Dear Dwayne,
Two weeks ago I wrote about your return to WWE and quantified your statement: "I am never, ever going away." I'm not one to repeat subjects too often, but in this case I simply couldn't avoid it.
On Tuesday's episode of #AftermathTV on theScore, I ranted about you and your recent speeches in WWE, most notably your "Rock Concert." Unfortunately we have a hard end on #AftermathTV and aren't able to go over time like RAW typically is able to do on the USA Network, so I had to keep my rant to 45 seconds. Here, I can elaborate further.
During the Attitude Era, you were fresh, you were hungry, and it felt like you had something to prove and you truly wanted to be the greatest WWE Superstar of all time. You have accomplished much more than that, forever being in that conversation in addition to now having also conquered Hollywood. You returned to WWE to guest host WrestleMania 27, and now you will have the biggest match of all time at WrestleMania 28, which will surely be a fantastic matchup with John Cena.
At first, there was ample time between your appearances, and it didn't quite hit home just yet. Now, we have seen you on WWE TV 3 weeks in a row, and I'm starting to understand what feels off about you.
It's something not every fan might pick up on – a lot of the WWE Universe today is comprised of fans that never watched you during the Attitude Era, and to them your catchphrases and jokes are fresh. Others are your loyal fans through thick and thin and will defend you until the end no matter what is said about you (you can look at the comments on my “rant” to see that).
But then there is a segment.. perhaps a small segment, which includes myself, that feels like The Rock we're seeing today isn't the same Rock we used to know and love. This is a different Rock ... a watered-down Rock. Your speeches feel ... like you are phoning them in.
Could it be because of the PG era in WWE? I doubt it – a lot of what you are saying is not PG. Kung Pao B***h? Sleeping with John Cena's mom? Cena's lady parts? I wouldn't be shocked if many parents thought twice about letting their younger children watch you (or  Cena while talking about you, for that matter) on WWE TV after watching you in Disney films. But that's the even more perplexing part – it's not that the material is toned down.
Is it that you are being asked behind the scenes to tone it down so that you and Cena seem equal leading into WrestleMania? This has been the biggest reaction I've received to my rant and I find it the least plausible. Yes, you love the business and would do anything for it ... but why on earth would you or WWE want to showcase only 60 percent of The Rock? For someone who wants to be known as “The Most Electrifying Man in all of entertainment,” that would be a request you would simply refuse. Cena is being undervalued in this situation as someone who couldn't verbally go toe to toe with a 100 percent Rock (in my opinion he can, especially when you look at his promos now vs. the past seven years), and WWE has nothing to gain by paying for a certain percentage of a superstar. Did Hulk Hogan need to tone down his promos going into Wrestlemania 18? Did Ric Flair need to cut down the “Stylin and profilin'” so that someone could get over in the 80s? Besides, in this situation The Rock holds the cards – he's the one giving back to professional wrestling by simply appearing, so it would be ludicrous for him to appear at 60 or 70 percent capacity. If he were The Rock at 100 percent, everyone would enjoy him even more. But right now, he isn't.
Could it be a product of evolution and time? Even Metallica parted ways from their fantastic albums in the 80s (like “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets” and “... And Justice for All") and released “Load” and “Reload” in the 90s. Some people liked those later albums, some didn't, some felt like Metallica became a shell of their former selves. The reason why I can't categorize you here either is because you are still using the same catchphrases that made you famous. While your foundation is still there, it feels like the building is empty.
Especially during segments that last upwards of 15 minutes, I find myself struggling to keep interest – your “we will rock you” karaoke for me was the worst thing The Rock has ever done. So then, are you now Dwayne Johnson, or a hybrid of both Mr. Johnson and The Rock? Because like Cena has said, I don't want Dwayne, I want The Rock. Maybe one short-term solution would be to limit the promo time on TV.
Yes, I'm aware you are selling out crowds and they are playing “sing along with the Great One” (even for RAW in Cleveland where you were the major reason it drew the largest crowd in history). But it feels like, especially for the past three weeks, you are on the last day of work before going on vacation, which is why I feel like I'm in the minority here. And that's fine.
This isn't about picking sides, but I feel like Cena is out-performing you every week. The cheat notes might be a part, Cena's fire is definitely a part, and his freshness takes the cake. As my tag-team partner Jimmy Korderas pointed out on #AftermathTV, John Cena could have had four different rap sessions on RAW and all four would have been fresh. Could you?
Maybe I should just accept your speeches for what they have become – The “Big Mac formula” speech, that will stay fresh by limiting WWE appearances to an average of one per month (live or taped) due to your busy schedule in Hollywood. Maybe I should be happy like everyone else every time you appear, because you are doing wonders for pro wrestling simply by attaching your name to it again. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to do that, because I and many others know what you are capable of. The old Rock wouldn't be happy with entertaining only 80 percent of the crowd – he would have gone for 100 percent. He would have turned off autopilot and gone above and beyond. Maybe those days are gone, or maybe it's up to guys like Cena to do so, because he clearly can.
Arda Ocal is a TV personality for theScore Televivion Network. Find his blog posts here.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun