After seven years away from the WWE, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returned in 2011 on a very limited part-time basis. The Great One would serve in the pseudo-position of Guest Host at WrestleMania XXVII, and now, just under two years later, he once again fights for WWE Championship gold at the Royal Rumble.
Following his return to the company, The Rock entered into a historic feud with WWE poster-boy John Cena. Weeks of promo exchanges between the two would culminate at WrestleMania XXVII where The Rock cost Cena the WWE Championship in the main event against The Miz.
The next night on Raw saw the unprecedented announcement of the “once in a lifetime” WrestleMania XXVIII main event between Cena and The Rock. With a year of buildup, the two titans clashed in Miami on the "grandest stage of them all," and The Rock stood tall.
Again, it was the night following WrestleMania where The Rock made another announcement. This time, The People’s Champion declared that one day he would regain the illustrious WWE Championship, and then he once again vanished from WWE programming for several months.
The next appearance from The Rock came at the monumental 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw. On this occasion, The Great One would announce out of the blue that he would be challenging for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock was handed a free title match without explanation, and by the end of the episode, he was laid out by a GTS from the reigning champion CM Punk. Even though the Rock could have won the briefcase at Money in the Bank just weeks prior or, even more feasibly, entered the Royal Rumble match this Sunday, he instead goes straight into title contention.
It goes without saying that the WWE Championship should only be held by full-time wrestlers who are on the road day-in and day-out. There is no doubt that The Rock earned his place at the top back in the Attitude Era, but he was handsomely rewarded with nine World Championships for that, including seven WWE (then WWF) title reigns.
The Rock's next appearance came in early 2013 to build up his title match at the Royal Rumble with CM Punk, yet he has done nothing to earn another stint as the champion. While the WWE may consider the ratings and revenue that The Rock generates to be enough, he should still have to earn the title each and every time, both through daily work in the company and a cohesive kayfabe plotline.
While it has been 10 years since The Great One held a championship, there is nothing epic or even respectable about his quest to regain the title this time around. After 10 years in Hollywood, The Rock has been handed a freebie due to the past and the drawing power he still possesses.
If the Rock fails to gain the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, then at least there will be a more genuine story of failure and success about his hike back to the top. If The Rock loses and then further dedicates himself to the company to try once more, then that is a more worthy and inspirational quest for the title, but only slightly.
The Rock left the WWE to accomplish his dreams, but at this rate, it seems that Vince McMahon’s private jet will be giving The Rock a free lift right back to the top of the mountain this Sunday. However, when you look at it, there really is no journey behind the Rock’s re-emergence into title contention, as this time around he was handed it on a silver platter.