It's been less than a month since Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wrote a very angry Instagram message allegedly calling out his glory boy Fast 8 co-star, Vin Diesel. In that time, Fast 8 crew members have reportedly strongly asserted that the feud is real, and the two actors have dug in, trading shots back and forth. They've progressed to the passive-aggressive stage of celebrity feuding, where shade is currency—last week, The Rock left out Vin's name when thanking the Fast crew as filming wrapped, and this week, Vin said that The Rock's role was originally meant for Tommy Lee Jones.
Now is the point of the article where I remind you that the validity of this feud is very much up in the air. I've long maintained that the conflict makes much more sense as a Fast 8 publicity stunt. An effective one—this website has written 12 articles about The Rock and Vin, and by association Fast 8, this month alone, and the movie doesn't come out for another eight months. Now, a report from Life & Style of all places has added to this publicity argument and mapped out a very convincing end game for this so-called feud: this is all leading up to WrestleMania 33.
An "insider" told Life & Style, "They are playing a huge prank. The Rock convinced Vin to amp up the drama between them so they could turn it into a WWE match to help promote the April 2017 release of Fast 8." Now, you may have real trouble trusting a gossip magazine that's incorrectly yelled "KHLOE KARDASHIAN IS PREGNANT" so many times. And there's a very good chance this "insider" is a guy who parked Vin Diesel's car one time. But put all of that aside and you have to admit that this all makes way too much sense. WrestleMania is on April 2 next year, a mere 12 days before Fast 8 will be released. Staging a satisfying conclusion to a months-long feud—what better last-minute promo is there? And you better believe The Rock has done this kind of thing before. I'm going to let my friend, pro wrestling historian and kayfabe expert, khal, take it from here:
Back before the WWE turned professional wrestling into “sports entertainment,” the best wrestlers were the ones who knew how to “talk people into the building,” a.k.a. legends like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, big talkers with even larger personalities who could string together promos that would make you want to cop tickets to see them kick some ass/get their asses kicked. As the WWE became the only wrestling organization in America that mattered, the necessity of “talking people into the building” dwindled, but The Rock is one star who has continued employing the art. In 2011, he took that to the extreme with John Cena, building up animosity with John Cena for an entire year before they met up at WrestleMania 28 in a match that was billed as “Once In a Lifetime.”
The funniest part is that their “feud” actually began much earlier. As far back as 2008, Cena started throwing darts at The Rock, wondering why the Hollywood star “can’t come back” to the WWE, especially after saying “he loved wrestling and wanted to do this all his life.” He went further, saying “Just don't f*** me around and tell me that you love this when you are just doing this to do something else. That's the only thing that gets me really pissed off.” There were reports of a genuine hostility brewing between these two, but it wasn’t until The Rock returned to the WWE in 2011 that the shit really hit the fan. He served as the “host” of WrestleMania 27, becoming a part of the main event (which featured John Cena and The Miz), and accepting Cena’s challenge for a battle at WrestleMania 28 the following year. That 2011-2012 calendar year saw them beefing on Twitter, working as a tag team during that year’s Survivor Series, and having concerts on Raw, throwing shots at each other all the way.
The culmination of this year of hype, which was a main event match for the WWE Championship, turned into a huge payday for the WWE. ‘Mania 28 ended up being their highest grossing pay-per-view event ever at $67 million, and they also made $8.9 million in attendance. All told, WrestleMania 28 was WWE’s highest grossing live event at the time. It has only been eclipsed by WrestleMania 29, which had the same Rock/Cena main event.
These fabricated dramas, when the roots are laid early, work, and no one understands that better than The Rock. The guy's whole life is promo, so why would this be an exception?
And for anyone arguing back at this, "Why would Fast 8 need extra promotion? Furious 7 made a billion dollars!" you're right—the Fast and Furious franchise is extremely lucrative and successful. But do you really think a Hollywood studio, the essence of capitalist greed, is cool with not making more money? You will never hear an exec say, "You know what, we don't need to be as successful this time around." As a Hollywood douche bag once wrote:
See you at WrestleMania.