Posted by: pop-break | November 18, 2011

Three Angry Nerds: Do We Smell What The Rock is Cooking?

michael dworkis, jason stives and bill bodkin look at the return of The Rock to the WWE

The Rock Owes It All To Wrestling
By Michael Dworkis

Do I care about The Rock? If he stubs his toe and requires stitches, I would feel bad, but I honestly do not care. I do not care for his film career. There has yet to be a film starring The Rock, or should I say, Dwayne Johnson, which compels me to run over to my wife, shake her like a broken vending machine begging her to find a babysitter so we can leave my twin girls at home while I bask in the glorious Smackdown The Rock delivers to whomever he beats up as if he was still wrestling.

If you thought I was serious about any of that, go stare at a mirror and realize your life is pitiful. Then come back and let me educate you a bit.

In almost every movie The Rock has been in, he performs a suplex, bodyslam, and I am sure a few of his signature Rock Bottom slams as well. Interesting, how wrestling moves are always present wherever Mr. Johnson performs? Of course not, wrestling is what made Rocky Maivia. Without wrestling, there would be no Rock, and no movie career.

As many of you know, The Rock is returning to the ring at Survivor Series. This means he will actually wrestle, something he has not done in about eight years. He has made a number of appearances. Many of which involved him dropping his patented People’s Elbow and slammed adversaries with The Rock Bottom. At WrestleMania 27, The Rock was the “host” of WrestleMania. He spewed out catchphrases every hour or so and made out with Mae Young. The impact of the night was The Rock interfering and helping The Miz retain the WWE Title against John Cena. The crowd went nuts. They loved it. This would set up a match between Cena and The Rock soon, right? No. Nothing until WrestleMania 28.

I loved The Rock during his prime years in the late-90’s and early-2000. As of late, his catchphrases are gibberish and all I see is a shadow of a man who turned the wrestling industry on its head. Honestly, do the little kids who watch wrestling now even know who The Rock is? They know his name like everyone knows the name of Hulk Hogan, but no knowledge of his impact in the wrestling industry. I think the movie career of The Rock will continue. It should not, but it will. The time of The Rock gracing the ring every week on WWE Monday Night Raw is over. I expect the hype to grow and constant rumors of a full-time return to persist until his match against John Cena at WrestleMania 28. Right now, we have Survivor Series, where The Rock will team with John Cena. This will get the fans excited and talking.

The hype is there. Does this mean his move career is over? Although his appearance in GI Joe 2 as Roadblock will be oh-so-breathtaking, I am certain current fans would rather see him in WWE. He will appear and fans will cheer. After his stint with WWE is over, it is back to the movies and things will return to the way it is.

The only way the wrestling industry will be affected is if The Rock says good-bye to Hollywood and hello wrestling ring. I do not see that happening at all. For an older fan like myself (that is still strange to me), I really do not care. It will be great for ratings and ticket sales, but unless he makes a full-time return to the ring, there is nothing for a fan like me to get excited about.

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The Good Times Have Returned
By Jason Stives

Suffice to say it’s an exciting time for wrestling fans, and for some reason, 2011 more than usual has seen some great moments for old-school wrestling fans. I say old school because the average fan in attendance at any WWE live event is younger than 15. Yes, some of the loyal fans who grew up through the age of the Monday Night Wars remain, but the current product is marketed towards a fresh audience relying on new talent like John Cena and Randy Orton. Which is why the return of the People’s Champ himself, The Rock, is far more perplexing.

Let me get it out of the way in saying that I don’t think it’s because The Rock is desperate to come back to wrestling full-time. People forget in the 10 years since The Rock left wrestling full-time, he has appeared in almost two dozen films, some of which have been very successful and garnered him much praise. I never completely thought the Rock was done with wrestling, and he certainly isn’t desperate for money, so I think we can dismiss that. If he was coming back full-time, he would’ve done it already, but with another five films he’s committed to in the next few years, a full wrestling schedule seems highly unlikely. I do see him having some sporadic storyline with John Cena that goes beyond both Survivor Series and their WrestleMania match, possibly a series of matches culminating in a rubber match down the line. But full on return to TV and house shows, not in the least. His profile on WWE television will increase around Royal Rumble time and probably will be present for a few months leading into the Super Bowl of Sports entertainment.

The truth is The Rock was a smart mark that was passionate about the direction of the product, meaning we will never have a return to the Attitude era, and I quite honestly wouldn’t want that. As we have seen on the “other” wrestling company, past your prime is past your prime, unless your name is Ric Flair. Wrestling has forced itself to always move forward every five years and with many of the issues that have befallen the WWE in the past five or six years, the product can’t be like it was. The days of the superstar is over, it’s a sports entertainer now and there is actually a lot of solid talent present outside of Cena, Orton and CM Punk.

