On Monday Night RAW, when WWE revealed The Rock on the cover of its upcoming 2K14 video game (see it here), I immediately imagined guys like Zack Ryder feverishly typing their dissent on Twitter. After all, the former WWE champion is likely done as a wrestler after this grisly injury suffered earlier this year in the main event of WrestleMania 29.
My knee jerk reaction was, "What a slap in the face to the full-time roster."
CM Punk graced last year's cover of WWE '13 and rightfully so. He was poised to have one of the best runs of his career and delivered in spades, becoming the promotion's top heel and holding the WWE championship for an astounding 434 days.
Rocky's biggest accomplishment was getting hurt and coughing up the title before taking his ball and going home.
But then I had a few mins to weigh the situation and as much as I love to shake my fist at WWE, I may have to absolve them of any wrongdoing in this case. After all, prior to ripping himself to shreds at the MetLife Stadium, The Rock was expected to work a monster program opposite former nemesis Brock Lesnar.
Rock vs. Brock at SummerSlam?
That's the kind of feud that can buy you a spot on the video game cover and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that a deal was already in place prior to his unceremonious exit from the ring. To be fair, it was less than three months ago and those checks have probably long since cleared.
In this case, WWE is the victim of poor timing, rather than guilty of employee bashing.
The argument has also been made (example) that The Rock is deserving of a spot on the cover -- even if WWE knew he was never coming back -- simply because he's "The Great One" and has carried the company on more than one occasion.
I don't agree.
In sports, most of your accolades come from your accomplishments. Muhammad Ali is often cited as the finest pugilist of all time, while Michael Jordan made basketball his bitch. The difference in professional wrestling, is that individual success is not defined by wins and losses and cannot be achieved without the backing of the organization.
In short, it's a popularity contest.
Chris Davis doesn't need the Baltimore Orioles to promote him, he just needs to tear the cover off the ball -- which is what he's been doing -- to get over. If Justin Gabriel gives WWE fans a five-star match, he might get some soft applause from the audience.
But it's a match that may not even make the airwaves.
He's at the promotion's mercy, as are the rest of the wrestlers. Getting the cover of the WWE video game is like breaking The Undertaker's streak. Not in significance, of course, but in the way it would do much more for an up-and-coming superstar compared to an established veteran.
Anyone else voting for D-Bry?
Above all else, the cover of the WWE video game should reflect the state of the union, who (and what's) hot at the moment. You can look back at some of the previous covers, like Punk's, and immediately identify with the storylines from that era.
I look at WWE 2K14 and think "Gee, too bad he didn't hang around to wrestle Lesnar."