Why Did The Rock Go ‘Retro’ for His Latest WWE SmackDown Return?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has certainly made an impact with his most recent return to WWE, but his latest appearance on WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown has tipped sports-entertainment fans over the edge. Playing homage to his immeasurable contributions to pro wrestling’s “Attitude Era” of the late 90’s, the world’s most bankable action star went back to his roots last weekend, donning a loud and no doubt expensive shirt, while embracing the more self-centered side of his personality. In aligning himself with his families “Bloodline” stable, Dwayne Johnson has gone full “heel” on the WWE Universe, and it seems that going retro and reprising his role as the man you love to hate may be his greatest performance yet. We take a look at the motivations behind the movie star’s electrifying actions.

Why did The Rock return to WWE?

Dwayne Johnson made a surprise return on WWE Monday Night Raw on January 8, where he teased ecstatic fans with the possibility that he might challenge his cousin Roman Reigns for the right to call himself head of the families table. Since Reigns also holds the WWE Universal Championship, and has done so for more than 1,200 days, this banner match was touted to be one of the biggest WrestleMania main events of all time. Then, on Jan 23, WWE’s parent company TKO (they also own UFC) announced that DJ had been appointed to the board of directors, making him one of the most powerful people in WWE’s board room. With all that stroke, the main event at WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia next month should have been set in stone, but things never run smoothly in the larger-than-life world of WWE.

The Rock talking to Roman Reigns in the ring at WWE Smackdown
Courtesy of WWE

Why is The Rock vs. Roman Reigns Not happening at WrestleMania 40?

As is tradition, the winner of the Royal Rumble gets to face off against a WWE world champion at WrestleMania. Currently there are two world championships in the company, with Reigns’ Unversal title on SmackDown, and World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins competing on the RAW brand. The 2024 Royal Rumble winner was Cody Rhodes, and since he was cheated out of victory last year at WrestleMania 39 by Reigns, he has opted for a rematch against “The Tribal Chief” at WM40.

Of course, Rhode’s desire to finish his story has scuppered the Bloodline’s plan to keep the WrestleMania main event all in the family. And, while the idea of The Rock vs. Roman Reigns seems like a cataclysmic confrontation, fans in the arenas have been booing The Rock in favour of cheering their underdog hero, Cody Rhodes.

Why The Rock went “Retro” and turned against the fans on WWE SmackDown

During a WrestleMania 40 press conference in Las Vegas on Feb 8, it became clear that the WWE Universe wanted Cody Rhodes to follow up on his Royal Rumble win and dethrone Roman Reigns, and since it his right to face the champion of his choice, there’s not much that the Samoan wrestling dynasty can do about it. So, instead, The Rock has become imbittered by the support for Rhodes over himself, and has chosen to shun the fans and reprise the cocky and arrogant character that viewers will remember from the wildly successful “Attitude Era” in WWE.

On Friday night SmackDown (Feb, 16) The Rock came to the ring in one of his vintage style shirts, something that the WWE Universe hadn’t seen in recent times. It drew a knowing reaction from wrestling aficionados who were pleased to see his edgier character back on the screen, and Johnson himself showed off the goose bumps that he’d developed from this historical moment. The seasoned actor waisted no time in knowing his new role, as he insulted the fans in Salt Lake City before making his intentions to support The Bloodline clear. “Cody, your story is just ending. Our story is just beginning…” said the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. “Sit there and shut your mouth and enjoy the ride that The Rock has taken you on. If you smell what The Bloodline is cooking!”

The full segment has racked up almost 3 million views on YouTube in just 2 days, and has drawn acclaim from the millions, and millions, of The Rock’s fans, many of whom believe that this is The Rock at his best.

“I like how Rock reads the room and turns heel based off of the crowd’s reaction,” commented @chicken.

“That’s an Attitude era veteran on the mic ladies and gentlemen. ????,” said @Veintitres__23

“I’m not gonna lie, The Rock wasn’t the only one getting goosebumps. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Heel Rock and it’s pretty cool seeing it again,” commented @ammodog89b79

With “Retro” Rock back in WWE, he is likely to find action at WrestleMania 40 one way or another, so we wait with bated breath to find out who will next fall victim to the “People’s Elbow.”

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