The Rock’s Return

It takes much for me to break a prearranged schedule to insert an entry about something else.  The Rock, however, is more than ‘the much’ it would tak to break any kind of flow.

You’ll have no idea what I mean, and that’s good, but to give you some insight behind the scenes of AF although from time to time there maybe posts on topical and current interests and events, on the whole the blog is meant to be a place that anyone could bump into any entry and it not appear too dated.  As a result the posts are sometimes written in advance and scheduled to appear on certain days (rather than having a day of a lot of posts and other days of none).

Thus there was a pretty line-up of posts waiting to be published as ordered.  That came to an abrupt halt after I saw Monday Night Raw.  I recorded it to watch last night (Tuesday).  On watching it for the most part it was a fairly routine, nothing out of the ordinary, not shabby, but not great episode in preparation for this weekend’s Elimination Chamber PPV.  Then it happened …

The running theme for the majority of the broadcast – the headline act if you will – was the revelation of the guest host of Wrestlemania.  On the whole I think the guest host bit for Raw has sucked.  B to D list celebrities showing their mugs and cavorting or confronting the wrestlers hasn’t done anything to improve the entertainment value of the show.  Rather it has reinforced the reason to record the show and use the useful fast-forward function on it.  I knew when Josh Matthews and Michael Cole were referring to A-list celebrities that it wouldn’t be them, just because it’s not something WWE is known for, as in getting the announcers to state who it is before it is revealed.

The set up was masterful.  The final segment of the show – no more ads, all the house lights go out and that pregnant pause.  Now it might sound as though I’m wise after the event, but I remember being on tenterhooks and having in the back of my mind – spoiler-free as well – that I hoped it would be the Rock.  So when his familiar rallying cry filled the air in Anaheim I was chuffed to bits.  (Apparently in wrestling viewing, I’m meant to have ‘marked out’, but I cannot be bothered with some wrestling terminology!)

He represents the most productive, exciting, thrilling and engaging eras of professional wrestling in a generation and his return to WWE for Wrestlemania is an amazing shot in the arm for wrestling fans across the last ten years and more.

To highlight how much has changed since he left apparently seven years ago, his promo was better than almost any other promo that’s been given by a ‘superstar’ in that time.  And it wasn’t one of his best promos.  Watching him engage with the crowd, get across his points, hit the signature catchphrases and mesmerise the audience as a whole, I made a note that he is doing with ease straight off the bat after not performing for so long, what current ‘superstars’ yearn to be able to do having been on the mic for months and years.  (By the way, with the best will in the world, I don’t see him staying that long at all, whatever he said in the promo – maybe the Wrestlemania deal and a spot after that, but then he’ll get back to business as Dwayne Johnson action hero/movie star.)

To be fair, The Rock is one of the best mic-workers in wrestling history, so even some of the big names of the 70’s and 80’s would probably wish to be as good as him.  It does go to show just how wide the gap is from the quality of today and not so long ago.

Seeing how things emerged in the promo, however, gave some cause for concern.  I understand how natural it is to build a feud between him and Cena – which is something they’ve been hinting at since Cena became the torch bearer for the company.  Yet if that is the plan to use the Rock to do anything to Cena’s character it would be disappointing (not a bad thing, just disappointing) in reaffirming how much WWE are investing in Cena.  Others could definitely do with the boost more than Cena.  I do hope, though, if something does happen between Rock and Cena it will finally turn Cena heel.  It would be a sad waste of time to have a hot program between the two ending in Cena remaining triumphant and standing taller than ever in the WWE.  Cheifly because, Cena is not that good.

Don’t get me wrong.  I look at his place in the annals of recent wrestling history.  There was the Hulkamania era, where undoubtedly the single biggest cash machine in wrestling history in Hulk Hogan established pro-wrestling as a bigger player in the entertainment world.  As his day came to an end with the steroids scandal, the baton was passed onto smaller guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.  These were great wrestlers and good entertainers, but their moment of shining was in a transitional period where the industry was in a lull.

It was Stone Cold Steve Austin who took up the mantle next and helped usher in the hugely successful Attitude era which made names out of the likes of characters like Triple H, Kurt Angle and of course The Rock himself.  In the big scheme of things, though, the go-to guy was Austin, which made Rock’s achievements all the more impressive in imposing himself as the most electrifying entertainer in all of (sports then, now not just sports) entertainment.

When that train came to an end, Triple H was the only one left standing and hogged the limelight for himself for a period.  Now I give the guy grief and to me he is not a great like Hulk or Austin, but I don’t deny he did his best to carry the company through another transitional period whilst the big guys left and others needed to fill the roles.  One of those others turned out to be Cena eho has basically been carrying the baton for the best part of the last five years or more.

I give Cena grief as well, predominantly because I am not convinced he’s worth the level of investment the top dogs have put in him.  He can have flashes of greatness about him, and he does deserve to be where he is compared to a lot of his competition at present, but there is little to say if a similar amount of faith and trust was put in another promising wrestler they might have been able to handle it.  His latest feud with Nexus highlights some of the annoying traits about the writing … and him.  He’s meant to be the hero doing the heroic thing, but doesn’t accept the terms of a fight in which he’s fired.  He is made to look like Superman taking on a bunch of guys and beating them all, with ever unconvincing ploys and promos which can sail because of the fanbase he’s worked hard to establish.

The CM Punk dynamic has injected something good into it, especially in that similar role he played against Jeff Hardy by highlighting just what a bad guy the good guy really is.  What that means as he transitions to a feud with Orton and Cena goes to The Miz/The Rock will be anyone’s guess.

Either way, the up-coming talents who need the boost are missing out with the focus of attention again falling on the golden boy of WWE.  That’s a pity, but I guess that’s the business.  In the meantime I look forward to enjoying whatever interaction The Rock has with the ‘superstars’ hopefully on both brands – I would love to see him interact with Alberto Del Rio (or Albertoooooooooooooooooo Del Rrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiioooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo as he’s often referred to, but you already know that).

It is an exciting development for the company in the run up to the biggest PPV in their calendar and now the story becomes all the more intriguing in terms of the make-up of this year’s Wrestlemania as finally The Rock has come back to WWE.




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