Dwayne Johnson's recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno dumbfounded the wrestling world. Expecting The Rock to show up with his WWE title belt in tow and heavily plug his WrestleMania 29 match with John Cena, fans were left bitterly disappointed when he snubbed the company completely by avoiding the topic altogether.
This is likely to breed more backstage resentment to The Rock, which has surfaced time and time again since his return to WWE on Feb. 14th, 2011.
Firstly, there was a lot of jealousy from the likes of Randy Orton and CM Punk that after being gone from the promotion for seven years, he could waltz back into the fold before WrestleMania 27 and steal the spotlight from the performers who had been busting their ass on the road for years on end while he went AWOL.
Such criticisms were briefly stifled when that show drew over 1.1 million buys on pay-per-view without The Rock even stepping in the ring for a match, but soon new mutant arguments were being used against him.
On the eve of Survivor Series 2011, Punk lambasted Johnson for hurting morale in the locker room with his aloof, bourgeois Hollywood attitude and by acting like he was above everybody. I guess someone got his feelings hurt when Rock's busy schedule meant he didn't have the time to shake everyone's hand backstage and shoot the breeze with them, because he arrived late and had other commitments to attend to as soon as the WWE cameras stopped rolling. Even Triple H has admitted that there's still professional tension and weirdness in his unique relationship with The Rock after all these years too, partly stemming from Johnson's decision to turn his back on wrestling for an acting career instead.
Rock stuck it to his haters by rather pointedly going out of his way to follow such backstage protocol to the letter at the PPV event held in his favourite arena of Madison Square Garden, but he likely knew that the catcalls would eventually come back even louder than ever.
With The Rock coming back in January looking like a walking WWE Wellness Policy exemption, the resentment from his peers inevitably reared its ugly ahead again, though some of the points that were raised were more valid than in the past. They cited his suspiciously blown up physique as being a glaring double standard, one that was impairing his athleticism and adversely affecting his abilities inside the ring. That being said, there was still the usual petty gripes that he was only in WWE to help his own movie career and he was continuing to be a prickly isolationist in his interactions with the other talent.
You can imagine that the hatred for Dwayne Johnson is now off the charts backstage when he hasn't used his mainstream media appearances to put over WWE and treats the title as a trinket he's ashamed to wear in public. But how fair is it to point the finger of blame at the man himself when the purpose of his Tonight Show appearance was to shill G.I. Joe: Retaliation, not World Wrestling Entertainment?
As Dave Meltzer explained, talk shows like Leno are in fact highly controlled environments where the subject matters covered are agreed beforehand by the people who are responsible for making the deal:
"Dwayne Johnson didn't mention WrestleMania at all last night on Jay Leno. That likely means it was the G.I. Joe people who set up the appearance and told him to only plug the movie. Most of the time when it comes to shows like this, what you can plug is worked out ahead of time between the people who book you on the show and the people on the show. People critical of him for this one must not realize that it wasn't his decision, and usually these things aren't the decision of the celebrity."
Of course, Rock could have always gone into business for himself and mentioned the match anyway, but is it really reasonable to have expected him to piss off his paymasters at Paramount Pictures by deviating from their script? After all, his long term future is in acting not wrestling, so, whether you like it or not, his top priority should logically be to keep the movie people happy first and Vince McMahon happy second.
Is this explanation good enough for you, Cagesiders? Or are you still baying for The Rock's blood?