Pruett’s Pause: WWE Raw – The Rock returns to promote casual sexism, Triple H celebrates, The Authority defies logic once again, and A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho

By Will Pruett

Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets. Also, he just signed up for commercial free Hulu. His life is wonderful.

The return of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to dominate 30-ish minutes of Raw is probably the leading topic coming out of the show last night. There is always a strange disconnect for me when The Rock is dropped into modern wrestling. The Rock is a character from another time. When The Rock was wrestling, women were regularly insulted with insinuations being made about their sexuality, calling a man a woman was still an insult, and “penis” jokes tended to get laughs from the majority of the audience. The year 2,000 was very different.

It’s 2016 and The Rock came out on Raw peddling his old act. He delivered a couple humorous exchanges, first with The Miz, then with Big Show. After these, he started down a depressing greatest hits list, which served to remind me of most things I dislike about late-90’s wrestling.

Let’s discuss the Lana insults first. Why did The Rock need to insinuate participation in sexual gratification with Lana? Who’s character does this help? What purpose did it serve? Lana looking visibly uncomfortable the entire time and seeming to resent the requirement to participate in this segment didn’t help things. This was bad storytelling, bad television, and a really depressing reminder of what it is to be a woman in modern WWE.

From the awkward Lana exchange, we move on to Rock’s “I woke up early today” speech, which was mildly compelling in 2011, but serves little purpose now.

Rock then had a confrontation with The New Day. Of all the acts in WWE, nothing demonstrates an understanding of modern humor and modern pop culture like Xavier Woods, Big E, and Kofi Kingston. They aren’t just fun, they are a bridge to modernity WWE should cross. They are self referential and delightful. They aren’t a perfect act, but they are completely necessary.

When it came time for Rock and New Day to meet up, I thought we may see something delightful and fun. Instead, we saw Rock refer to Big E as “Big Mama” and mock their very popular merchandise as “Llama penises”. This is par for the course with Rock. He managed to insult women, men, anyone in between, and get a dick joke in there. The Rock checked everything off of his list.

I know it’s unpopular to criticize The Rock. He is charismatic and occasionally delightful. He is a mega-star, not just in wrestling, but in life. When he shows up, it is a big deal. Here’s the crux of my argument: Rock was hilarious prior to breaking out the sexism and dick jokes. He didn’t need to resort to these tactics to be entertaining. Rock is better than this and wrestling fans should be better than this. The entire wrestling industry should be better than this.

The Rock seemed to encapsulate everything the world describes as being “a bro”. He drives a lifted truck. He mocks those different than him. He is intolerant of women or effeminate men. Honestly, Rock didn’t remind me of a superhero here. He reminded me of people who bullied me in high school (only a version of them where they’ve done a ton of cocaine before bullying me).

It is what it is. I doubt wrestling fans will stop worship Rock’s simple-minded humor. I doubt WWE will stop begging Rock to grace them with his presence. I doubt I’ll stop writing about wrestling despite the absolute flood of idiocy about to rain down on me on my Twitter, email, and in the comments on this article (luckily, we get to approve comments, so you’ll likely not see the dumbest ones).

And now for some random thoughts:

– Triple H’s victory speech about wrestling being his religion on Raw sounded more like a protagonist Drew Galloway promo from TNA. He was once again presented as a protagonist forwarding his own story, not as an arrogant undeserving man fixing the system to operate in his favor. The Triple H character has yet to be a bad guy.

– Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon were pretty entertaining gloating together.

– Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last three months of WWE television have been about the McMahon family not wanting Roman Reigns in the WWE Championship picture. Why exactly did they give Roman another shot at a title match as this show closed? What purpose did this serve? This is another example of the “unfair” authority figure story not fitting in. It doesn’t work and it automatically breaks the WWE storytelling universe.

– Kevin Owens getting a hard-fought win over Dolph Ziggler while selling his injuries from Last Man Standing and the Rumble match was a surprise. I don’t mind Owens winning at all. It does make him seem like a tough guy.

– I can’t believe the Flo Rida segment made the Hulu version of the show. How depressing for me.

– A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho was a decent introduction to Styles through a competitive match. It could have been crisper and it could have not included Jericho loudly calling spots, but it was okay. In a way, it reminded me of the Jericho vs. Bryan match from the 2010 debut of the original NXT. It outperformed Jericho vs. Bryan though.

– The WWE women’s division is once again confusing. WWE had a good thing going with protagonist Becky Lynch and antagonist Charlotte. They managed to bring us all a character we loved and a character we wanted to see lose. Then, on Sunday, they introduced Sasha Banks into this mix. Sasha was closer to being an antagonist when last seen. Crowds are cheering for her. She isn’t exactly acting in an honorable way. Is Becky the lone hero fighting against two villains? Is the whole idea seeing Charlotte and Sasha, two villains, fighting each other? WWE is veering off course quickly.

