a Lifetime” DVD

September 13, 2012 by Joe Israel

Rock vs Cena Once in a Lifetime WWE DVD

My interest in the WWE really started to wane in 2006, and although I still followed the product, I can’t say I was watching RAW week in and week out.  Around 2010-2011, though, I think the WWE really picked up steam, and has been operating at a high level again.  One of the chief reasons for this was the feud between John Cena and The Rock.  While it’s not anywhere near perfect, the interactions between the two men were usually pretty entertaining, and I was eagerly anticipating their match-up at WrestleMania.

All this being said, I had mixed feeling when this DVD was released.  I wasn’t sure if watching the entire feud in one go would make its flaws more apparent.  Fortunately, this didn’t really happen. If anything, it helped because we didn’t have the huge gaps in the year when The Rock wasn’t on the show.  I also was unsure how they would make this documentary.  Again, fortunately, the documentary is outstanding.  Disc 1 runs about 1 hour, and Discs 2 and 3 each run around 2 hours, 50 minutes.  The DVD is rated TV-PG.


“Hey, I Heard You Were a Wild One”: The Main Feature

WWE John Cena Backstage

I did not get a chance to check out the Once in a Lifetime documentary that aired on USA back in March, so I cannot compare the documentary on this DVD to that one, but I understand that they are different.  This documentary is very different from that of other WWE documentaries, and that ends up being a very good thing.

WWE The Rock Backstage 2012

In addition to being a wrestling fan I also am a pretty big film buff, and one of my favorite genres is the documentary.  While I have always been a huge fan of WWE’s documentaries, they aren’t very structurally complex.  Usually, when telling the story of a wrestler, company, etc, there is a very traditional “rise and fall” arc to the story.  Of course, there are bumps along the way, but the documentaries are always told in a straightforward way.  What makes those documentaries great is how fascinating they are.  This documentary, though, is structurally complex, adding a new level to the feature.  Because of this, I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that from a film standpoint, this is the best documentary the WWE has ever made.  And it’s pretty damn close to being the best they’ve ever made period.

WWE Superstars Interviews

For the most part, the documentary focuses on the time from The Rock’s return in February 2011 up until the night of Wrestlemania XXVIII.  While they bring in a few details about each man’s past, the overall thrust of the narrative is from during this time period.  The documentary does a very good job blurring the line between story and reality.  While some of the comments from Cena or The Rock are clearly the two of them speaking “in storyline” about each other, most of the comments feel honest outside of their characters as well.  The comments from other wrestlers also feel pretty honest, particularly CM Punk (as WWEDVDNews reported earlier this week).  You also get what I feel like is unprecedented backstage access. I don’t ever remember seeing footage of a wrestler talking to Vince and Stephanie at the production desk.  The number of wrestlers interviewed for the DVD is kept pretty small, and I actually enjoyed that aspect.  Almost everyone interviewed is a major name.  While David Otunga may feel out of place as a talking head, he is a very articulate person, so I liked having the opinions of a current “midcard guy” who can speak for himself pretty well.

One of the bigger potential criticisms for this documentary is its short run time (43 minutes).  I actually thought that the run time was perfect, and, in fact, there were some sections that probably could have been shorter.  As fans of WWE documentaries, we have been trained to expect the 90 minute documentary, but this documentary doesn’t fit that format at all.  Since the focus is on one storyline that only went a year (of which the entire footage only lasts about 6 hours), it felt right for them to move this quickly, only hitting on the different aspects of the feud in broad strokes.  As I mentioned, there is a brief discussion of each man’s past, but they keep the discussion in relationship to this feud.  The documentary also ended with Wrestlemania XXVIII, which was the perfect endpoint.  I liked that they didn’t drag in any other outside information or post-match fallout; it would have dragged down the great pacing this feature has.  Again, from a film standpoint, the construction is fantastic.

WWE Twitter

Although I have basically been gushing about this feature, it isn’t perfect.  There is a section on this documentary discussing the “social media” aspect of the feud, and I felt that this part went on for way too long.  This was the only time on the feature where I felt the pacing wasn’t perfect.  Also, in addition to addressing an interview Cena did on a radio show discussing The Rock, I wish there would have been a brief inclusion of their interaction at the Hall of Fame ceremony in which The Rock inducted Rocky Johnson & Peter Maivia.  It was the only piece missing.


