Friday, September 15th marked a historic return for Dwayne Johnson.
The Rock made an electrifying return to the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on this past Friday’s episode of Smackdown. Making his first in-person appearance in the WWE since Sept. 2019, fans erupted as “The Great One” made his way on the stage.
The Rock was able to make the appearance due to the current SAG-AFTRA strike preventing actors like Johnson from performing or promoting movies that are debuting in theaters, consequently freeing up the actor, professional wrestler’s obligations and responsibilities. Earlier this year, Johnson donated an undisclosed amount in the “seven-figure range” to help pay the actors while they are on strike, a move that has been largely applauded.
Johnson happened to be in the area of the show as a guest host on The Pat McAfee Show, only 30 minutes away from the Ball Arena in Denver where WWE was hosted.
Rock proved to live and televised audiences that he still had the charisma and ability to keep up with the current talent in the WWE. When Rock showed up, he had a verbal battle with “Austin Theory”, stage name for pro-wrestler Austin White,where Rock completely turned the crowd against Theory and got the crowd to chant vulgar statements about him. After hitting his signature move on Austin Theory, he left the ring to an energized crowd chanting: “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”
Soon after that, with a bit more of the scheduled show taking place, WWE showed camera footage of The Rock meeting another wrestler-turned-actor — John Cena. The two smiled upon meeting, and fans appreciated the callback to Rock and Cena headlining both Wrestlemania 28 and 29 against one another. Cena is in a similar boat as Dwayne; an actor that went back to wrestling due to the strike, however Cena has shown to be more readily available to show up for events while The Rock has a blink-and-you-miss-it type of appearance every few years.
Fans have already begun to speculate whether this was a one-time appearance or the start of bigger plans, as The Rock has constantly teased a fight with his younger cousin, Joe Anoa’i, stage name “Roman Reigns” for currently reigning the top champion in WWE. Johnson stated on Pat’s podcast that he was “locked in” for Wrestlemania 39, WWE’s biggest show of the year that took place in April of this year at Sofi Stadium, but plans fell through once they could not come to a creative deal. He then fanned the flames of the rumor by adding “We got really, really close, but there is the Wrestlemania in Philadelphia coming up.”
Regardless of if it is a one-time deal or a way to get the ball rolling for a comeback, The Rock’s return has generated a lot of media buzz, racking up 100 million views in just one day. His charisma and natural TV personality quickly won the crowd over as if no time had passed. The Rock is the epitome of a superstar.