– Just as Becky Lynch was catching on, she seems to be the odd woman out. Strange.

– Bray Wyatt and Kane sure did have a match.

– Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose defeated Rusev and Sheamus. After doing so, they decided to continue with an unprovoked attack on Rusev, putting him through a table in a violent manner. Why? What did this accomplish? Roman Reigns continuously refuses to act in an honorable way. It’s hard to feel bad for a protagonist I am convinced (by his onscreen actions) is a jerk.

– The Fastlane main event of Reigns vs. Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar feels like a way to make people dislike Roman even more. Sure, he is the likely winner of it, but he will also be the third most popular wrestler in the match. Roman doesn’t have the aura of Lesnar or the fan support of Ambrose. This has “mistake” written all over it and continues the weird trend of Roman not being positioned well at all.

This was not a fun episode of Raw to watch and it felt like a major letdown after a very good Royal Rumble. WWE has a lot of time to let WrestleMania stories simmer and boil over. Hopefully they are setting the correct pieces in place.

Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime or email me at itswilltime@gmail.com.



The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...


Readers Comments (26)

  1. Are you always an over sensitive pussy?

  2. I feel sorry for you for the comments (and commentary) you’ll inevitably get for this. You’re not wrong, though.

  3. I don’t mean to sound like an dic* but you should really pull the stick out of your as* and try to enjoy Raw for once.

    OMG he joked about something sexual with a woman. Dude, that attitude is exactly what is wrong with this country today. It wasn’t meant to insult, offend, or whatever. It was meant to entertain. And it did. At least to those of us that can separate reality from non-reality. Quite honestly, if that’s what you really feel, you’ve not been able to enjoy 50% of anything on WWE tv since 1994.

    • Actually, it is your attitude which is what is wrong with your country today (yes, I’m not American). The fact that you think it is acceptable to use people to get a cheap laugh and to disrespect others for one’s own benefit is what is wrong with this picture. The problem is not that he made a sex joke, the problem is that a man of the Rock’s size and position made a woman feel uncomfortable with the rubbish coming out of his mouth. That is simply…bullying and sexual harassment.

      Fantastic blog post, as a huge Rock fan from back in the day I absolutely cringe when I see him come on my screen in 2016. Time to move on people, getting laughs in this manner is immature.

    • I think the worst of what he said isn’t what he said, but how mean-spirited and condescending this writer sounded. Anyone who disagrees with him is bringing “idiocy,” it’s like reading something from a curmudgeon who hates the world and everyone in it, but still acts like they’re in the Right.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Bob. This critique of RAW was overly pretentious. It’s funny that the author writes like an intellectual snob, but can’t be bothered to use proper grammar. The writing of this article was more offensive than anything on RAW.

  4. What you are complaining about is entertainment. Do you get offended when watching a TV show if there is a character that reminds you of a high school bully? If so, you are not the typical WWE viewer. Also, if you are watching with a child under the age of 14, you have a valid argument. I think WWE/Vince needs to take a good look at ratings and what is attracting eyes. Specifically, Twitter ratings. There are not a lot of 8 year olds tweeting bringing eyes to WWE, but there are a lot in the 14+ demographic. As TV ratings begin to slowly dip again going back to TVPG, I predict that post WrestleMania WWE will start moving back to what draws higher ratings, and that is an edgier product.

  5. “When it came time for Rock and New Day to meet up, I thought we may see something delightful and fun. Instead, we saw Rock refer to Big E as “Big Mama” and mock their very popular merchandise as “Llama penises”. This is par for the course with Rock. He managed to insult women, men, anyone in between, and get a dick joke in there. The Rock checked everything off of his list.”

    The SJWs & PC Principal from South Park would be so proud of you Pruett. Stop being so sensitive about it. Not every joke has to be “PC” or “non-offensive”. This generation looks for any little thing to be offended or outraged by.

  6. While I do respect your opinion, the argument of who did this help or what purpose did it serve is kind of asinine in regards to Lana. What purpose did it serve for Miz or Big Show to get made fun of by Rock and you said that was hilarious? That isn’t an argument I agree with, especially because everything Rock said was in the context of the show to Lana, just like it was to Miz and Show, when he referred to them having the showdown in Brooklyn in Oct. 2014.

    Though I do get your argument in regards to women in wrestling, there’s a fine line between being offensive and our society perpetuating too politically correct of a world. You said Lana looked upset, don’t you think she’s playing a character that is upset because Rusev is right there? Who knows, maybe you’re right and someday she’ll speak out against the segment when she’s out of WWE.