“Fruity Pebbles”: The Bonus Features & Segments

The bonus features vary in how interesting I found them to be, but as a whole, I would say that they were pretty unnecessary. While everything in the documentary is centered around the feud between Rock & Cena, the bonus features really deal with each superstar individually.  The most interesting one is called “Tickets”; I don’t want to spoil the story, but it does deal with both The Rock & Cena (as well as John’s brother Matt).

The Rock vs John Cena Face to Face

On Discs 2 and 3, we see every segment dealing with The Rock Vs. Cena feud, from The Rock’s return to WrestleMania XXVIII.  I love the idea of a DVD recapping a feud like this.  Showing how an entire feud builds over time is awesome to see, and we haven’t had a DVD yet that has outlined a feud like this.  By watching each segment in a row, it actually strengthened the feud from how it played out over real time.  Although there isn’t any stand-out segment, they do play into the larger picture pretty well.  I was able to get through each segment surprisingly quickly, which I think is the best compliment I can give to the segments.

That being said, there are a couple of segments that I didn’t enjoy.  The Rock’s “welcome address” at WrestleMania XXVII was probably fun for the live crowd, but it doesn’t work at all on video.  It’s unoriginal, and it doesn’t feel like something The Rock would come up with on his own.  The John Cena “This is Your Life” segment with Mick Foley is downright painful to get through.  I believe after this segment aired, Foley claimed on Twitter that his goal was to be part of “one of the worst segments in Raw history”, and he achieved that here.  I would highly recommend skipping through this segment.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a truly incredible promo in this feud, but all the other segments range from good to great.


“Never Before”: The Matches

WWE Championship Match: John Cena Vs. The Miz (WrestleMania XXVII, 4/3/11) – N/A

This match is actually joined in progress starting at the double count-out.  I thought this was a great choice, and helps keep the flow of the DVD strong.

John Cena & The Rock Vs. The Miz & R-Truth (Survivor Series, 11/20/11) – ** 1/4

There were parts of this match that were a lot of fun, but the middle of the match really dragged.  I understand the decision to not have The Rock in the ring too much to “save it” for WrestleMania, but that really hurt the flow of the match.

Rock Bottom

The Rock Vs. John Cena (WrestleMania XXVIII, 4/1/12) – **** 1/4

This match ended up delivering as well as I expected.  The atmosphere in the arena helped push the match over the edge as well.  The Rock proved he could still go in the ring, and Cena was a great opponent.


“Never Again”: Overall Thoughts

I think a lot of fans put this DVD in the “skip” column when it was announced, but in the end, that may not be the best choice.  Even if you did not particularly enjoy the feud, I still think the DVD is worth the price of admission for the documentary alone.  The closest thing that I am able to compare this documentary to is the documentaries featured in the ESPN series 30 For 30.  It tells a specific story in an interesting way, much like a lot of the ESPN docs did.  It definitely helped boost my appreciation for this feud, and I think it will do the same for almost anyone else who watches it.

WWE John Cena Fan

I know there are some people out there who did not like this feud at all, and if you really hated it, then you may not find much to like about Discs 2 and 3.  Regardless of what you thought about the feud, though, I think you have to appreciate the concept behind this DVD.  Including every match and moment in building up this feud was very cool to see.  While I loved the main feature of last year’s Greatest Rivalries: Hart Vs. Michaels, I didn’t think the bonus content was well constructed.  This is a much better method for outlining the feud.  I know that the Greatest Rivalries series seems to be dead, but if they were to ever bring it back, I would prefer the DVD’s follow the Rock Vs. Cena format for the bonus content.

Of course, there isn’t really much for me to say about the bonus matches because they are pretty few and far between.  The WrestleMania match is fantastic, and for Blu-Ray collectors, I think the “Director’s Cut” of the match will be a pretty neat extra.  The other match isn’t great, but it proved to be a good piece for the feud.

WWE Rock Cena WrestleMania 28

I’m curious to see the reaction to this, but I do feel that the documentary featured on the first disc of this DVD is probably in the Top 3 documentaries the WWE has ever released.  It is far and away the most ambitious piece of filmmaking the WWE has ever put out there, and deserves to be commended for this alone.  The fact that they were able to pull it off and show that they can be great filmmakers really excites me for documentaries from WWE in the future.  The documentary gets my highest recommendation, and overall I would give the set a surprising thumbs up.