That being said, I think this will be a goldmine for the WWE for as long as they milk it, but the months in between that will be business as usual and nothing else. The Rock is still in prime form considering he has never been injury-prone and at almost 40 looks better than most would be, Triple H included. When you factor in that he’s the most well-liked wrestler of all time with someone who is loved by younger fans but revered by the older fan base, there is a lot to work with regarding storyline, and both men will no doubt perform. Their tag match is make-or-break for all its participants, for the Rock returning to the ring for the first time in seven years, for Cena and developing this feud, and for Awesome Truth and elevating their importance as top heels.

These events — as well as things like the sudden rise of CM Punk — all factor into wrestling fans’ notion of wishful thinking. As we get older, wrestling in its current form seems less and less appealing. While I love a lot of the talent present on TNA, the product sucks because I remember what I liked, and they apparently think that’s what I still like, but that’s not the case. WWE remains consistent and always will, but I will never be fully invested in the product again because it’s just not as good as it once was. For the time being, I look forward to see what the company does for the next six months leading up to Mania In Miami. Between the Rock/Cena feud, the Triple H/Nash feud and individuals like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Mark Henry, I think they have something very fun going on here. Wrestling is a fascinating business, and I will continue to follow it, but the fan in me died during the days of Katie Vick. There is a smart mark for ya.

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Not The Most Electrifying Anymore
By Bill Bodkin

When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returned to the WWE last year, completely unexpected (at least to me) and cut a dynamic promo, chills were sent up my spine. For the first time in a long time, I was captivated by pro wrestling. It was a brilliant return for one of the most iconic wrestlers of all-time.

And the WWE really ran with the momentum. They had Johnson return to the ring as the host of Wrestlemania and then they booked him vs. their #1 star, John Cena to headline the 2012 Wrestlemania in Johnson’s home base of Miami.

At that moment, I was definitely smelling what The Rock was cooking.

Then things began to stink. The momentum the WWE had from their advance booking of Wrestlemania 2012’s main event started losing steam. Johnson would make sporadic returns to WWE programming in form of pre-taped promos. Unfortunately, these taped promos were initially announced as “appearances,” and TV and live audiences flocked in droves to see the most electrifying man in sports entertainment dazzle them with his quick-witted improvisational promos. However, the WWE pulled a fast one and had Johnson appear in “via satellite” — which let down all those who tuned in. These canned interviews hamstrung Johnson’s biggest strength as a mic worker — his ability to work live. No one can feed off the words, mannerisms and intonations of his opponents better than Johnson. No one knows how to have a live crowd eating out of the palm of his hand better than the Brahma Bull.

With the momentum slowly to a near screeching halt, Johnson returned this week to live TV. I figured this would be absolution for past mistakes, that the ball would not only be rolling again, it would be barreling down the road with thunderous speed. And when Johnson came out and Rock Bottomed a returning Mick Foley without saying a word, I was really encouraged that “The Rock” had returned. This wasn’t just Dwayne Johnson anymore, this was The Rock.

The Rock seemed to care more about Twitter than John Cena

Sadly, I was mistaken. When he entered the ring to confront John Cena, you could hear everything screeching to a halt. The chemistry between Cena and Johnson just isn’t there. This is supposed to be a generational clash. The No. 1 star of the Attitude Era vs. the No. 1 star of today. This is supposed to be like when The Rock and Hulk Hogan squared off earlier last decade. When those two got into the ring to face off, you could feel electricity, you could tell this was a moment. The same cannot be said about Johnson and Cena. Their confrontation was like watching too douchey jocks trying to one-up each other with lame insults and cheap pops. I was waiting for one of them to break out a “You’re Mommas So Fat” joke, it was so bad.

And while we can knock John Cena ’till the cows come home, a lot of the blame falls on Johnson. There was nothing creative about his delivery, his material, it was all rehashing old catchphrases and desperately trying to create new ones that will trend on Twitter. In fact, why did he talk more about Twitter than John Cena? Is he trying to win a popularity contest or building a feud? He seems more interested in reconnecting with the fans, desperately seeking their appreciation and by doing so he’s dumbed down his persona to get cheap pops and twitter mentions.

The reason, one could postulate is, Johnson is trying to give his movie career a needed shot in the arm. As my esteemed colleagues have mentioned, he’s had film success — but only as a supporting actor (Get Smart, Fast Five) or when he was an active wrestler (The Scorpion King, The Rundown). Recently, his bankability as a leading man is waning — case in point, his last three starring films Race To Witch Mountain, Faster and The Tooth Fairy were both critical and financial disappointments. So to bolster his leading man cred, he needs to reconnect with the audience that made him a star : the wrestling fans. And what better way to do this than headline Wrestlemania against the current No. 1 star of the promotion, a man who’s idolized by millions of youngsters, those people most of The Rock’s films are geared toward.

The return of The Rock to the WWE can still be salvaged. A strong in-ring performance with Cena against R-Truth and The Miz this Sunday at Survivor Series will definitely change wrestling fan’s minds. More live appearances and more original and creative mic work will definitely win over sports entertainment fans. And if this happens, I think I’ll be smelling what The Rock is cooking. If we keep up with the status quo and his in-ring work is severely lacking, then this will be another reason I will not be tuning into Monday Night RAW or ordering Wrestlemania.

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