The Rock is returning to the ring more than four months early with WWE confirming him for Survivor Series in November. While the company says he will be part of a Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Tag Team Match with John Cena, we can take what we know from the promotional poster and know the plan is to team them together. While this obviously excites many, I have gone on record multiple times in saying that I would be against The Rock wrestling before Wrestlemania XXVIII next year. Please allow me to explain.
The Rock on WWE television is a tremendous draw. His mere presence at Wrestlemania XXVII this year sent the pay-per-view over the one million buys threshold (which is something that had not been accomplished since 2008). Travel packages for next year's show sold out in two days - something Vince McMahon admitted didn't happen for this year's show. The company is expecting tickets for next year's show in Miami to go very quickly and also expect over 1,000,000 buys, even speculating it could be the most-bought WWE pay-per-view in company history. So how does this effect The Rock competing at Survivor Series?
I feel any in-ring involvement The Rock has before Wrestlemania XXVIII cheapens his return to the ring next April. WWE wants to use the momentum of The Rock returning to not only put up stellar numbers for Wrestlemania but they are also looking to put up record numbers with Survivor Series. While the pay-per-view will obviously receive more attention than it has in recent years, what is the risk? The risk seems to be rather obvious in that overexposing The Rock in the ring makes his in-ring return at Wrestlemania less special thus kills some of the excitement and anticipation that has been building over the past year.
Showcasing The Rock on television prior to Wrestlemania is a must but putting him in the ring beforehand is risky. The first argument many who are in favor of The Rock working before Wrestlemania will argue he needs a chance to "shake off ring rust" and compete before one of the most-anticipated matches in WWE history. This argument can quickly be countered by pointing towards Triple H's return to the ring at Wrestlemania XXVII this year and his match against CM Punk this past Sunday night. Hunter hadn't wrestled in 11 months prior to Wrestlemania this year and looked great against The Undertaker. While one can point to the fact that both these matches had "no disqualification" stipulations, his work still looked fine.
The only situation I would be for putting The Rock in the ring before Wrestlemania XXVIII next year would be if he agreed to a full-time WWE return. I realize WWE's reasoning for adding him to the Survivor Series card. It keeps The Rock fresh to the WWE audience, gives him a chance for some practice and will likely "blow up" the buyrate for a struggling big four pay-per-view. However, it would be naive to ignore the negatives and the risks that adding him to card presents. Let's take a look:
Overexposure. Come on, one match overexposure? Give me a break. Yes, one match to someone that hasn't had a match in nearly eight years is overexposure. People are curious to see if The Rock "still has it" and that curiosity is going to be tempered by that one question being answered four months early. I am sure he will look fine in the ring but having him wrestle is going to eliminate a curiosity factor that I feel dulls the anticipation to Wrestlemania.
Momentum. Many people wondered how in the world WWE would handle a Wrestlemania main event that had a full year's build. I argued the fact The Rock was a big enough name to keep people interested and subtle teases to the match throughout the year, heating up towards the build to Wrestlemania would suffice. However, what is WWE going to do with The Rock not only wrestling before Wrestlemania but doing so before the "Road to Wrestlemania" pay-per-views in Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber? Is he going to wrestle a second or third time before Wrestlemania or is this just a tease and going to go away? Not only is having The Rock compete before Wrestlemania a risk but the timing is also a risk and creates complicated scenarios.
Flow. John Cena vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania has been subtly built as I expected but it's no longer going to be subtle when The Rock and John Cena get into the ring together live on pay-per-view. The program is going to be the focal point of WWE Survivor Series and in order to make logical sense, it will have to be built before and after. My question is, what happens after Survivor Series? Does The Rock disappear from WWE TV while Cena goes on to feud with another main event star? Are we just expected to forget about Rock/Cena and focus on another program before the build starts back up or is WWE going to try and make the program the focal point of programming for five months? I know many people like feuds that are built over long periods of time but could you imagine the WWE creative team trying to create an entertaining program for five months? This scenario would obviously hinge on the fact The Rock would have to agree to be involved in some capacity and I still don't see him working a full house show slate.
Injury. Injuries happen and I am not near as concerned about this as the aforementioned issues but it still needs to be mentioned. What happens if The Rock gets hurt in the match at Survivor Series? One would think WWE is going to make sure he's protected but there is still a chance of it happening. The fact he hasn't worked in eight years makes me nervous about his in-ring durability.
All and all The Rock wrestling at Survivor Series is a situation where WWE could "win the battle" and "lose the war." Ratings will increase and the Survivor Series buyrate will be saved but the biggest question is "then what?" As we've seen with stars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Bret Hart, returns have their shelf life. The Rock is a different situation because he can still work but in this situation the long-term risks in the forthcoming match to Wrestlemania seem to outweigh the short-term rewards by having him compete. I can't help but feel like WWE got impatient and are "hot-shotting" a return that should be delayed to continue the build and anticipation.