A sure sign that World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon is feeling the heat of financial competition from the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) is McMahon's announcement on the February 7 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw that there would be a guest host at Wrestlemania 27, scheduled for April 3 in Atlanta. One week later, on Valentine's Day, after a week of speculation, the host was revealed to be a former champion making a triumphant homecoming.
Dwayne Johnson, also known as "The Rock", leaked the news himself on his Twitter account on Sunday, but most folks thought it might be a tease. Shortly before 11 pm (ET) on Monday, the "tease" became reality, as Johnson stepped back into the persona that propelled him into superstardom more than a decade ago. While Johnson stated that he wasn't going to be at Wrestlemania to promote his next film ("Fast Five"), there will be people, especially the ones in charge of gossip shows and websites, who will make the connection nonetheless. Johnson, in the course of a nearly 20 minute promo, made some cutting remarks toward current champion and fellow crossover star Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, as well as John Cena, who'd reportedly had made some remarks about Johnson over the last year or two.
The pieces of the puzzle come together rather quickly, you see. Unable to lure former WWE & UFC champion Brock Lesnar back into the fold, McMahon went to plan B and, having all but discontinued the practice of having guest hosts on Raw (actress Ariel Winter of Modern Family, who is co-starring with Triple H in "The Chaperone", opening this weekend, was the unadvertised guest last night), and having previously fielded rumors of Johnson hosting Raw in much the same manner that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin did last year, offered Johnson the opportunity to return, 7 years after his last Wrestlemania appearance. Johnson joked that singer Justin Bieber, who is rumored to be Atlanta-bound that weekend, was offered the host's job first, but no one seemed to be buying that story.
7 years ago, Lesnar battled Bill Goldberg in what would be the last match for both men with WWE. Goldberg retired, and, of course, we know what's happened to Lesnar. Austin was the referee for that match. Now, picture the same scenario with or without the WWE title on the line, and substitute Mizanin, Cena, & Johnson, in that order, for Lesnar, Goldberg, & Austin. The difference this time is that Cena & Mizanin are assured of sticking around beyond Wrestlemania, but it's easy to picture Johnson "laying the smack down" on both Miz & Cena, the same way Austin did with Lesnar & Goldberg before him.
Rest assured that the one thing that McMahon accomplished Monday was proving Thomas Wolfe wrong. Sometimes, you can go home again.