Two of Hollywood’s biggest WWE Superstars, John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, have returned to the squared circle as the ongoing WGA & SAG-AFTRA strikes continue. On September 15, on a random Friday Night SmackDown episode, The Rock returned in front of an unsuspecting Denver crowd. He received standing ovations, as The Rock repeatedly said how good it felt to be home. And who could blame him? His current standings in Hollywood has taken a bit of a hit, and that’s before you consider the lack of roles, appearances, and projects to promote due to the strike.
NBC also let go of Dwayne Johnson’s autobiographical series Young Rock. It showcased the wrestler-turned-actor in different chapters in his life, from his upbringing, playing football for the University of Miami, to becoming a wrestling star. With his show ending, Black Adam flopping, his XFL losing $60 million, and having to bury his feud with Vin Diesel to appear in the next Fast and the Furious movie, it appeared Johnson started hitting Rock Bottom.
Meanwhile, at the start of the month, WWE announced that Cena would return to SmackDown and will be making appearances for seven consecutive weeks beginning September 15 at Ball Arena in Denver through the end of October. Outside of reprising his role as Peacemaker in the new Mortal Kombat game, Cena is in the same position as his other acting peers. However, the difference is he still has a venue of entertainment, like The Rock, where he can still earn some pocket money.
Cena and the Rock even had a little backstage confrontation, which is assuredly a tease meant to echo an upcoming rematch between the two for WrestleMania 40, ten years after their initial clash at WrestleMania 29. Even if the match doesn’t come to fruition, other opportunities come to mind. The Rock mentioned earlier that day on Pat McAfee’s ESPN show, the possibility of returning at this past year’s WrestleMania in a match against Roman Reigns.
Now, there is speculation that Dave Bautista will make a return despite being retired from in-ring action. In a very recent interview, Bautista mentioned that due to the writers’ strike at Hollywood, his schedule is very open, and that if WWE makes a call for him to make an appearance, he will be open to it.
In a recent interview on the Perform Podcast, Bobby Lashley expressed his strong desire for a one-on-one showdown with Batista. The 6-time world champion showered Bautista with immense praise before disclosing his aspiration to go head-to-head with him in a match.
It would all be great timing, and bringing back Hollywood Superstars has already proven to be a success in ratings.
According to Deadline, The Rock’s appearance on Fox’s Friday Night SmackDown had a significant impact, drawing in 2.6 million viewers, marking a 23% increase compared to the previous week’s audience. Compared to a year ago, the viewership saw a 16% rise.
The Rock’s presence also resulted in a notable improvement in the 18-49 age group demographic, elevating Friday Night SmackDown’s rating to 0.7, equivalent to approximately 918,000 viewers in that age bracket. This represents a remarkable 33% week-over-week increase and a substantial 40% rise compared to the same period last year.
Furthermore, it claimed the top spot in broadcast primetime on Friday among the 18-49 and 18-34 age groups.
WWE also showcased The Rock’s return on social media, which reportedly accumulated over 100 million views.
The move is sure to rustle some feathers, not only for Hollywood folks looking for solidarity but also for young talent in the locker rooms seeking camera time.
If the world can make Drew Barrymore a villain, Cena, Johnson, and Bautista are not immune to the same scathing criticism or accusations of being a scab.
WWE SmackDown, Fridays, check your local listings