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The Rock: Sensation backfires?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s WWE comeback angers fans of Cody Rhodes, who has stepped aside for him. The wrestling empire faces a dilemma

Imagine striking a mega-deal with one of the biggest stars on the planet – and your fans rebel.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns to wrestling empire WWE for a blockbuster duel. But instead of joy and ecstasy, many WWE fans are reacting with disappointment and anger, even insults against the former wrestling top star, who has since become a Hollywood global brand.

In the days following the big revelation that the 51-year-old is to face the “Undisputed Universal Champion” Roman Reigns at the annual highlight WrestleMania 40, resistance has formed: Many League supporters dislike the circumstances of Rock’s return – and that it comes at the expense of Cody Rhodes, who actually seemed set as Reigns’ WrestleMania opponent.

WWE fans partially boo Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Dwayne Johnson’s comeback appearance on Friday Night SmackDown, where Royal Rumble winner Rhodes ceded his WrestleMania spot to the megastar, drew boos against the “Great One”.

In the days that followed, the protest was organized on social media, with the hashtag WeWantCody posters – and negative reactions to mentions of the absent Johnson.

Even the familiar cry of “Rocky sucks” from Johnson’s difficult early years in the WWE in the late nineties made an unexpected comeback.

Background of the defensive reaction, which might seem strange to uninvolved observers: From the perspective of many fans, it is simply Rhodes’ “turn” to complete the hero’s journey he has built up since his WWE comeback two years ago.

Johnson, who has been brought in instead, is perceived as an intruder who is taking something away from a popular favorite that is rightfully his. And perhaps the old – only partially fair – accusation that Johnson once abandoned his old home WWE for Hollywood also plays a subliminal role.

Cody Rhodes’ fans disappointed

On the one hand, the wave of sympathy for the son of late legend Dusty Rhodes shows how well WWE has built the long-term storyline between Rhodes and Reigns, who has reigned as champ and supervillain for over 3 ½ years – and how well Rhodes has filled his assigned role since returning from competitor AEW.

On the other hand, that very fact now presents WWE with a dilemma: The Rock is The Rock – his commercial drawing power will once again fill the WWE coffers in a very different way than Rhodes ever could, despite his organic popularity.

However, it’s still a bit of bad timing that the busy Johnson is now intervening right now and tearing holes in the script. Why Rhodes would voluntarily give up his place in the biggest show in years can hardly be explained in any meaningful way.

It also remains a mystery why WWE let the Rumble win in the first place, only to disappoint its fans – even though the plan with The Rock was reportedly already in place.

Did Triple H not know about the deal?

As noted wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer reported on his Wrestling Observer Radio, the match was part of the deal announced two weeks ago in which Johnson joined the board of directors of WWE parent company TKO and bought the marketing rights to his famous nickname from WWE in the process.

Johnson has been kicking around the idea of a big match with his “blood brother” Reigns for years and he obviously didn’t want to be denied the biggest possible stage for it – and WWE didn’t want to deny him it either.

According to Meltzer, the match was quietly arranged by the company’s top decision-makers, with only WWE President Nick Khan being aware of the match alongside TKO boss Ari Emmanuel. Whether the actual WWE creative boss “Triple H” Paul Levesque – as program director successor to disgraced father-in-law Vince McMahon – was also in the loop is unclear.

Did he possibly steer the staging of the Rumble in the wrong direction?

WWE apparently surprised by the extent of the resistance

One way or another, WWE is apparently trying to make the best of the situation. As Meltzer reports, the league anticipated the disappointment of Cody’s fans and now wants to turn it into something productive and portray Rhodes even more as a hero defying the circumstances – similar to Daniel Bryan in a similar situation in 2014.

That Rhodes’ fans would go so far as to boo idol The Rock, however, seems to have surprised the league’s top brass. According to Meltzer, his sources were tellingly silent when asked about this.

Although it is unlikely that WWE regrets or will regret the deal with Johnson, if critical fans were to disrupt the festive atmosphere at WrestleMania in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl Stadium, it would not be entirely in the spirit of the inventor.

Rhodes tries to calm the waves

Rhodes now appears to be facing the lower-ranked World Champion Seth Rollins at WrestleMania instead – and has already felt compelled to calm the waters.

Via X he wrote to his rumbling fanbase: “I admire your passion, God bless you all, but: Trust me.” The unspoken message: don’t worry, I’ll come into my own.

When that will happen and whether the “Finish the Story”, which has become a catchphrase, will be just as round



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