This Past April we saw one of the biggest matches in WWE history. The marquee read “Once In A lifetime”, the fans in attendance in Miami where rooting for their home town hero, booing his opponent at every turn. The home town man was victorious in his attempt to quiet, in his eyes, the young pretender. The Rock was the man and he was left with arm raised high. The victor on the night.
This match was never going to be a once in a lifetime bout. In fact I’m sure that for creative, this was never even the plan. The Rock’s image allows Vince McMahon to print money if his name is at the top of the card. All well and good for business but for the industry, this can only be described as a short time cash cow that, in the long run will likely cause some serious issues after Dwayne has got his pay cheque and run.
I’ve never really been a fan of The Rocks I’ll be honest, except for his comedic skills on the mic. He, a lot like his least favourite Fruity Pebble, was never a great worker in the ring, wasn’t able to hold his own as a ring general but got the rub, quite rightly, due to his charisma. There have been many before who have had the same circumstances but unlike anyone else, i truly think Dwayne believes his own hype and to some degree, someone backstage agrees. Although no one can deny just how similar the audience used to view The Rock and how they see John Cena today. Although Rocky was meant to replace the true legend of Stone Cold.
Stone Cold The Rock is not. As a matter of fact the only reason Rocky got so big was due to Austin getting injured in the late 90′s, allowing for a break out star to emerge. Kudos to him for being that new face and performing admirably with it. As a poster boy he was superb but if you look back to when Austin returned in late 2000, the fans immediately realised that they only wanted Austin. Shown majorly when it was time for Austin Vs Rock at Wrestlemania X-Seven, we heard our first boo’s for Rocky (it may have some reason to the event taking place in Austin Texas), even though Austin turned heel and aligned himself with the boss Vinnie Mac. It wasn’t long after this Rock made his way into films.
It was quite a confusing time for Rock I’m sure as we didn’t miss him half as much as he and ourselves were anticipating. We had Austin acting the heel, Jericho, Kurt Angle and Benoit were showing just why they were the next top stars in the biz. As well as the recent influx of all the WCW talent filling the lower to midcard. Rocks absence wasn’t really noticed. Sure he came back to a grand ovation to feud for the WCW title but the times, however, were a changing. The true once in a lifetime match between Rocky and Hogan was soon upon us. That was all the fans needed to finally have a reason to boo their peoples champ.
The reason why Rock and Cena have been booed regardless of there persuasion as either a heel or face is because the most important critic, the fans, grew bored of their samey tactics and inability to shock us in the ring. unlike Cena however, the creative team allowed Rock to switch to heel, sensing the animosity towards him. Easy to do when Austin was now face and the Midcard talent had massive followers meaning very little risk. We wanted to boo The Rock, not only for our boredom towards his image but because it was becoming more and more apparent he was jumping ship to Hollywood.
Making films was always Dwayne’s destiny. His charisma and good looks would serve him well in twinkle town. He has been apart of some serious high budget summer blockbusters, made alot of money and could quite easily sit at home waiting for the next job offer and subsequent pay cheque to arrive at his door. Hollywood though, is not stupid. Especially when it comes to marketing. I’m sure the appeal of The Rock to feature in films is the free advertisement they will garner from appearances on WWE TV because, lets face facts, there’s always a film to push on us whenever Rocky comes back.
This in itself to me is reason enough to give him a hard time whenever he graces our favourite Monday Night programme. He claims he is doing this for the love of the business, to get back to what he calls home. BS, he’s there for the pay cheque. He obviously doesn’t see the damage i alluded to earlier he is most definitely causing.
Now, in my opinion, the clean victory over Cena at Mania has hijinx written all over it. I get that a Cena victory in Miami would have gone down like a lead balloon but, surely, the torch should have been passed from Rocky to Cena with the two embracing and allowing the live crowd to cheer for the battle as well as their hero at the same time. I simply dont understand the reason why Rock, a glorified part timer, would go over against the current top babyface and merchandise seller. Hell, the biggest ego in wrestling , that of Hulk Hogans, managed to get pinned clean versus The Rock. The aforementioned passing of the torch if you will. The only reason i can think of is that Rock didnt want to lose so that his image of a Hollywood hardman would remain intact. I could be wrong, there is an argument that there are simply more options going forward with a Cena loss, but having your top superstar lose to a retired, albeit built like a tank retiree can only cause harm to his reputation going forward. Especially on the biggest stage of professional wrestling.
The next night on RAW The Rock left us again. More proof in my eyes that he was there simply for the pay cheque. It left Cena with an empty feud going forward with Brock Lesnar and, to be honest, he’s lost all sort of momentum since his loss at Wrestlemania. If he were able to get some sort of revenge on The Rock before he left, his momentum would have gained some purchase at least. Most importantly though, the time, effort and prestige that was lavished upon Rocky over several weeks took away any sort of momentum that could have been picked up by any number of top mid-carders. January’s Royal Rumble will be the explanation point in my eyes regarding this very subject.
For some unknown reason, The Rock is booked to face the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble. When i heard this on RAW 1000 i was infuriated. How could Creative give this prestigious match on a truly prestigious event to a part timer we’ve seen a handful of times in a year? Surely giving this spot to an up and comer would make much more business sense in the long term. Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan spring to mind immediately. Both are caught in mid card turmoil and need to be launched soon or it may become too late. Why not simply have The Rock participate in the Rumble itself? The fans get to see him but with the added mystery factor of what number he drew. Its like recording a huge pop! The worst part of this I’m afraid is that I’m sure they will put the title on Rock and Cena will win the rumble for the second time in his career. If this is the case then it adds more insult to injury to the current roster. Especially if he beats current champ CM Punk.
CM Punk at the time would have been champion for over a year and we’re lead to believe that the only guy who can beat him is a 40 year old actor? Compounding that with a potential Rumble victory for well established, company babyface of Cena. Where is the progression for the future? Granted, none of this could actually happen of course but it all makes sense for a short term cash influx that Big Vince seems more than happy to accept these days. It could be that Rock will lose to Punk, granting Punk his respect he already deserves, but if Rock wasn’t able to do the job for Cena, then why would he for the current, mostly out of favour with management, WWE champion.
I could get on board with some of the Rock’s business, possibly even support him at times if he was actually The Rock. But he is not. He is most definitely Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson trying to be the Peoples Champion. He doesnt have the same aura around him anymore, or the cocky badassness that he used to have. Instead we get a guy, praying to the fans to like him and laugh at his jokes, smiling all over the place while reading promo’s he wrote on his wrist. The Brahma Bull you are no longer sir!
To summarise in accordance with the title of this article, the short of it is the long term damage his fuzzy, mirror image of his past self is causing on the current crop of genuine talent the WWE has in its ranks. For what will be 2 years of events, his likeness will have been the centre point of what WWE are doing at their big events. The ramification can be felt already in viewership numbers and fan interest waning. It also seems people forgot that we used to boo The Rock for the exact same reasons fans Boo Cena. At least Cena seems to genuinely care about his fans and the product. He became stale and boring and nothing of his recent “run” has changed that perception. In fact his current “run” as a Rock impersonator makes it even more difficult to digest.
If Stone Cold were to reappear on the other hand, well, that would be a different story altogether!
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This article was first posted on October 23, 2012