Film director Michael Bay was an inadvertent topic of discussion among many pro wrestling circles due to lighthearted comments, made in jest, toward The Rock.
The Rock stars in Bay's upcoming Pain and Gain film alongside Mark Wahlberg. While at the Los Angeles premiere, Bay commented on Rock's absence due to abdominal injuries suffered during WrestleMania.
"He was pushing it too hard," Bay told E! News. "[He] needs to grow up and stop wrestling 300-pound men."
The comment struck the wrong nerve among many wrestling fans and personalities. And why not? "Grow up" provokes the the very stigma of professional wrestling that the industry has tried so desperately to correct.
Pro wrestling is viewed by mainstream America as nothing more than a guilty pleasure. A temporary escape that some indulge in with a hint of disgrace to their tone of viewership.
When Blockbuster director Michael Bay stood on a red carpet in Hollywood and reiterated these sentiments, the defense mechanisms were abundant. Especially when considering how this matter was reported.
Michael Bay was jovial, wearing a playful smile with a joking tone while speaking with E! News. He was clearly kidding, but the general media ran with the story as if he were declaring war. The use of the word "teenagers" didn't help Bay's case, either. Legendary WWE wrestler and current WWE VP Triple H responded:
@therock needs to grow up, and stop wrestling 300 pound men?” Who's 300lbs???— Triple H (@TripleH) April 24, 2013
Fans weren't as cryptic. SES Scoops commenter John Heaney weighed in with the following zinger:
"I dunno if a man who sacrifices story and drama for the sake of cool looking effects should be questioning anyone else's maturity."
Said a commenter using the handle Rhawk:
"Hate it when people use the term 'grow up' when it involves wrestling as the topic that people need to grow out of. Sounds to me like they are the real ones that need to grow up more than anything."
And on and on. The strong backlash forced Michael Bay to re-address the perceived jab, with Bay issuing the following statement:
Wrestling fans, it was a joke said on Entertainment Tonight–with a laugh. You can see the clip for yourselves. The most important person to see the on-air joke was Dwayne. I love seeing The Rock wrestle. I hope he wrestles 10 more years. I joked on air because Dwayne was not at our LA premiere due to his injury.
This unfortunate firestorm was the product of print media and an increasingly knee-jerk online demographic. Reacting to the news story and not the video content, many may have jumped the gun as they jumped down Bay's throat.
Lampooned by many top critics as a below-average director, Bay's movies must remain the point of offense, not his lighthearted jokes.