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Evaluating The Rock’s Return To The Ring

Pictured: The Rock is back, and he brought his new salt and pepper beard and gaudy-ass tattoos.

So, I watched Survivor Series this past Sunday.

I haven’t watched Raw or Smackdown in at least 5 years now, but like many seasoned wrestling fans; I’m always looking for an excuse to get back in the loop.

Unfortunately, given the general dearth of genuinely interesting or talented wrestlers in the organization these days, said reasons are scarce at best…

That being said, when it came to tuning in to Survivor Series this past weekend, much like Rikishi, I did it for The Rock:

If memory serves me, and I know it does, I believe it’s been about 7 years since The Rock last stepped into the squared circle for a legitimate wrestling match.

Sadly, despite sporting a spectacular physique, the years have not been kind to ‘ole Dwayne’s in-ring coordination.

That’s not to say his main event performance wasn’t all that bad, (it wasn’t) rather it was just a little bit disappointing to see one of my heroes slowly succumb to the horrors of bad knees and premature old fart-ism.

Despite lacking the same explosiveness and distinctive spasmatic body language, The Rock did about as well as one could expect following a 7 year layoff.

Upon entering the arena, I was kind of shocked with how little applause The Rock garnered from the live audience.

Maybe it was just my puny speakers, but it seemed to me like the crowd should’ve been louder given the gravity of the situation.

Then again, maybe my expectations for contemporary wrestling fans are a little too high given the current state of the WWF.

In any case, The Rock milked his entrance and got more applause than John Cena, so it’s all good in my book.

As one would expect in a tag match featuring a returning legend of the industry, The Rock entered the ring last, served as the initial tag partner of his team, and finished the match.

Facing off against The Miz and R-Truth, The Rock’s first moments in the match were, in my opinion; his best.

By the way, if you had asked me if the man formerly known as K-Kwik would ever headline a pay-per-view in the 21st century, I’d have told you “no fucking way.”

Funny how shit works out like that.

Anyway, in matches like this, where 2 mid-tier heels are pitted against a legend with an aura of invincibility, there’s really no logical way for the heels to build momentum against him without resorting to dirty tactics or shenanigans.

Pictured: "Shenanigans."

In going with this line of thinking, The Rock did well to cast an imposing shadow in the ring, bulling his neck and standing rigid and tall.

Basically, he straight up looked untouchable when standing next to the 3 other A-listers in the ring.

At the opening bell, The Rock cut loose with a series of rapid fire armdrags on both of his opponents.

I’ve always said there needed to be more armdrags in wrestling, so this brief sequence did well to satisfy the Rick Steamboat fan in me.

From there, The Rock basically cleaned house, knocking both men out of the ring at one time or another, and employing the first of his many signature move in the form of a somewhat flacid DDT.

It wasn’t so much the DDT itself was lacking, rather it was the gut kick preceding it that, quite literally; fell short.

Fell short as in straight-up missed the mark ala Randy Orton:


This failed gut kick would do well to sum up the whole of The Rock’s in-ring performance at Survivor Series.

To be blunt, he seemed tentative to me, like he held concern for potentially harming his fellow performers.

Strange, considering the amount of contact and brutality that was commonplace during The Rock’s heyday.

In any case, following the DDT, The Rock would later go on to execute a slow, but ably performed kip up, followed by a impressive, and very likely MMA inspired leg submission on R-Truth.

I’ll have to find out what that move was called, cause quite frankly, it was awesome.

Oh yeah, around this time the crowd started shouting, “You still got it!”

That was also awesome.

From there, the match turned into a snore fest for me, as once The Rock tagged in John Cena, the match degenerated into a one-sided beat down of the no-selling wonder.

Seriously man, I paid to see The Rock, and instead, I got stuck with 30 minutes of John Cena failing at getting his ass beat, bookended by 2 minutes of awesome Rock action.

That being said, I’m writing this article about The Rock, so I’ll be foregoing any detailed explanations of the non-Rock segments of the match.

All you really need to know is that it sucked.

Oddly enough, The Rock’s big finish at the end of the match was actually probably one of his weaker moments.

As tends to be the case with big-time wrestlers, The Rock has an ungodly number of signature moves and finishers.

During the climax of a match, many wrestlers like this *cough!* Hulk Hogan *cough!* tend to run through all their big moves like a series of bullet points.

Everybody knows it’s coming, but it’s a big part of what you pay to see when it comes to pro-wrestling.

In the case of The Rock, this involved his trademark slap punch combination, a DDT, a Rock Bottom, and a People’s Elbow to top it all off.

The weird part was, and this may have had something to do with a lack of energy in the room, but The Rock’s big finish seemed a little bit lackadaisical.

Once again, it may be a combination of bad knees and improper conditioning, but The Rock’s punches lacked the same jittery energy they used to.

As also mentioned before, his DDT fell short of the mark a second time, with the gut kick once again whiffing by a country mile.

His Rock Bottom felt wimpy.

