The wrestling empire, now officially united with the UFC, starts the new era with a bang: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is back – and fuels speculation about a big comeback match.
A new era has begun at wrestling empire WWE – and with the biggest bang possible.
On Sunday night, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made his first WWE appearance in four years. On the TV show SmackDown – which owes its name to him – the megastar who migrated from the wrestling ring to Hollywood surprised the cheering audience.
Together with a former NFL cult star, he laid a hand on a loudmouthed young star, met up with an old acquaintance again and fuelled rumours of a possible wrestling comeback at the 40th anniversary of the WrestleMania mega-show next spring.
WWE puts exclamation point on wrestling after merger with UFC
It was the first time The Rock had made an appearance at WWE since 2019, as of this week officially part of a new combat sports empire with UFC parent company Endeavor. The new company, led by Hollywood mogul Ari Emmanuel, is called TKO and went public this week.
Scandal-plagued WWE founder Vince McMahon, freshly returned from time off for neck surgery, is the No. 2 executive chairman and minority owner at the helm of the new holding company, with former WWE CEO Nick Khan now serving as president.
The Rock’s comeback immediately put an exclamation mark on the revamped billion-dollar company.
The Rock gives Austin Theory a thrashing and meets John Cena again
The Rock showed up at the beginning of the Denver show as a surprise guest of ex-NFL star, podcaster and occasional wrestler Pat McAfee, who was also making a return appearance for WWE in quite some time.
McAfee interrupted an appearance by young star Austin Theory, who stated flat out that SmackDown was “his” show – to which McAfee replied that he had someone in tow who thought otherwise.
The Rock and McAfee then gave Theory a beating together, there was the old “Brahma Bull” special moves, the Rock Bottom and the People’s Elbow.
Later, WWE staged a backstage encounter The Rocks with his old rival John Cena, who gleefully greeted his companion.
Cena’s story with the Bloodline continues
Cena, now also active in Hollywood, is currently back in WWE for two months and took centre stage at the end of the show as Roman Reigns’ nephew Jimmy Uso sought revenge for a beating a fortnight ago.
He succeeded when younger brother Solo Sikoa came to the rescue, the enforcer of the currently paused Undisputed Universal Champion Reigns and the Bloodline grouping he leads. Cena, in turn, then got help from former rival AJ Styles, currently also embroiled in an enmity with the Bloodline.
“The Rock headlining WrestleMania with Roman Reigns at SoFi Stadium was locked in….
– Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 15, 2023
Jimmy, who fell out of favour with Reigns, is currently looking to get back into the fold, recently helping Reigns win the “Tribal Combat” against twin brother Jey Uso at SummerSlam to defend his title and leadership role.
Sikoa’s help was a signal that the currently pausing Reigns has heard Jimmy’s call to resume. A comeback for Reigns is said to be planned for the Saudi Arabia show Crown Jewel in November, according to the Wrestling Observer.
The Rock at WrestleMania 40 against Roman Reigns?
It’s not just The Rock’s SmackDown appearance that is now fuelling the rumour mill as to whether WWE will make up at WrestleMania 40 for what was supposed to be last year’s scheduled clash between Reigns and The Rock, who is linked to Reigns’ Samoan wrestling family Anoa’i via a blood brotherhood.
The Rock was also previously a guest on the Pat McAfee Show and revealed for the first time how far along the planning for the duel with Reigns was: According to his account, he had already “fixed” the match in a meeting with McMahon and Khan for WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles.
According to media reports – which WWE executive “Triple H” Paul Levesque also indirectly confirmed – The Rock then cancelled because he did not feel able to adequately prepare for the match due to his multitude of projects.
The Rock now tells the story a little differently: The reason for the cancellation was that the comeback should have offered the fans something special, “unprecedented”, a “start into a new era” – and in the end all those involved did not come up with the brilliant idea that would have fulfilled this claim.
In the end, it was agreed to consider WrestleMania 40 after the big UFC merger. The Rock held that he was “open” to it and that, yes, the show was now close. The SmackDown appearance now increases the hopes of millions of fans that this time it will work out.