It took a bit of time.
A few matches. A few “Rock Concerts.” A couple of promos which were arguably “Not PG.”
It took a bit of time to figure out what was wrong with The Rock’s return. And then, last night at Elimination Chamber, nearly two months after The Rock came back, it clicked.
The Rock’s “return” feels hollow because we all know it’s not a return at all. He’s not here to stay. He’s not in it for even a year, to organically become a piece of the roster again, to partake in multiple storylines.
The Rock is an overexposed nostalgia fix which does nothing for the current WWE product.
That’s a tough thing to say. The Rock is a legend, he was a fixture of the company for years, as ingrained in the fabric of the company’s history as legends like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, and his contemporary, Stone Cold Steve Austin. When people see The Rock, to this day they still see WWE first and actor second.
When The Rock came back last year for the “Once in a Lifetime” bout with John Cena, it was a big deal because it was unexpected, a crossover between the icon of yesteryear and the poster boy of today, similar to The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18. The match came and went to great fanfare and people appreciated that The Rock got the win in spite of the fact that it was likely detrimental to the current product.
And then a few months later The Rock announced he would compete for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. And suddenly, almost a year ahead of time, the Wrestlemania season was broadcast loudly for all to see.
The Rock would win the title, Cena would win the Rumble, and we would have Rock vs Cena 2.
In professional wrestling, there is often nothing worse than predictability. Fans already know the results are predetermined, but they stay because they are often unsure what those predetermined results are. In this case, not only do fans know what is going to happen, they knew last summer.
All that The Rock has brought with him in his return, outside of some entertaining profanities, is predictability.
And predictability is boring.
And The Rock has never been known to be boring. He is, after all, "The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment." Yet rather than electrify, The Rock simply seems to be going through the motions in a way which seems to undermine the legacy of who he was.
As long as The Rock is the champion, the WWE’s main event scene cannot move forward. There can be no building of new superstars, there can be no surprises. There can only be The Rock and the buildup to Wrestlemania, to a sequel of a match whose conclusion is obvious. The Rock cannot be champion if he’s not staying after ‘Mania. Therefore, Cena wins.
Normally, the Road to Wrestlemania, the span from the Royal Rumble to the Wrestlemania event, is one of the most exciting times to be a wrestling fan.
This year, one can only wait patiently until it’s over. Only when The Rock leaves can the product start moving forward again. And that is truly a pity.