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Posted at 9:57 AM ET, 02/15/2011

The Rock returns to WWE's 'Monday Night Raw,' with an assist from social media

By Justin Bank
the rock
Dwanye Johnson a.k.a. the Rock. This is not his wrestling costume. (Diyah Pera/20th Century Fox/AP)

A note: I, Melissa Bell, know nothing about wrestling. It scares me a little. However, my friend Justin Bank is obsessed to the point of sounding like a kid on Christmas Eve when the subject comes up. Why is this soap opera pageantry of men in tights so fascinating? Why is the sky blue? How do you catch a moonbeam in your hand? I've agreed to let Justin wax philosophical on what he calls "a huge moment in wrestling history," as an attempt to better understand this mind-boggling subject.

So it was that on Valentine's Day, 2011, that the WWE universe was greeted with the return of its favorite son, the well-known grappler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson. Though the live audience in Anaheim and the millions (and millions) watching at home were more likely to refer to him by any of his self-anointed ring names: the Rock, Rocky Maivia, the Great One or, most appropriately, the People's Champion.

For those who haven't checked in with professional wrestling since the golden era of the 1980s dominated by Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, the Rock was the promotion's biggest star of the late '90s and early aughts who eventually went on to Hollywood fame and fortune. And for those who haven't followed since the Rock left to star in such films as "Tooth Fairy" and "Race to Witch Mountain," it is time to come back to the wrestling fold. The Rock has returned. He will be the special host for Wrestlemania XXVII on April 3. And he's already called out John Cena with some mild expletives along the way.

But chances are that you already know that. The Rock's return was a trending topic on Twitter and Google on Tuesday morning. And an old camp friend or work acquaintance might have already alerted you to the news on one of your social networks. And that is no accident.

The WWE is focused on extending storylines from their cable shows to your Facebook feed. Mashable recently reviewed the company's social media strategies and concluded that:

The strategy seems to be working for WWE so far. It has 16.8 million fans across its Facebook pages, and its an active fan base. The main WWE Page ranks at #45 on the list of top pages by fan count, and each posts yields on average 5,000 interactions (comments and likes) each. Last year, WWE's top 30 Facebook Pages received more than 1 billion post impressions and 7.1 million interactions, according to WWE.

So the creative minds that once worked up angles turning Shawn Michaels's heel by giving Marty Jannety sweet chin music through Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's window now help @TheMiz call @JohnCena a "midcard jobber" on Twitter. The Rock has parachuted back into this wider digital landscape where personality, mike skills, and the ability to shoot an effective promo are as important, if not more so, than actual ring skills. Monday night, he even asked fans to upload their pictures from the night to his Facebook page, demonstrating that the Rock wanted to smell-la-la-la-la-la what his fans were cooking.

By Justin Bank  | February 15, 2011; 9:57 AM ET
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The Rock finally returned to the WWE and he will finally breathe some new life into this product. I read on what John Cena plans are for The Rock on next weeks Raw. I didn't want to spoil it for anyone so you'll have to go to the website to read it. But it's about time Cena turned full fledge heel!

Posted by: 1431 | February 15, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

tino - laying the smacketh down.

Posted by: awsunder | February 15, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I thought for sure Tooth Fairy would be his cash cow. Excellent article Mr. Bank.

Posted by: erinhaggerty | February 20, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

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