On Monday, January 25th, “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” made his predicted return to World Wrestling Entertainment following the the Royal Rumble event and the show is on the “Road to WrestleMania.”
And boy, was he different. At least, at first.
I’ve seen people express their affection for “coked-up Rock,” but I took something different away from the whole thing. Something I loved. Something I probably misread, but I still enjoyed it for the moment.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of entertainment stories about the man known to some as Dwayne Johnson (but to millions [and millions] as The Rock) seem to focus on what a nice guy he is. He’s typically smiles, shares motivational messages, buys family members brand-new cars — just a really super-great guy all around.
In a way, that’s what we saw as he pulled up to the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, screeching to a halt in his pickup truck. An infuriated Miz spoke up against the intrusion of his interview time, but The Rock wasn’t phased at all as he cheerfully compared the MizTV host to a blind nun before tossing over his keys for parking (which, according to The Miz’s Twitter, didn’t go so well for The Great One).
After hobnobbing with some other celebrities, The Rock came across The Big Show and greeted him with a big, cheerful handshake and a hug. Now, here’s the thing: I’ve long liked The Big Show in general, but one or two (or three?) face/heel/face turns back, I just finally quit caring. I was done with The Big Show, because any time that I get invested, he flips. But as The Rock was laughing and talking to him like a pair of old friends remembering good times and revealed that The Big Show very nearly could have had his successful Hollywood career had he won a previous Royal Rumble (one that Rock admits Show should have won, now) and came close to bringing him to tears?
I felt genuinely bad for the guy. Sure, I know it’s just a bit, but all the same — bravo, Rock. You made me feel something for The Big Show again. I don’t think that’s any small feat.
The Big Show absentmindedly destroyed his laptop at the thought of all he could have had (and hardships he probably could have avoided, real and in-story), and The Rock excitedly exclaims “that is awesome!”
Basically, as I read it, the whole bit was taking the Hollywood megastar Dwayne Johnson and turning it on his head, making him a happy, cheerful, “nice” guy who — perhaps obliviously — ends up saying a lot of things that are a bit mean and hurtful. It’s a fresh take on his character and is pretty unique in wrestling as a whole, and even makes sense as an evolution of his WWE character — especially if he’s really coming down from on high, so to speak, and is effectively acting “above” everyone else, even though he doesn’t mean to. “Killing them with kindness,” as the saying goes. He’s as sincerely nice as he can be, and somehow that ends up being worse for people he actually likes than The Rock was with people he didn’t like.
Put simply, I love it. I want to see more of this.
On the downside, however, The Rock then once again crossed paths with Lana and talked about time they spent in a hotel room after the show the last time they were at the same arena together. This part has caught a lot of flack, rightfully so, for different reasons. I honestly don’t think this was as bad as some of what he’s done in the semi-recent past, but it’s still kind of a cringe-worthy remnant of the Attitude Era. The thing is, though, The Rock really doesn’t need to do that — and he just proved it moments before. He played that part the same way as with the rest, true, but it was still the weakest part of the whole thing for its general wince-worthiness.
Once The Rock went through that curtain, though, it was pretty much business as usual for him, for better or for worse. I do hope we see more “Oblivious Hollywood Movie Star Rock” as we go forward, but I fear WWE or The Rock himself won’t likely stick with it, which is too bad. If I believed they were clever enough to go with that, I could really get behind it as a new approach to the character.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.