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WWE SmackDown Recap: The Rock Steals the Show with Bizarre Heel Turn

HomeSports NewsWWE SmackDown Recap: The Rock Steals the Show with Bizarre Heel Turn

Memphis, Tennessee (March 16, 2024) – Friday night’s episode of WWE SmackDown emanated from the FedExForum in Memphis and was highlighted by a strange and controversial appearance from The Rock.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made his long-awaited return to WWE programming amidst rumors that he would hold a “Rock Concert” segment similar to the one he did on Raw a few weeks ago. And just as speculated, The Rock did indeed take the ring to perform songs and entertain the raucous Memphis crowd.

However, what started as a feel-good nostalgia act quickly devolved into something far more perplexing.

The Electric Return

When The Rock’s iconic music hit, the FedExForum erupted into deafening cheers. The People’s Champ soaked in the adulation from his loyal fans as he made his way to the ring, smiling and slapping hands along the way.

Once in the ring, The Rock grabbed a microphone and played to the crowd like the beloved babyface he’s been for the majority of his career. He shouted “Finally…The Rock has come back home!” drawing raucous approval.

The Rock then launched into his trademark tongue-in-cheek insults and catchphrases, mercilessly mocking stars like Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins to the delight of the fans. At one point he even borrowed a popular crowd chant, emphatically yelling “I love you too!” in response to fans shouting their affection.

A Jarring Shift

Up until this point, The Rock’s segment felt like a throwback to his glory days as the most popular star in the business. However, the tone shifted dramatically about 15 minutes in.

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After grabbing an acoustic guitar and threatening to perform some “rock concert” songs, The Rock’s demeanor changed. He suddenly turned his vitriol towards Cody Rhodes’ supporters, referring to them as “crybabies” and “whiny bitches” for being upset about Rhodes crying on Raw earlier in the week.

“You Cody crybabies out there, listening to your hero whine and bitch like a little punk…it’s pathetic,” The Rock snarled as the cheers turned to a mix of boos and gasps.

He then addressed Cody’s mother directly in one of the night’s most chilling moments.

“Hey Cody’s mom, I can’t wait to take one of my million dollar belts to your son. I’m going to make him bleed his own blood, and then I’m going to give you that very belt as a souvenir,” The Rock stated in a cold, heelish tone completely contradictory to his earlier affable persona.

Inexplicably, The Rock also made a reference to the Disney movie Moana, which felt completely out of place given the dark overtones of his promo.

A Conflicting Character

Throughout the bizarre segment, The Rock kept switching between beloved babyface catering to the fans, and dastardly heel mercilessly taunting the show’s top protagonists Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins.

He frequently played to the crowd for huge pops and cheers with nostalgic catchphrases and jokes. Yet, in almost the same breath, he would cut scathing insults towards Rhodes and his mother that left the arena in shocked silence.

At one point, The Rock even brought back his old heel entrance music and “The Final Boss” moniker, essentially confirming his intentions to play the villain role.

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This whiplash between fan favorite and devious heel made the segment somewhat confusing and pulled the audience in conflicting emotional directions.

Most fans still wildly cheered The Rock’s every move, unable (or unwilling) to boo one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. However, his words and actions positioned him firmly as an antagonistic force fixated on destroying Cody Rhodes’ fairy tale underdog story.

A Blurred Line

While unorthodox and tough to categorize, this dichotomy between lovable legend and despicable bad guy seems to be an intentional creative choice.

Clearly, WWE wants to keep The Rock’s immense popularity intact, even while forcing him into an adversarial role against crowd favorites like Rhodes. This allows fans to still cheer and buy into The Rock’s charismatic persona, even as he opposes their beloved heroes.

In that way, The Rock straddled the line between heel and babyface in his SmackDown appearance. He delivered audacious insults and made villainous promises, yet still played to the audience for adulation.

This leaves open the possibility for a full-fledged babyface turn down the line once the Rhodes program concludes. That way, The Rock could smoothly transition back to a heroic role for his rumored match against Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns.

A Slow Burn

Blurring the character lines could also allow for a more gradual, slow-burn heel turn that culminates on a bigger stage like WrestleMania 40.

WWE may be protecting The Rock’s merchandise sales and avoiding a decisive turn until closer to ‘Mania season. That would maximize the emotional impact and shock value when The Rock fully commits to his heel character.

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Either way, this controversial SmackDown appearance blurred the traditional babyface/heel lines in a way rarely seen in modern wrestling. It left many fans conflicted and scratching their heads in true “Delta 9” fashion.

Only time will tell if this was a strategic character decision or simply a misfire in execution. Regardless, it gave The Rock a chance to stir up publicity and remain a topic of conversation in the build towards WrestleMania.

Other SmackDown Notes:

  • LA Knight continued his electric rise, calling out AJ Styles for a match at WrestleMania 40 that Styles quickly accepted. This dream match-up should be a showstealer.
  • Legado del Fantasma and New Catch Republic advanced in a convoluted tournament to determine SmackDown’s entrants in the WrestleMania 6-pack ladder match for the Undisputed Tag Titles.
  • Jimmy Uso emphatically accepted Jey Uso’s challenge for a match at WrestleMania during a fiery backstage promo, setting up a potential show-stealing family clash.
  • Logan Paul was announced as the special guest referee for a Triple Threat US Title match pitting him against Randy Orton and Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 40.
  • Santos Escobar scored a quick win over Dragon Lee before Carlito and Rey Mysterio got involved, setting up a Mysterio vs Escobar singles match next week.
  • In the main event, Damage CTRL caused a DQ in Bayley vs Dakota Kai after Naomi made her allegiance clear by trying to make the save for Bayley.
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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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