There he is. Feast your eyes, folks, because the immediate future of WWE is none other than a Superstar from its recent past.
So, how are we all feeling about this one? How do we feel about The Rock coming back to challenge for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, even though he is no longer a full time in-ring performer?
Perhaps the match itself is not really that big of a deal to some fans. After all, the days of starting at the bottom and working your way up to the main event level is a thing of the past in many ways.
These days, the opportunity is handed out indiscriminately, used wherever Vince McMahon sees fit, in whatever situation he chooses. Ryback is a prime example of this. He came from nowhere, spotlighted only on squash matches, and was suddenly in the main event against CM Punk for the WWE title.
Then there’s the fact that this is Rocky we’re talking about here. A guaranteed Hall of Famer, who headlined in the company during its most profitable and popular era, the Rock has a history of stepping up and performing on the worldwide stage against some of the biggest names the industry has ever seen.
With that kind of pedigree, how could any fan possibly be upset that he’s getting the title shot, and most likely the title, at the Royal Rumble?
The answer to that almost certainly comes not just from the notion that he’s just walking back into WWE without having any recent win/loss record to speak of, but that he’s just walking back into WWE after not having been there for so long.
In other words, while his past accomplishments and nostalgic drawing power are not in question, for some, it has become a "What have you done for me lately?” scenario.
It does appear that Rocky is definitely coming back on his own terms, at the highest level in WWE, and working with only the most elite talent the company has to offer. Does he really deserve to take that spot over some of the other talent who are forced to sit back and just watch as yet another opportunity slips away from them?
The answer to that is no. Because while he did earn what he had through hard work and ability when he was a full time WWE Superstar, those days are long gone. Now he’s an outsider looking in, a returning Legend with Hollywood notoriety that Vince McMahon is using to get ratings, increased pay-per-view buys and publicity.
And, that’s the point.
WWE is a business. Its continued existence is based upon its ability to make money. Any future growth has to come from what it does today, from its TV to its live events, merchandise sales and everything in between.
And The Rock’s name on the marquee in 2012 with the massive crossover star appeal that he currently has equals more money in the bank for WWE. Period.
Let’s not forget about the rest of the roster—the aforementioned Superstars who may be taking a backseat to the returning People’s Champion. Working on the card with Rocky in the main event is profitable for them as well.
Basically, “What have you done for me lately?” suddenly becomes “Thanks for the payday.”
The focus on money in the company seems to be a very material, very non-traditional idea for fans. For many fans like myself who love the in-ring action and who grew up watching the 80s territories, it’s all about pro wrestling tradition and respect. For us, the honor of the sport is much more important than the money.
But the truth is that in those days, as today, making money in the business is everything. The men and women working to entertain are not just doing it because they love it, or perhaps because they grew up watching it themselves.
They do it because this is how they make a living. Where a normal person who punches a clock has from about age 18 to 62 to earn money to live, a full-time WWE Superstar—if he is successful—typically has less than half that amount of time on that level. He has to earn as much as he can and be smart with it to make it last.
Thus far, I have not heard all that much debate on The Rock’s return at the Royal Rumble, or the fact that it will lead directly into 2013 and WrestleMania 29. But, you can rest assured it’s coming. And when it does, there will likely be many other writers asking the same questions that I have posed in this piece. Because no matter what I, or anyone else says about it, there’s only one opinion that counts.
So, how do you feel about all this?