Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rock Gingrich

Much like Gingrich, The Rock's message
can't stand up to scrutiny.
The last time Dwayne Johnson hosted Saturday Night Live, it was in early 2009 with musical guest, Ray LaMontagne. It was a solid episode, nothing as great as the first time he hosted with AC/DC and we got amazing sketches like "Nicotrel", "Papa Peepers" and The Rock as an undercover cop dressed as a prostitute on "The Lady's Man with Leon Phelps." Still, there was one sketch on Rock's 2009 appearance that really stood out, "The Rock Obama", featuring Fred Armisen as Barack Obama, trying to keep his cool as bad news and outraged commentary surrounded his first 100 days in office, and Johnson as The Rock Obama, Barack's angry, Incredible Hulk-like alter-ego. A hilarious idea, topical and something only The Rock could pull off.

Perhaps WWE should've worked on getting The Rock on SNL to hype WrestleMania rather than last night's Raw.

I don't know what happened last night, but I can't think of a time when The Rock was that bad. Even when he's just popping in to spew catchphrases (which is always), it's still fun, it's The Rock! You get to do the sing-along thing, Rock will get a zinger or two in, the crowd goes bonkers, he disappears for a few months, rinse, repeat. But The Rock's first appearance (I think?) since Survivor Series was a complete bomb; oh sure, the crowd was bonkers, but I suspect that's because they got The Rock and last week's crowd got the worst WWE moment in years, but that was not a good moment for ol' Dwayne.

The biggest mistake was opening with "yeah I know said I was never leaving again, but you're smart enough to know that I was lying." Obviously no one expected The Rock to be on Raw every week and we all knew he meant he wasn't going to be taking another seven-year vacation, but it was a gaffe to say it in the first place and an even bigger one to try to spin it like he did. Considering he named-dropped Roddy Piper later in his promo, perhaps he should've tried to equate his absences to the Hot Rod's. He could say something to the effect of while he may step away from WWE TV, he's out there raising awareness of WWE in his high-profile appearances in blockbuster movies and numerous talk show appearances. It's hard to find a better brand ambassador than The Rock, Cena certainly doesn't have his mainstream appeal.

Rock only made matters worse when he attacked Cena for "fighting for the guys in the back." Rock claimed no one fought for him and while Cena fights for the guys in the back, Rock fights for the people. So basically The Rock created a situation where it's him and the WWE fans against John Cena and the WWE wrestlers? I've often worried that The Rock's return highlights how much bigger he is than the rest of the locker room, but I never thought he'd come right out and say it. That's almost as bad as when Triple H made himself the only good guy against the revolting locker room last fall.

The rest of the promo was nothing but catchphrases and nonsense (Kung Pao Bitch, really?) until John Cena showed up and saved the segment. Yes, Cena saved the day and totally threw The Rock off his game, by saying he's not even sweating their WrestleMania match because he knows he's not fighting The Rock, he's fighting Dwayne. The Rock, visibly shaken after the exchange, basically responded with "Nuh-uh, The Rock and Dwayne are TOTALLY the same guy because I say so... smell what The Dwayne is cookin!"

I felt bad for The Rock by the time it was all over. Cena showed up and killed his momentum with just a few sentences, despite The Rock whipping the crowd into a frenzy for 25 minutes with his psycho babble baby talk. Don't get me wrong, The Rock can control a crowd like no one else, but when there's no substance behind his words, we drift away from entertainer and into cult leader territory.

It reminds me very much of the Republican presidential primary race that essentially began around the time Dwayne did the Rock Obama sketch. You could probably make this point about any of the crazies that have popped up in the race, as they all share many qualities with The Rock's performance last night: Donald Trump (celebrity), Sarah Palin (psycho babble baby talk, writing notes on hand), Ron Paul (cult leader), Herman Cain (smooth talker who makes no sense), or Rick Santorum (rampant homophobia), but there's one that really stands out - Newt Gingrich.

Much like The Rock, Newt was a superstar in the 90s that rapidly rose to power when the public began to grow frustrated with the establishment. Newt ended a generation of Democratic rule in congress and is largely responsible for the modern conservative movement, The Rock helped end the "New Generation" and is largely responsible for the Attitude Era and modern professional wrestling. Gingrich vs. Clinton and The Rock vs. Austin were the defining rivalries of the 90s, they both relied on catchphrases and buzzwords to work the crowd (or media) in their favor, and though it was for wildly different reasons, they both left in the height of their popularity.

But neither really went away, Newt slinked away to write several best-selling books while The Rock went on to make blockbuster movies and when the time was right, they both returned to what made them famous. Immediately upon their returns, they threw out some red meat to their base: Newt Gingrich complained about gay people, The Rock made gay jokes about John Cena. The Rock rambles about Kung Pao chicken, Newt talks about colonizing the moon, neither really make any sense, but when it comes out of the mouths of these particular men, it warrants discussion based on their names alone.

This is the way both men operate, they know how to rile up their audience and get people talking, but once you scratch the surface, things start to fall apart. Whether it's Newt's hilarious hypocrisy on family values despite cheating on two of his ex-wives while they were both gravely ill, or The Rock twisting himself in a pretzel on "never leaving again," they're not as bulletproof as they think are.

Meanwhile, John Cena's been taking a beating from all angles. Some of it's justified, he hasn't moved the dial upward for WWE, despite being promoted as the company's #1 guy for seven years, and sometimes he can really disappoint, whether it's in the ring or something like he did to Eve last week. But on top of valid criticisms, he has to deal with an audience that largely agrees with his message, they just hate the messenger too much to see it. He also has to deal with people with crazy eyes, like Kane and a guy who uses way too much bronzer, like The Miz. Sound like a certain President you might know?

Obviously I'm not saying that Dwayne Johnson the man is as vile and disgusting as Newt Gingrich, but in terms of his performance last night, it was positively Newtonian. He threw out the red meat, he spun the negatives into positives, went on and on about Twitter, and had the crowd believing his bullshit, no matter how crazy (seriously... Kung Pao Bitch? That deserves another "Really?!"), but two minutes of scrutiny shattered the illusion. Cena did more in those two minutes than The Rock did in 25 and the only people that should surprise are the Cena haters. Those of us who have been watching the guy with a fair eye for seven years know he can work that mic like Obama works a teleprompter, he just doesn't need to show off every time like The Rock does.

If The Rock wants to hold onto this lead he has in the polls, he's going to need to do a lot more than "Arrive. Gay Joke. Leave.", otherwise, he could find himself flaming out spectacularly. He certainly has the home field advantage at WrestleMania, but so does Mitt Romney tonight in Michigan and he's trailing the guy whose name is defined as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is often the byproduct of anal sex."

Oh and "frothy mixture?" Now trending worldwide.

1 comment:

  1. I agree mostly. The Rock is far more entertaining when in character, there is a time and a place for Dwayne Johnson, and it is not when he is in the middle of the squared circle. Sing along with the great one used to be innovative, if a little silly, but that's wrestling! This twitter bullshit, and trending lady parts and chinese dishes has to stop.

    I remember watching a promo for the 6 man hell in a cell where the rock mocked the other 5 guys superbly... Get back to that Rocky, Cena is a clown who goes into a child like state every time he is in your presence.... exploit that, and dont let the muggy, square headed jabroni get one over on you like that again... ever!!