Monday, 14 February 2011
THE ROCK AND THE MOMENT By Justin Henry
Take a look around you. Check out the wrestling websites. Read all of the negative-tinged news, and then check out the scores of trolling comments and arguments posted below.
Read about who failed a drug test this week. Hear all about WWE’s dropping stock and TNA’s lagging ratings. Here’s some stories about actors you’ve forgotten about hosting Raw. Here’s TNA’s Impact spoilers, and man do they look crappy.
Now….forget all of that.
The Valentine’s Day edition of Monday Night Raw concluded with The Rock appearing in a WWE ring for the first time since 2004, and “The Great One” announced that he will be the host of Wrestlemania 27 in April.
Twitter briefly exploded in a fireball of adulation. Facebook did the same. The wrestling news sites are a little slower to load as I write this, thanks to the heavy volume of eager fans overrunning them.
It had been speculated all through the day that The Rock might be the guest host for Wrestlemania, thanks to him dropping hints on his new Twitter account. Of course, the pessimists (like me) felt that it might be a swerve.
When WWE gave the fans a fake swerve just before the 11 PM hour by having an anonymous woman step out of the limo that had arrived, many fans started to think that it was Stephanie McMahon, soon to be revealed as host.
When Raw returned from the final commercial break and the lights began to go out in the arena, fans were bracing to be disappointed. Stephanie? Justin Beiber? Bob Barker? It can’t POSSIBLY be The Rock, because that would be a GOOD thing!
Thanks to WWE and TNA giving us plenty of bitter pills to swallow over the last several years, many fans have stopped thinking that good things are possible.
At the mere sound of “IF YA”, the first two words in the signature kick of The Rock’s theme music, Anaheim exploded. Wrestling fans in front of their televisions let out a gleeful scream.
And here’s the amazing thing: with the exception of a few likely holdouts that prefer to never have fun, every wrestling fan of every personality type (mark, smark, casual, hardened, cynic, hardcore, kid, adult) was tuned into the moment.
This comes as no surprise: Dwayne Johnson is a wordsmith with the ability to control thousands of people with a phrase, glare, gesture, anything. Dwayne Johnson could solve the NFL labor crisis in 10 minutes by charming every crotchety owner in the room with his charisma.
Quick aside to WWE: while not every wrestler is going to match The Rock on the microphone, scripting promos isn’t going to help them get any better at feeding off the crowd. The writers could have a year to set up an elaborate segment to try and reach the fans as Rock did tonight, and they wouldn’t come within a thousand miles of it.
Back to the story at hand: as I continue writing this, the sea of chatter online is enough to drown a continent. I’m part of that ocean, and I can be as cynical, as “seen it before”, as anyone could possibly be. And yet here I am, prattling on about the return to wrestling of a 38 year old movie star that hasn’t worked a match since Karl Malone was still in the NBA.
Wrestling fans live for the moment, and tonight we got one.
All of the negativity, the malaise that seeps through the wrestling websites like carbon monoxide, gagging us to our lungs, comes from the dissatisfaction of not getting the moments. Instead, we get pay per views that cost us $45 and don’t resolve issues, but instead build to the next $45 event. We get wrestlers that we become enamored with, but Vince McMahon and creative let them spin their wheels because they don’t like their look, or they’re too preoccupied with a guest host.
We get debuts that mean nothing in TNA, because the company never learned to properly build something and then pay it off. That doesn’t even cover TNA’s inconsistent booking, crappy finishes, and meaningless homegrown talents.
As I said, WWE hasn’t always done much better. Signing a toy deal that effectively made WWE into a kids show pissed off a ton of fans, as did the ham-fisted attempts to help Linda McMahon try and become a US Senator.
None of the things I’ve listed would make any rational wrestling fan feel good about tuning in next time. If you don’t create the moment, the less we care.
WWE knows, of course, that The Rock can create a moment out of anything, like some rope-muscled MacGyver. It was in their best interests to have a star of The Rock’s caliber being a big part of their biggest annual event.
But I don’t think even they anticipated the adulating floodgates opening tonight the way they have.
When Rock called out John Cena and pointed out the less-flattering aspects of Cena’s persona, there weren’t many dissenting voices in the crowd, now were there? Cena had even less defenders across comment threads internet-wide. Instead, the collective reaction was “Yeah, you tell em, Rock!”
The Rock just took WWE’s poster child and defecated all over his core elements.
Sure, he did it in character, but the fact remains that for as polarizing as Cena is, Rock spoke in the voice of many frustrated fans who take their unwanted rage out on the man WWE touts as their icon, and he put Cena in his prospective place.
And it created a moment.
And this moment will, hopefully, set WWE on a lucrative road for Wrestlemania, not just for them, but for us as well. Hopefully, this road will be devoid of negative thoughts, pessimistic thinking, and “I’m already dead, do your worst” apathy.
Instead, let’s hope there’s seven weeks ahead of excitement, wonderment, and anticipation for Wrestlemania 27 and its grandeur.
WWE has already given us The Rock, and Rock gave us a moment.
More moments, please.
(Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose interests are rooted in NFL, MLB, NBA, wrestling, MMA, and entertainment. He can be found on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cynicjrh and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh so check him out)