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The Rock Rebuff



24 March 2005

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So he’s gone. I didn’t cry. There was no rending of garments. Hell didn’t freeze over. The Rock left without a whimper.

It seems that there was an administrative error that allowed his contract to reach its end, and the WWE didn’t bother to renew it. Let’s look at that again. It seems the WWE allowed the Rock to get away. One of the jewels in their crown, and he was treated like a plastic bauble. Even though Vince is planning to speak to Dwayne about one-shot deals, he will be a guest star – the WWE will no longer own a piece of him.

At the moment, the WWE has a dearth of charismatic performers (it means lack of, idiots), and as they seem to be unwilling to create them, they are reduced to buying them in. And yet they are letting a great, marquee-heading performer slip away. Why?

Well, perhaps they think that with the arrival of Austin back into the fold, they don’t need two big stars muddying the water. But Stone Cold is returning mainly to act in a slate of films – WWE films. It’s risky; Austin has next to no cachet outside the biz, and the films will be so tightly tied to Vince that they will never be able to fly by themselves. Untried main actors + untried writers + untried producers usually = commercial/critical disaster. And if that happens, don’t expect Stevie to hang around for long.

Or perhaps the brass think there’s too little room at the top of the card to shoehorn both stars in. But there are two brands, so this really shouldn’t be a problem. Smackdown could certainly do with it; whilst I’m enjoying JBL’s comic heel turn more than I ever thought I would, he really doesn’t have the charisma to lead the brand, and pitting him against Eddy and the Big Slow, both tried and failed champs, is not helping. On Raw, of course, there is the HHH factor – both Austin and Rocky have much more charisma than him, and either would eclipse him if they worked with him; we know what Trip thinks about that, he wants to be the big man on campus and won’t tolerate being reminded how ordinary he is. Perhaps the Rock rebuff is influenced by a snippy “we can survive on our own” attitude, and perhaps if Vince will go as far as to give HHH his own 4 Horseman, the sound of him stamping his little foot sent pa-in-law scurrying to the contracts draw…Or maybe not, HHH may not have been involved at all. Just a thought.

Of course, the Rock is a busy man these days, Starring in “Spy Hunter” and “Doom” – he’s moved on. He has succeeded in carving out an action film career, and has even attempted to broaden his appeal – he’s getting good reviews as the gay security guard in “Be Cool”. He’s a proper movie star, not a wrestling star who makes movies because Vince says he can. The WWE may have helped to create him, but Rocky has broken free of that world and become a mainstream entertainment icon – just what Vince wants his company to be.

Vince has always wanted that success, and realised that he needed to find a wrestler who could break into that world. Hogan wasn’t big enough, a shock, I am sure, to both of them. Dwayne Johnson was the right personality at the right time; he could have been the key to unlock the riches and kudos of the big time. But Rocky was too big, too good, for Vince to hold onto him – as I’ve attempted to educate you before, American business and audiences won’t endorse a star who is closely linked to the Neanderthal racist, sexist, offensive attitudes of the grappling world.

Perhaps this is why the WWE let him go. He divorced himself from them in order to grow, whilst Vince would have liked to grow with him. He not only lost his main chance, Dwayne reminds him constantly of the niche status of the WWE. Perhaps the Mac Man is punishing Rocky for forgetting his roots, for leaving home too early.

Whatever the reason - superstar egos, scripting clashes, misplaced petulance. Or perhaps a perfectly decent decision to let Rocky go and be the best that he can be (it might be true! In a world where Jake the Snake can be honoured, anything can happen), the WWE has lost a connection that could only do them good, both at the box office and in the marketplace as a whole.

To pretend they don’t need him is a folly of XFL proportions. Without the Rock, the WWE will really roll.

The Cynic

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