"Because of you and I give you my word, I am never, ever, going away"
-- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on RAW, Feb 14, 2011.
Since The Rock uttered these words after a seven year absence from WWE, we have wondered exactly what they meant – we all knew that he had obligations outside of WWE, and wouldn't be back every single week on WWE TV (nor would some people even want him around every single week on WWE TV). This past Monday on RAW, he vaguely clarified what "never, ever going away" meant: loosely, it means he will appear from time to time, with always something to look forward to in the sometimes-distant future.
Is this a bad thing, or a good thing?
First, let's further define his words; if we want to get literal, here is every appearance The Rock has made since his return:
RAW: Feb 14/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock returned to be announced as the guest host of Wrestlemania 27 (The Rocks return on WWE TV after 7 years)
RAW: Feb 28/2011 (TAPED)
The Rock made an appearance via satellite on the Titantron on RAW to talk about John Cena
RAW: March 14/2011 (TAPED)
The Rock made another appearance via satellite on the Titantron and and did a segment where he had a youngster mock John Cena
RAW: March 28/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock appeared live on RAW to confront John Cena in the ring for the first time (6 days before Wrestlemania 27)
Wrestlemania 27 (LIVE)
The Rock appeared as the guest host of Wrestlemania 27, and interfered in the WWE Championship match between John Cena and The Miz.
RAW: April 4/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock appeared on RAW the day after WrestleMania after being called out by John Cena and challenged him to a match at WrestleMania 28.
RAW: May 2/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock made an appearance in his hometown of Miami to celebrated his 39th birthday. John Cena stated that he would keep the WWE championship until WrestleMania 28 so that their match would be for the title. (How far a distant memory is this one?)
RAW: October 31/2011 (TAPED)
The Rock appeared via video to announce he would accept John Cena's offer at Survivor Series.
RAW: November 14/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock presented himself for a 3-hour episode named "RAW Gets Rocked".
Survivor Series: November 20/2011 (LIVE)
The Rock and John Cena defeated The Miz & R-Truth. After the match, The Rock gave John Cena a 'Rock Bottom'.
RAW: Feb 28/2012 (LIVE)
The Rock responded to John Cena and met him face to face in the ring.
In total, from Feb 14, 2011 to Mar 1, 2012, The Rock has made 11 fresh appearances on WWE TV (not counting the WrestleMania 29 Press Conference and vignettes of The Rock attending movie premieres, visiting his high school, etc). Eight of those appearances were live, 3 were taped.
That's 11 appearances in 12 and a half months, which averages out to one appearance every 1.14 months. Rock has appeared live once every 1.56 months and made an address "via satellite" once every 4.17 months.
The most glaring statistic is the number of taped appearances by The Rock -- John Cena has started a hash tag on Twitter about Rock's lack of being in the arena: #TeamFilmIt. In reality, it's the combination of some taped appearances and the amount of time between appearances that creates the illusion that Rock is always "via satellite" -- even though that may not entirely be accurate.
Aside from that, based on The Rock's habits in the past 12 and a half months, we can confidently hypothesize that he will grace us with his presence on WWE TV about once a month, with the frequency picking up leading up to a pay per view matchup that will typically be announced well in advance; evidence of that includes announcing he was the guest host of WrestleMania 27 two months prior, booking his match with John Cena for WrestleMania 28 a year in advance and announcing at the WrestleMania 29 press conference recently that he will take part in that event as well.
Is this frequency enough for The Rock on WWE TV? I say yes, for many reasons. First, The Rock has nothing left to prove. I agree with the train of thought shared by the likes of Chris Jericho (said on The Rock's latest DVD release) and Lance Storm and Shane Helms (on Twitter): The Rock has absolutely nothing to prove in pro wrestling. He paid his dues and travelled the roads countless times, doing exactly what John Cena says he isn't doing today during the Attitude Era in the late 90s. The Rock is good business for WWE and many who complain about his position on the card might certainly be jealous or could not fill that role currently themselves.
On the flip side, a different reason I'm fine with The Rock staying away for periods of time is because I'm already starting to remember why I got tired of The Rock in the first place – The Attitude Era, as successful as it was, was also the era of overbearing repetition. Even with new catchphrases and techniques, The Rock has already become stale in certain areas. For example, the "(insert phrase here)? Trending on Twitter Worldwide!" game, despite it's effectiveness, is already played out – not to say The Rock (or, as John Cena would tell you, "Brian") won't be able to think of more funny material, but that time is rapidly approaching.
One thing is for sure – The rivalry between John Cena and The Rock seems genuine and personal, and with both of their fresh verbal skills (even if The Rock writes some cheat notes on his arm), we are in for an entertaining final stretch on the "Road To WrestleMania".