And most electrifying move in sports entertainment or not, his People’s Elbow failed to get a rise out of me.

Despite performing well overall, The Rock seemed most uncomfortable doing the simplest and most familiar moves in his repertoire, the ones that made him famous.

In all, The Rock seemed at his best during the more heavily choreographed portions of the match at the beginning, which isn’t surprising given his recent time spent performing action scenes in Hollywood films.

He didn’t embarrass himself, and he certainly did well enough to make me glad to see him back in the saddle, but at the end of the day, it was strange to see a Rock faded to the point of being, almost human.

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Remember That One Time Rikishi “Did It For Dah’ Rock”?

Oh, how I long for the days when wrestling was still fun.

These days it seems like the WWF is more interested in plugging it’s seemingly endless supply of Twitter feeds than it is the art of pro wrestling, steel chair shots, and vehicular assault…

Oh well, as they say:

Back in the early 2000’s, the WWF made the somewhat bold decision to push the previously semi-mute Rikishi.

Originally Fatu of the Headshrinkers back in early 90’s, Rikishi’s path through the WWF saw him play a number of stereotypical heel characters ranging from Samoan to Middle Eastern, however it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that he would gain a significant following.

Joining forces with the Backstreet Boys inspired tag team Too Cool, Rikishi gained popularity largely due to his surprisingly fleet-footed dance moves involved in the crew’s victory dances.

Somewhere down the line though, Rikishi began to eclipse the popularity of Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty, (yes, those were in fact their names) resulting in him distancing himself from the group and being given the privilege to speak on the mic every now and again.

In a shocking heel turn, it would later be revealed that at Survivor Series ’99, Rikishi had run Stone Cold Steve Austin over with a car.

Boldly playing the race card, this story angle would involve Rikishi lashing out at the WWF backstage politics, alluding to the ongoing tendency of Samoan wrestlers to be cast as mid-tier “monsters” while white performers enjoyed the spotlight.

While many could look at this storyline as being silly and over the top, it’s impossible to deny the historical truth of his statements.

Probably the most entertaining thing to come out of this incident, (well, besides the whole vehicular assault thing) was the moment when Rikishi confesses to having “done it, for dah’ Rock.”

You see, Rikishi and The Rock, along with most of the Samoans on the planet, are actually cousins in real life.

Playing up this angle, Rikishi was revealed to have hit Stone Cold with the car as a means of bolstering The Rock’s popularity, and putting a fellow Samoan in power.

While I actually didn’t mind this angle all that much, given the fact that nearly a year passed between the time when Stone Cold was hit, and the time they actually revealed who the perpetrator was, it’s more than likely that the behind the scenes writers put the whole thing together out of desperation or lack of ideas.

That being said, at the very least, this whole incident provided The Rock with a shit ton of material for promos and smack talking.

To this day, “I did it, for dah’ Rock.  I did it, for dah’ people” forever sticks in my mind as one of the funnier things The Rock’s ever said, as well as perhaps my fondest memory of Rikishi as a character.

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Remember The Gobbledy Gooker?


While nowhere near as shockingly pathetic as the debut of The Shockmaster, the Gobbledy Gooker’s tragically over-hyped appearance at Survivor Series 1990 was nevertheless one of the dumbest and most pointless events in WWF history.

You see, unlike with WCW’s use of The Shockmaster, who was merely supposed to be a surprise tag partner, a one-time replacement for Road Warrior Animal; the WWF truly dug themselves into a ditch full of shit.

For several months preceding the Survivor Series pay-per-view, the WWF would routinely wheel out a float carrying what appeared to be a giant egg.

As is customary for oddball publicity stunts like this in wrestling, Gorilla Monsoon and the other commentators would totally lose their shit over the sight of this egg, sensationalizing it and generally making it sound like the most important event in human history.

Despite the ultimate pay-off, Monsoon and the other commentators deserve all the credit in the world for trying their damndest to make something of it.

Anyway, after months of build-up, the egg finally hatched at Survivor Series (staged on Thanksgiving Day) following 5 minutes of top-notch lead-in from Mean Gene Okerlund.

What emerged from the egg, was a foul (or is that, “fowl?”) beast that looked like the illegitimate offspring of Big Bird and Marjory the trash heap from Fraggle Rock.

You wanna' give your kids nightmares? Make 'em watch Fraggle Rock...

Said monstrosity, was dubbed The Gobbledy Gooker.

Curiously enough, the Gooker was portrayed by Hector Guerrero, a capable wrestler of the Guerrero clan.

Despite his in-ring ability, Guerrero would complete this segment of the show by hopping into the squared circle and lamely dancing arm-in-arm with Mean Gene.

Whether it be due to the complete and utter lack of crowd reaction, positive or negative, at the appearance of the Gooker, or the inherent absurdity of the concept; the WWF would go on to unceremoniously drop and bury the character until Wrestlemania X-Seven (one of the best Wrestlemanias) where he would re-emerge to take part in a surprisingly entertaining 19-man Gimmick Battle Royale:

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