Order yours :: Amazon US.   Silver Vision UK.   Shock Australia.

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  3. Ross D says:

    I just purchased the blu ray for this on Silvervision , so I hope it’s as good as you say

  4. bill says:

    rock vs john cena

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a horrible review. This sight desperately needs Brett Mix to make his long awaited return. A huge mistake was made allowing Brett Mix to depart from this website. Poor website management.

  6. HankHill says:

    So…is the film cut the entire match or just highlights?

  7. TBG says:

    ” I know that the Greatest Rivalries series seems to be dead”

    It’s just sad that they had to start the series focused on a 15-year-old storyline that has been continually run into the ground and featuring a guy whose two prior dedicated releases sold so very poorly. With the news of an Unreleased Archives set coming out next year featuring that same guy, I truly hope that release doesn’t end up killing those types of releases as well. If that release also sells poorly, I think the buying public, much like the TV viewers and the ratings for his segments, is making a very clear statement about that particular performer and NOT the type of release.

    • Harry Faversham says:

      Wankiest comment ever on WWEDVDNews. Bloody hell.

    • Mark D says:

      How many copies of Greatest Rivalries were sold, because the number that I’ve seen certainly isn’t ‘poor’.

      • Vincenzzzzzo says:

        Neither did I. In fact, I heard it sold very well.

        Also, I wouldn’t go as far as saying the “Greatest Rivalries” concept is dead, just because they haven’t released another one yet. I’m sure there will be another one sometime.

      • TBG says:

        First, the stuff in the quotes was from the blogger above.

        Second, I didn’t say that Greatest Rivalries sold poorly, though it was outsold by both the Austin and Rock releases that came out after it by more than 50% and was already doubled by the most recent WrestleMania. All things considered, that Greatest Rivalries did okay, though I think they expected far better and the truth is that according to July 2012 sales reports it basically sold the same units as a standard comp (like Ladder Match 2) generates. What I said sold poorly was the 2006 and 2010 bio releases on the guy featured on the Unreleased Archives set due out in 2013. I hope that if this planned 2013 Unreleased Archives set sells as poorly as those two, it doesn’t cancel potential other releases in the Unreleased Archives mold.

        • Harry Faversham says:

          Firstly, the 2010 release wasn’t on him. It was on his family. So only partially on him.

          Secondly, I was under the impression that the DVD released in November 2005 was one of the highest selling DVDs they’d ever done, certainly at the time it came out (and ever, so I thought. Possibly that was just in Canada). But I don’t have any facts and figures so I’m not going to start making things up just because you seem like a bit of a berkshire hunt. But I will say I think you are wrong.

          There must have been so many DVDs that have sold worse than his. Interestingly enough, Silver Vision has been taking the ‘slow moving’ DVDs out of print in the UK. Road Warriors, Jake Roberts, Ric Flair, Four Horsemen, ECW matches, Ultimate Warrior are just some that are gone, but his must still be selling ok because its still there.

          To be honest, I’m tempted to say you’ve just made that up because you seemingly don’t like the man. If his tv segments did poorly in the ratings last week (which I don’t believe they did) then he wasn’t the only one in the ring. I heard the crowd chanting pretty loud when he came out to Raw last week. Of course if you can deliver some specifics to substantiate what your saying, then fair enough….

          • TBG says:


            My figures are based on Key Performance Indicators released by the company. These are the actual stats that are unbiased. Greatest Rivalries sold 94,000 units (somewhere around where a typical Shawn Michaels solo release sells), Ladder Match 2 sold 88,000, while The Rock and Stone Cold’s releases each sold of 140,000.

            As far as DVDs that have sold worse than his, you are correct that the Road Warriors and Jake Roberts ones sold worse though not light years difference. The Flair releases that you mentioned were all top sellers. In fact, the Ultimate Ric Flair Collection sold so well that they went into a second pressing of it within weeks and for around five years it remained the best selling release of an individual talent and wasn’t eclipsed by much. During the time that Hart was the champion, Hart’s TV ratings were only better than Diesel’s time as champ and upon his arrival in WCW, that company’s ratings tanked. Was that all his fault? No, but these are just a few statistical and factual examples that prove that while the smart marks may have a soft spot for Hart because he was a real good wrestler, he wasn’t a mainstream must watch performer. So, I’m sorry, but statistics don’t lie.

