WWE What If…? The Rock Had Never Left For Hollywood
It’s easy to forget that The Rock who currently stars in about half of all movies being made is the same Rock who took the wrestling world by storm 20 years ago. The man looks so different, and not just because he is older, bigger, and has lost his hair. Every now and again, wrestling fans are reminded today’s Rock is the same one who electrified wrestling fans two decades ago. Whether that’s via a story he shares on social media, or perhaps even a quick appearance.
What Did Happen…
Although The Rock does pop back to WWE from time to time, it has now been 18 years since he hung up his full-time wrestling boots. Hollywood had already been knocking at his door, and Goldberg effectively speared him through it. The Rock would wrestle one more match the following year at WrestleMania before leaving the ring entirely for seven and a half years.
The Rock has wrestled a handful of matches since, even winning the WWE Title one last time. Although he claims he has now retired from wrestling and hasn’t had a match for more than five years, there are rumors he could come back to the ring one last time for a match with Roman Reigns. The Tribal Chief has let the power of leading his family go to his head, and may need his older cousin to step in and remind him who’s really the boss. However, what if The Rock had never left for Hollywood full time back in 2003?
The Rock wrestled and beat Stone Cold at WrestleMania XIX. That would be Austin’s final match, something fans didn’t know at the time. The following month Rock wrestled Goldberg, the WCW icon’s very first match in WWE, and one he won. The Rock disappears for almost a year after that, dabbling with the movie business. At WrestleMania XX The People’s Champion makes his triumphant return. Not for a novelty tag match, but for revenge on Goldberg.
Goldberg had become disillusioned with WWE by that point and was allowing his contract to run out. The Rock, on the other hand, had just signed a new deal. Those trying to jump start his Hollywood career wanted Rock to shed his wrestling persona, even telling him to drop his ring name and be known as Dwayne Johnson going forward. Not liking the direction in which everything was headed, Rock returned to WWE full time instead.
The Rock squashes Goldberg at WrestleMania XX, sending him off into the sunset never to return. Brock Lesnar, who beat Rock two years prior to win the WWE Title for the first time, has become an incredibly big deal during The Great One’s year off. However, The Beast is also unsure wrestling is for him until he works a program with The Rock. The two of them clash at SummerSlam that year, putting on a match for the ages that convinces Lesnar he’s in the right business.
The following year, John Cena gets his breakout moment, winning his first WWE Championship. He hasn’t faced The Rock yet, though. The two of them cross paths for what will be the first of many times over the years, trading the title back and forth as both of them rack up reigns. The Rock eventually makes it to double figures, something Cena will also do a few years later.
Thanks to The Rock ascending up the card when he did, he never had the chance to face Shawn Michaels before HBK retired the first time in the late ’90s. Michaels has been back for a while at this point, battling Triple H for the most part. He’s also had dream matches with the likes of Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho, but never The Rock. That can all change thanks to both men sticking around. They set aside their personal differences and at WrestleMania 23 have a match that is every bit as great as fans wanted it to be.
Rock continues to wrestle in WWE until 2011, at which point he crosses paths with Punk. The summer of Punk is in full swing, and Vince McMahon calls upon The Rock to help him get Punk and the WWE Title he has absconded with back under his company’s banner. Rock responds by giving the boss a Rock Bottom but adds that he will do his bidding for the fans, not for McMahon. Punk agrees to the match, but only if Rock puts his career on the line. The Great One agrees, and at SummerSlam 2011 The Second City Saint retires one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. And yes, all of this means in this alternate timeline, we don’t get Tooth Fairy. Sorry, everyone.