The Rock Is Back, Baby….Now What? (Watch Video)
FINALLY….The Rock, HAS COME BACK!!!! To the WWE.
Well, not to be That Guy and question this wonderful gift that Vince McMahon has decided to bestow upon us, but it’s a fair question to ask. WWE fans the world over have been clamoring for The Rock’s return for years, and why not? He’s easily one of the five (if not two) most entertaining guys the WWE has ever had in its stable; he’s one of the funniest men on the planet when he wants to be; he’s great in the ring, and he essentially retired before he’d passed his prime, so you always got the sense that he had more left in the tank.
And still, his return on last night’s Monday Night Raw was a total surprise, thanks in part to some old-school hype and clever misdirection by the WWE. It also leaves a few questions to be asked.
But we’ll get to that later. First, the misdirection. Ever since last week’s Raw, when Vince McMahon himself teased the first-ever “host” of April’s WrestleMania Pay-Per-View (the WWE’s version of the Rose Bowl – no season-ending championships, but their highest-profile, most-hyped event by far), the message boards have been abuzz with who it might be. Not that I read, or have ever, read them.
Since rumor was the host was going to be a chart-topping musician of some kind, Justin Bieber was a popular name getting thrown around. My own pick was Stone Cold Steve Austin, or maybe Mick Foley: an older superstar the company could possibly lure back to the big dance to work the crowd a bit and amp up the atmosphere a bit. After all, Stone Cold and Foley have had two of the definitive WrestleMania matches (a bloodied Stone Cold getting Sharpshootered by Bret Hart; the Hardcore Match that ended with Foley getting speared – a fancy version of a tackle, not really speared. Yeesh. – through a flaming table).
The Rock? He was a possibility, but it seemed unlikely. He hadn’t performed in the ring since 2004; aside from some one-off appearances here and there, he seemed genuinely committed to his new life as Dwayne Johnson, movie star.
The WWE knew this, and played the reveal perfectly. It couldn’t have been staged better. First, a black limo rolls up backstage and the camera shows a woman’s foot stepping out of it. Whaaaa? Next, the lights in the arena black out one by one. Oooohhhhh. The Titantron goes white. Eeeeep! Anticipation reaching a fever pitch. (Nervously taps fingers). And then FINALLY, The Rock’s music hits and applause engulfs The Great One as he swaggers down to the ring. HOLY AHSJEFOWVOWBOBAEIQBEIFV!!!!! I think I regressed about ten years upon seeing this live. AND HE’S GOT A NEW T-SHIRT!!!!
(Side note: if you have any desire to watch this clip, find the whole thing on YouTube. It’s about 20 minutes long but totally worth it; the edited version on the WWE website really doesn’t do it justice. I’m on my tenth viewing today and I’ve only been awake for an hour.)
Once in the ring, The Rock delivers a heartfelt message as Dwayne Johnson, then immediately switches into Rock Mode without missing a step. Catchphrases were thrown, announcer Michael Cole was insulted, and the MILLIONS (and millions!!!) of The Rock’s fans were on their feet watching their hero work the crowd once again. Admittedly, the promo went off the rails ever so slightly when The Rock issued challenges to current superstars The Miz (who everyone hates) and John Cena (who everyone loves). But it was a small price to pay to see Rock back in the ring like he’d never even left.
So The Rock is back. And I ask again…now what?
Well, for starters, we enjoy it. It’s not everyday that a guy who was undoubtedly the face of a multimillion dollar company in its heyday (the late ‘90s-early ‘00s Attitude Era) decides to come back and host a flagship, seemingly for the hell of it. It seems stupid to look a gift horse in the mouth. I wrote an article way back in May basically pining for Dwayne to transform back into The Rock again. And now, by the grace of God and Vince McMahon, I have my wish. But The Rock back in the WWE for good (as he promised last night), and as a tweener, no less – a pro wrestling term meaning half-hero, half-villain – gives me pause.
For starters, there’s the matter of the movie career. Sure, Johnson hasn’t made his Terminator yet (although there’s a very strong case to be made for The Rundown), but he’s had a pretty solid career as an actor so far. Would he really give all that up to return to the backbreaking schedule of the WWE, risking the possibility that he ends his pro wrestling career as a villain?
Nahhhh. Well, I hope not anyway. I like Dwayne Johnson as a movie star and I’d rather not see him bail on Hollywood, if we’re talking honestly. Even so, there’s something undeniably great, about seeing The Rock again.
As for the tweener thing? I can’t imagine they’d send The Rock off, much less bring him back, as a villain. And so, I hope the Cena feud gets resolved fast, and The Rock can just simply duel The Miz (easily the best talker in the WWE today) on the microphone, and I hope they don’t pull punches. I hope The Rock pimp-slaps Michael Cole and bro hugs Jerry “The King” Lawler at ringside. I hope to be electrified; wowed; amazed; brought to my feet, the way I used to be back when I believed all this stuff was real.
And that, perhaps, is the most important part about The Rock’s return, at least for me. FINALLY, for the first time in a very long time…I feel like a kid again.
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