Recently, The Rock has caught some backstage heat because he’s involved in this year’s WrestleMania. The current stars are kind of miffed he’s there, and taking away from their chance to shine. Apparently, he’s further upset people by acting like a Hollywood star, and not shaking hands when he’s appeared during the past year. The Grand Poo-Bah of Wrestling, the High Chief of Wisdom, Dave Meltzer even gave the following interview where he agrees with the Rock and says that people “in the business don’t get the business”. Well, here’s what I have to say about it.
I can totally understand the “business” side that Meltzer makes. Sure, Rock being around will definitely help out sagging Pay-Per-View buys. I’m sure his appearances on RAW will entice some lost viewers to give WrestleMania a try simply based on him being there. I understand that the paycheck will be that much bigger simply because he’s there. I get it. I do. But, I friggin’ hate it.
The Rock said goodbye to WWE and its fans right after WrestleMania XX and never looked back. He didn’t keep the Rock name, and even went so far as to tell some interviewers not to refer to him as the Rock, but as Dwayne Johnson. Years and years went by, and only when WWE wanted to put Rocky’s…er…Dwayne’s father and grandfather in the WWE Hall of Fame did he come back for a one off. He was around for a few days and went back to Hollywood, only to return as last year’s host for WrestleMania. He made promises that no one knew he would keep, ripped apart John Cena rather easily, wrestled a match, and for the most part, stayed away while filming the next G.I. Joe film.
Now, I don’t disparage him one bit for going to Hollywood and making 10 or so million a movie. I think it comes off as sour grapes when someone like Cena says something like “you left and went to Hollywood, and I stayed right here.” Well, John, the thing is Hollywood and the ticket buying public have resoundingly refused your attempts to go to Hollywood. I’m sure if The Marine or 12 Rounds took off Cena would have taken the first jet to Hollywood, and frankly, I wouldn’t blame him. The difference is Cena failed in his Hollywood aspirations, and the Rock took off.
The problem I do have with the Rock being involved, and for that matter Triple H and even Jericho, is because these guys, each of them, will go back to whatever it is they were doing before the Road to WrestleMania began. Jericho is going on tour with Fozzy this summer, and his heart just hasn’t been into the feud with CM Punk (yet). Triple H is solidly a part-timer at this point, and only comes back to bury talent with his boring promo work. The Rock will go back to Hollywood. I don’t mention the Undertaker because this is really what he’s been doing for the past few years. He makes his WrestleMania appearances and disappears. I’m fine with each one of these guys doing what they do…well, except for Triple H. I can do without his nonsense.
Anyway, my point is that Rock left and did not look back. I’m sure he’s not back with WWE for the payday because of how much he makes in movies. I do believe Rocky has a passion for the business and does care about his fans. I’m sure he gets that rush when he comes out. He can still perform at a level most of the roster can only wish. He connects with the crowd and oozes with charisma. But…
What happens April 2nd and beyond when “The Great One” isn’t around anymore?
The Rock may or may not make more appearances for WWE. He may or may not be involved with WrestleMania 29 in NJ. The thing is WWE painted themselves into a corner with booking a main event for WrestleMania a year in advance when they can’t even book a weekly RAW half decent most weeks. The problem is John Cena just isn’t the guy WWE desperately wants him to be. This isn’t a Hogan/Rock moment. John Cena can not connect with the majority of fans. He even accepts this, and brings it up in nearly every promo and interview. John Cena, for better or worse, is the face of WWE.
Once the honeymoon is over, and Rock goes back to Hollywood, and the ratings start creeping back below a 3.0 for RAW and 2.0 for Smackdown, what then? Once Triple H goes back to the office, and once Y2J starts fronting Fozzy again, what then? WrestleMania has traditionally been a place for new stars to get their chance to shine. It springboards them into stardom because if you’re a casual fan you may just order WrestleMania and nothing else the rest of the year. People will remember how WrestleMania III made Savage. Or, people remember how WrestleMania X made Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels. But, WWE is banking on the drawing power of 4 former or part timers in four of their top matches. Sure, WWE will book an eight man tag for the GM of the universe that will likely involve some of the younger guys, or the Money in the Bank may return…it’s still too early to tell. But, a guy like Ziggler or Swagger or Rhodes should have the opportunity to shine in a marque match, not in a featured attraction.
WWE has to start thinking about the future now. Sure, you can say Sheamus will likely leave WrestleMania as champion, but he’s already been there (although not at Mania). The biggest problem WWE has had in the past year or so is in not planning for the future. While they’ve done admirably with both Punk and Bryan, there are a ton of guys that they haven’t built that are just crying out to be made. There are guys like Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston (who could be a great underdog champion), Wade Barrett, Brodus Clay amongst others. Instead of using the WrestleMania banner to build these guys, WWE is content to throw a match that won’t mean much as soon as the bell rings.
The year long buildup has hurt the match. Fans don’t care about Cena. Rock doesn’t have the boys support behind the curtain. Cena’s very likely to go over. Eh…after April 2nd, the match and the buildup will have meant nothing. Fans will still boo Cena. Rock will leave again. Yet, there’s still a roster of young guys waiting another year for their WrestleMania moment.