- On a memorable Friday night at Ball Arena in Denver, WWE SmackDown was electrified by the return of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
- The highlight of the night was a touching backstage moment where John Cena welcomed The Rock with a "Welcome Home" gesture.
- The Rock's appearance, after a long hiatus, reconfirmed his iconic status in the WWE universe and his unmatched ability to captivate audiences.
It was a Friday night like no other at Ball Arena in Denver. The wrestling realm had been yearning for this for nearly four long years. The ambiance was electric as the WWE SmackDown came alive with the kind of excitement only a superstar that's as synonymous as the WWE as he is with Hollywood can produce.
The blue brand kicked off with a familiar tune, echoing "LET'S GOOOOO!" - it was Pat McAfee's music. McAfee, earlier in the day in Boulder, had hosted none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on ESPN. A jovial hour-long interview with "The Great One" might have hinted at what was to come. As Michael Cole's exuberant voice bubbled over with excitement, McAfee took to the stage, only to be interrupted by Austin Theory.
Theory, with confidence only someone as young as he is can muster, proclaimed, "This isn't SmackDown, this is Austin Theory Live!" as he reminded the audience of his young yet marked dominance, boasting about his merchandise - mugs and backpacks - and drew a sharp contrast with McAfee's run-ins with the law. But Theory wasn't just there to proclaim his accolades; he had a bone to pick. Pointing at McAfee, he declared their "unfinished business," threatening to incapacitate him, likening his soon-to-be state to an "injured Aaron Rogers."
However, McAfee, visibly under the influence of Denver's liberal laws, declined the invite to brawl. Instead, he accused Theory of disrespecting the WWE business and the audience. With passion, he asserted that SmackDown wasn't about Theory or him; it was the "people's show." And just as the anticipation peaked, the room blacked out, followed by the unmistakable strum that heralded the entrance of "The People's Champion" - The Rock.
The Ball Arena echoed with deafening chants of "Rocky" as the Hollywood A-lister made his iconic entrance, oozing in his signature charisma clad in his Project Rock jacket, complete with those signature sunglasses.
Austin Theory, trying to maintain his bravado, tried to verbally keep up with his senior, even going as far as to use The Rock's iconic line, "It doesn't matter what The Rock says." However, Johnson, seasoned and sharp, reminded Theory of the gravity of his own words and the voice of the people. Referencing Stone Cold Steve Austin, Johnson played to the tune of the crowd expertly, initiating a stadium-wide chant labeling Theory precisely what Denver thought of him - an a**hole.
As Rocky always does, he got under Theory's skin, prompting him to assault The Rock - a move he'd soon regret. In a display of dominance, Johnson gave Theory the privelege of tasting his first Spine Buster ever before following up with The Most Electrifying Move in Sports Entertainment, The People's Elbow, on Theory, flattening him. But the action was far from over. In a gesture of camaraderie, Johnson beckoned McAfee, guiding him to deliver his own version of The People's Elbow on the fallen Theory, much to the audience's delight.
The showdown seemed to wind down with a heartwarming backstage segment where Johnson met John Cena. The two titans exchanged a warm handshake, with Cena warmly saying, "Welcome Home" - an acknowledgment of Johnson's place in the wrestling universe. It was a stark contrast to the ring drama, underscoring the brotherhood behind the scenes.
Ironically, The Rock's last actual match inside the squared circle happened against John Cena at WrestleMania 29 where he lost, ending his 11th WWE Championship reign.
The night was a testament to Johnson's undying charm and his ability to stir a crowd, even after years of hiatus. There's no denying that the WWE universe and The Rock share an unbreakable bond, one forged in the fires of countless matches, promos, and iconic moments.
Whether Johnson plans on returning for a longer stint or this was a fleeting visit, one thing remains clear: The Rock and his legacy in the WWE is unparalleled, and nights like these are a stark reminder of why.