Oh, we smell it.
In case you missed, Monday Night Raw closed out with the return of The Rock to a WWE ring for the first time in 7 years. “The Great One” announced that he indeed will be the special guest host for WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta.
After two hours of teasing everyone from Justin Bieber to Snookie, a limousine pulled up to the arena before the last commercial break. The door opened to reveal a woman’s legs. I’d guess that WWE was trying to get the rumor mill swirling about Sarah Palin being guest host for Mania.
But in the end, WWE revealed the most obvious and best candidate for the job, The Rock, who elicited one of the loudest, most sustained pops heard at any wrestling event in years.
The Rock went on to effortlessly deliver a 20-minute promo that absolutely left in the dust just about anything in any WWE performer has done in years. Without missing a beat, The Rock weaved together a masterpiece of mic work peppered with all his many, many catch phrases. He broke character and as “Dwayne” took a time out to give WWE fans a heartfelt thank you for supporting him since leaving the company to pursue an acting career. He said he was back not to promote a movie, but for them, and said he would “never” leave WWE.
The Rock talked about calling Vince McMahon to offer to host WrestleMania, and said he was prepared to “layeth the Smackdown” on anyone who gets in his way that night. He went on to poke fun at The Miz before being interrupted by an email from the anonymous GM. Before Michael Cole could read the email, the Rock instructed him on what he could do with the laptop.
The Rock went on to say that he was especially looking forward to being face to face with the one man who has talked trash about him since he left WWE—John Cena. He made fun of John Cena’s colorful ring attire and his “You Can’t See Me” catchphrase, and made it clear they had a score to settle at the Georgia Dome on April 3.
The Rock, of course, closed out his very lengthy promo (Raw didn’t go off the air until about 11:20) by asking if the fans smelled what the Rock is cooking.
Wow. It was a truly memorable moment—perhaps the most memorable on a weekly episode of WWE television in many years. And it certainly has created some buzz for a WrestleMania that was desperately in need of something to get fans talking.
A few points that I think are worth zeroing in on:
. Did WWE give away too much? As great a piece of television as the Rock’s promo made for, wouldn’t it have been better off saved for WrestleMania? It would have taken a lot of discipline, but there’s something to be said for making fans wait—and pay—for the Rock’s first in-ring promo in seven years. WWE might have been well served to have only given fans a small taste of the Rock in the form of a brief video promo on the Titan Tron.
. It’s interesting that The Rock said that he would “never” leave WWE. Whether he intended it to or not, his words give the impression that his relationship with WWE may last far past a one night appearance at WrestleMania. Seeing as how we never got to hear what the Raw GM had to say when he interrupted the Rock, is it possible that “The Great One” is, in fact, the most electrifying Raw general manager? Whatever the case, there’s certainly hope for seeing the Rock semi-regularly on WWE in the near future, perhaps leading to a Hall of Fame induction at WrestleMania XXVIII next year in his home city of Miami.
. I know the Rock has ruled it out, but after the reaction he received tonight—and the similarly huge reaction he is sure to get at WrestleMania—I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rock have at least one more match. It would have to be against the right opponent and under the right circumstances, but you have to think that Rock is feeling the itch. Hollywood is great, but any WWE wrestler will tell you that there is no substitute for the rush you get from performing in front of a live crowd. The Rock hasn’t felt that rush in a long time.
. The Rock let a few curses slip during his lengthy promo when describing what body part he intended to kick at WrestleMania and where Cole could stick the laptop. The censors tried to catch them all, but were not successful. The Rock is not used to performing in the newly PG WWE environment. I wonder if he got a stern talking to after the show. I seriously doubt it .
. Don't get me wrong: The Rock looked in amazing shape. But at almost 39 years old, he's starting to look his age. As tough as it is to believe, it's been 15 years since I saw a young "Rocky Maivia" debut in Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series 1996. And in the high-definition age, every line in The Rock's face was very apparent.
. It was dangerous ground to have The Rock take jabs at Cena the way he did. Sure, it may have been all in fun, but the reality is that the Rock and Steve Austin really are much, much cooler than Cena—or any other WWE superstar that’s been created since them. Having the Rock point out that Cena can’t match the charisma or star quality of he nor Austin may ring too painfully true. And the reality is that once Rock leaves, WWE will once again be left with Cena as its top act. WWE and the Rock should be careful not to sabotage that in any way.
. Although the Rock was teasing some kind of showdown with Cena at WrestleMania, I think it’s far more likely that the big show will end with the two megastars celebrating together after having joined forces to get rid of The Miz. It will be intended as a symbolic passing of the torch. But WWE has to be very careful in how that moment is presented. If done wrong, it could do Cena—and WWE—a lot of harm. If you don’t believe me, just watch WrestleMania X8. Nine years ago, the Rock was in the same position as Cena is now, and it was Hulk Hogan playing the role of the past legend handing down the torch to him. What happened? The crowd went nuts for Hogan and rejected the Rock. And a few weeks later, WWE scrapped all its booking plans and put the world title on an over-the-hill Hulkster. WWE and its fans may be enamored with The Rock right now, but it’s important to keep perspective.
. It may be an unfair standard to be held to, but The Rock’s performance on Raw really showed how stale the WWE product has become over the last decade. WWE management has nobody to blame but themselves. Rather than allow unique, interesting characters to develop on their own and flourish into something special, WWE has created an assembly line of wrestlers with the same size, look, wrestling ability and charisma, and scripted every word that comes out of their mouth. Doing so may have prevented some disastrously bad promos or matches, but it’s also prevented once in a generation, true icons like The Rock from coming into their own. Rather than being fixated on every reason why John Morrison can never be The Rock, WWE should invest more time in making it meaningful to be John Morrison.