    I’m surprised people aren’t more up in arms over the Goldust-R-Truth segment.

  7. The title of this blog really should be Pruett’s Moral Compass. Seriously, try watching Raw without your mom in the same room, if you’re allowed.

  8. why did I even read this? journalism fail

  9. Thank you! I absolutely agree with what you’ve written. Rock’s whole segment was not only too long, it was insulting. The Lana scene was sexist to no end and him naming different sex moves was pure frat humor. I didn’t think the segment with Big Show was any better: belittling and mocking him (I can imagine someone arguing “he’s just kidding!”), the only thing missing was insulting his manhood. But we got that later with the New Day.Xavier and the others were the nerds who can talk Rock into a corner, but the Jock, sorry ROCK, got all the cheers for “no, YOU’RE studid” and a “your mama” quip. And then, because Rock was such a hero on this day, he sends out his family to beat up the nerds.

    All this I see reflected in Reigns, btw, as you point out yourself. Reigns is not a face, not a hero. He constantly goes for revenge (like putting Russev through the table), grins and shrugs everything off like a rebellious teenager and makes stupid, offensive jokes that would only impress bros and talks a lot about his family who he ultimately never helps. He’s a big hero in all the words they give us, but never in actions. Cena at least had the mantra of Hustle, Loyalty, Respect which he lives out.

  10. You just can’t criticize the Rock alone. What about Rusev? Why couldn’t he (Rusev) protect his own fiancee? He was there too. So doesn’t Rusev need the same criticism too?

  11. You can’t just criticize the Rock alone. What about Rusev? Lana is his fiancee and he also in that segment too. Why are not also getting on Rusev for his protecting his fiancee?

  12. I actually agree with much of your points about The Rock. The bro attitude and demeaning everyone around him worked in 1999/2000, but it’s a different time now. My other bone to pick about him is how he’s not *really* The Rock anymore, is he? It’s Dwayne Johnson, the actor, PLAYING The Rock. Because they’re so adamant about telling the audience “Hey, this is a big-time Hollywood mega-star! Not just a wrestler from another era, no no!” And honestly, for all the hype they’ve been spouting about Rock being at Mania 32, if he’s not gonna ACTUALLY WRESTLE, then I’m done caring about what he does anymore.

    A fair critique of Raw, for the most part. But I will point out that the reason Reigns and Ambrose put Rusev through the announce table was because Rusev did the exact same thing to Reigns at the Rumble. Simple payback.

  13. So pleased that somebody else has the unpopular opinion of the Rock’s humor being outdated. He isn’t the only culprit, but I do find it backwards when he makes slightly sexist comments and also makes fun of men for being effeminate, effeminate men shouldn’t be seen as an insult. Yes it’s fiction, but as he is the hero/good guy, he shouldn’t be making such jokes which people look up to.

    As a gay man myself who watched wrestling, everytime a man is ridiculed for his supposed manliness, I just cringe and find it embarrassing if I have friends with me who live in 2016. Rock isn’t the only culprit and it happened a lot more during the Attitude Era. Using gay/female anything of the sort as an insult, sends a strong message to those groups of people about their standing.

    • This comment reminds me why I write about wrestling the way I do. Thank you so much for sharing and for reading. Have the best day.

  14. Not even wrestling is safe from the wrath of social justice warriors.

  15. Spot on re: the rock and Lana. She has no choice but to agree to segments (as we remember from the Charlotte/Paige/Reid thing) without fear of punishment.

  16. I agree that we could have done without the rocky and lane bit. It belittles her on screen character and makes rusev look like a chump. (Not that the writers haven’t done that already over the course of the last 6 months).

  17. Couldn’t agree more with this article. The weird section with The Rock and Lana was hefty creepy (though not as spine-curlingly creepy as Ric Flair’s spot with Becky Lynch the night before). Oh and while we’re on the subject of Flair, it’d be good if he could stop “WOOOO!”ing every 20 seconds like a cuckoo clock that’s got a faulty cog.

    “Quite honestly, if that’s what you really feel, you’ve not been able to enjoy 50% of anything on WWE tv since 1994.”
    I stopped watching around that time and have only started again recently…pretty much about the time NXT started having decent female matches for a Women’s Championship, funnily enough, though that’s probably a coincidence.

  18. You all have no idea how much joy rude comments have brought to my life this week. Thank you for proving one of the many points I was making.

    • Thin skinned I see. This has been the Rock’s character since 1999, sorry he’s not as “evolved” as you think you are.

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