          • TBG says:

            Keep in mind also that the releases you mentioned being pulled by SilverVision have also been in circulation many years longer than Hart’s. And, might I also add that I’ve never insulted anyone on this or any other website, yet you continue to hurl your regional insults at me. Why? Do you have nothing productive to add to the discussion? Do you automatically assume that I’m North American and thus think I won’t pick up on these low-brow comments? And, what does that say for the quality of person you are if every time someone contradicts you with actual facts, you respond with derogatory statements? If you, like I, have something productive and factual to add to the discussion, please do so. But, you can keep your insults to yourself because I’m not engaging in that type of non-sense.

            • Harry Faversham says:

              Fair enough, that was a bit strong. It wasn’t meant to be as sinister as it sounded. But to be honest with you I wondered if you were making these things up. If you’d done that then it would be a fair comment in my eyes. I did challenge you on it and you’ve made a fair case to supoort what you said and why you believe it to be true, which is really what I was getting at. Although I’m not sure why you think I haven’t added to the discussion when you’ve just answered my questions.

              Most of those other DVDs came out around the same time. Warrior, Jake, Road Warriors all came out in mid-late 2005, with the ECW one being early 2006.

              I wasn’t trying to trick you with language and I wouldn’t really say you contradicted me with facts because I said I didn’t have the facts and figures. I only gave my opinion and asked you to support what you were saying. I did say I thought you were wrong and by that I meant that I didn’t believe the first DVD had sold very poorly, which I still don’t know to be the case.

              You might not want to trade insults but if that’s the case you shouldn’t be questioning ‘the quality of person’ I am, I was slightly rude about challenging what you said but It adds up to the same thing mate. But remember not to engage in that kind of non-sense. I won’t call you anymore comedy names.

              • Mark D says:

                Bret Hart’s 2005 DVD sold 178,000 units, which is very good number. (Its not WrestleMania numbers – but then nothing does WrestleMania numbers!).

                There are several blogs/news sites which have reported completely bogus numbers for DVD sales. For example one site reports that The Life and Times of Mr Perfect sold less than 10,000 units – while states that 75,000 units were sold. Also it states only 17.5k units of Bloodsport were sold, yet WWE reports 87k.

                • Harry Faversham says:

                  178, 000 units sounds like the buying public making a very clear statement about that particular performer. It might even make a statement about TBG. Statistics don’t lie! Unless you make them up. I don’t know what to believe. All I know is I’m a Hitman fan and I’d be buying the Unreleased set at the first opportunity. Steer clear of Hart Haters with dodgy numbers. If that’s the way TBG operates then let him get on with it. Whatever. If what he says is true, then it won’t affect my viewing pleasure. Peace be unto you all.

                  • hitman fan says:

                    Its funny when people made claims out of their asses . bret made more money than shawn ever did . wwf almost closed doors durring shawn’s time as champion & the lowest raw’s ratings were in late 96 … stop spreading false information … kid

                    BTW show us the numbers of shawn’s dvds sales ? “just for a laughe”

  8. John Anderson says:

    Is it just me, or has nearly every DVD from the WWE this year felt oddly similar? Taking a concept & just running w/ it seems to be the theme this year. It’s something that’s affected even the best sets to come out so far. I think 2012 overall however has been one of the strongest years in a while & Rock vs. Cena continues that trend of odd concept – they had ONE match together! That still manages to work even if it is a bit random. I was a bit disappointed to find out this was not the same doc that we got on TV, because that’s still the best thing WWE has done all year, but, the one included here is really almost as good, if maybe a bit short – if we can get a nearly 2hr documentary done completely in kayfabe for finishers why not one for Rock/Cena? It’s not as good as the Edge realese from earlier on & I don’t think it’ll even come close to touching CM Punk’s, but it’s very good non the less & as the reviewer mentioned its done using a somewhat different formate to past documentaries from WWE, which makes it unique. Now onto the extra content…there is only 2.25 matches on the set, so from a wrestling stand point you don’t get much, but the meat & potatoes comes in the form of a slew of promos & segments, most of which range from good – great w/ a dash of awful. Not much has been altered from what I can tell outside of what others have mentioned & honestly I’m thankful they cutout Rocks kareeokee performance, because that was just depressingly bad. Overall I think this really covers the “feud” well & is practically a complete timeline of events, it’s hard to rate a wrestling DVD that has very little actual wrestling, but I’ll give it an 8.0/10

  9. wwe buff says:

    Wwe 2013 scedule much better

  10. RabidHeat says:

    A coupla things: REALLY gutted that The Rock Concert is edited! So Cena’s divorcing now, so what? He wasn’t then! It’s history on film! Grrrrr… Also, is ‘We Will Rock You’ in there at all, which was kinda the climax of the concert?

    Lastly, really wish Brock’s return was on there as that kind of officially closes the feud and opens a new one…gives a taster of what was to come! Would have been a perfect end. Oh well. 🙁

  11. DDisNow says:

    I’ll get it ONLY if or when the Blu-Ray can be had for $10 or less… and so should you.
    If you watched the whole feud play out in real time and watched the 2.5 matches they included here… this ain’t worth your $20-$25. Realistically, how many times you’re gonna watch the promos and documentary? Exactly.

  12. Tony Kegger says:

    I don’t doubt you that it’s a good DVD, but I can’t see myself getting it at face value. As good as the “Once in a Lifetime” documentary was, I wouldn’t pay for it.

  13. Brad Attitude says:

    I dislike John Cena with a passion. I’m not buying anything with his face on it. I’m an old school fan and John Cena can’t cut a good promo without screaming on the mic or saying something stupid which has nothing to do with the promo. His matches are the same old crap since 2006. He doesn’t impress me one bit at all …

    I’d rather see a Rock vs. Triple H rivalry, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H rivalry or Edge vs. Matt Hardy rivalry dvd/blu-ray set … WWE PG is laaaame. Good thing I follow UFC now.

  14. John says:

    I am very disappointed in the match listings, I expected more but the extras does look great but I never watch the extras, I will pass on this one and this is the first Blu-Ray that I passed on…

  15. Didn’t know you have to like this title to be able to post about it. Those would be pretty boring posts to read, everyone liking the same thing.

  16. John D says:

    To all the ahhhhh folks aboive, if you dont care why post like a fool?

    Anyway great review and great doc. Most people are going to overlook this because of the mild enjoyment of the feud, the fact that its still recent, and the fact that it was a year of hype. Some people dont care now but down the line if you are one of those folks, do check this out. Its really good. Big fans of the feud and these two guys will surely like this set.

  17. indyfa says:

    ahhhhhhh skip!

  18. AJ says:

    Fantastic Doc. Probably second to Austin’s and ahead of Jericho’s

  19. ck says:

    Too bad The Rock’s Concert isn’t in it’s entirety. It doesn’t include the verse when Eve and John Cena kissing.


      Really what a shame, what else do they edit out, i have all the matches on this release on blu-ray anyway, its not worth £22.99 here in the uk on blu-ray for the 43min documentary, also have the this is your life john cena and the rock in boston segments on the survivor series 2011 blu-ray, also the the match that was made 1 year in advance on raw april 4 i have on 3 different blu-rays, also have the rocks return already on blu-ray, i’ll wait when its like £7.99 in a wild wednesday or in sale 5-6 month done the line!!

      • ck says:

        I haven’t checked out the whole thing yet, I was curious about if they edited out the verse in general, probably due to the fact that Cena recently divorced. So far, the Blu-Ray is pretty good.

  20. Cyrus says:

    What’s that “Director’s Cut” version about?

    • Dave says:

      Its actually called the “film cut” version of the match…its presented in film rather than video and gives a unique visual style, commentary is also intact.

      If you own Best PPV Matches 2011 Blu-ray, it also includes the film cut version of Randy Orton vs CM Punk from WM27.

  21. Dennis says:

    I’m really on the fence on getting this….

  22. Dave says:

    Got the Blu-ray and its great! loved the documentary.

    Also for people wondering the Blu-ray exclusive of Cena’s segment after WM28 doesn’t include Lesnar’s return. It runs about 8 minutes long…i assume that is saved for Lesnar’s upcoming DVD and Blu-ray.

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