The Rock Discusses Training For His WWE WrestleMania 40 Return, Says Wrestling Is “Like Riding A Bike”

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‘The Final Boss’ is ready for his in-ring return.

WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia is just two days away, and that means that the highly anticipated in-ring return of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is right around the corner. The Rock last competed inside the squared circle in 2016 in a match that lasted just 6 seconds, with his last extended bout coming against John Cena at WrestleMania 29 in 2013.

Ahead of The Rock’s return to the ring, his long-time writer and senior vice president at Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions, Brian Gewirtz, spoke to ESPN, where he noted that the Hollywood megastar is fully in the zone.

“We’ve been working together for like 25 years. He’s in intense breathing and everything. And I actually felt a little uncomfortable because he was so much in that zone still. It wasn’t like laid-back, friendly Dwayne.”

-Brian Gewirtz

Whilst The Rock’s larger than life physical shape is certainly impressive, that doesn’t directly translate to the cardiovascular condition needed for a high-intensity performance in front of around 60,000 fans.

As a result, Johnson, as revealed by ESPN, put together a training camp similar to those seen in mixed martial arts or boxing as he looks to get into top shape ahead of his in-ring return, with NXT’s Gallus lending a hand as they simulated matches together.

“WWE shipped two rings to Los Angeles and worked with Johnson’s team to rent warehouses as training facilities. One ring was set up in Los Angeles, where Johnson resides. There, he simulated matches alongside NXT’s Gallus — the Scottish trio that consists of Wolfgang along with real-life brothers Mark and Joe Coffey. Since Johnson is competing in a tag-team match, he needed three wrestlers to push through in-ring sequences and hone his timing. Michael “P.S.” Hayes, a WWE Hall of Famer as part of the Freebirds and a longtime match producer for WWE, supervised those training sessions along with Bobby Roode, a former NXT, U.S., and WWE tag-team champion who’s now working as a producer. Veteran referee Chad Patton officiated those sessions while WWE medical oversaw the rehearsals to make sure it was run safely. The other ring? It was placed in a shipping container and sent off to Hawaii, where Johnson has a family home. The training ring’s journey there took about one week. The total cost: tens of thousands of dollars. In Hawaii, The Rock trained alone.”


Commenting on his training camp, Johnson revealed that he hasn’t been doing as many speed or mobility drills during his preparation, instead focusing on his timing, adding that feels as though wrestling comes back as naturally to him as riding a bike.

“Suplexes, a launch off the top rope, a catch, like bodies hitting bodies. It’s things like that that you have to do and have to prepare for. And you’re getting bruised up, you’re hitting the ropes. It comes back fairly quick. … It’s like riding a bike.”

-The Rock

On top of his return to the squared circle, Johnson is also expected to begin filming for his next acting role as MMA legend Mark Kerr in the upcoming “The Smashing Machine” biopic immediately after WrestleMania.

The Rock’s intense training camp is also likely to be with this in mind, and per Brian Gewirtz, the timing of his wrestling return ahead of the role could likely have been intentional.

“I know he is training and dieting and working out like a maniac, and I think this was strategic by design,”

-Brian Gewirtz

His performance in the ring comes first though, and many fans are hopeful that even after a long spell away from wrestling, The Rock will be able to show that he’s still capable of delivering to the level he did during his first run with the company.

Thankfully for The Rock, his leveo of experience allows for the more mental aspects of the sport to return naturally to him, although that doesn’t mean he’s been taking his foot off the gas regarding the physicality of his training camp.

“Fortunately for me, very lucky in that I became somewhat of a ring general where I see the circumference of the ring and where I need to be usually timing wise, because timing is really important in our business of wrestling. So, just putting in the work, training, the diet begins, which always sucks. And taking the falls and just getting my ass kicked every day. So, we’ll see how it goes.”

-The Rock

The report additionally notes that Johnson pushed through a full rehearsal of his WrestleMania Nigh 1 main event with Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes, and Seth Rollins at this Monday’s RAW in Brooklyn, with the plan being to do the same today in Philadelphia.

On The Rock’s return to WWE as a member of TKO’s Board of Directors, ESPN revealed that the deal started to materialise December 2021 in Atlanta, where he enjoyed a five-hour dinner with longtime friend and WWE President Nick Khan.

Two months later, in Honalulu, Hawaii, Johnson’s wife and two daughters, as well as Khan’s wife, daughter, and son, met once again to continue the dialogue.

Speaking on his relationship with Khan, Johnson praised his leadership skills as someone who is able to recognise opportunities for brand-building, something that will be increasingly important for TKO as they continue to grow.

“Nick’s an excellent leader, astute businessman and sharp dealmaker, because he’s an innovative collaborator, big-picture thinker, and has the capacity to recognize epic, disruptive opportunities for brand-building.”

-The Rock

ESPN also had the chance to speak with Khan ahead of WrestleMania 40, where he revealed that a WrestleMania 38 return for The Rock ultimately didn’t come to fruition.

For Johnson, the timing and direction is of the utmost importance, and thus, it wasn’t to be in 2022, with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s in-ring return instead being the major surprise on the night.

“Ultimately, Dwayne would say one of his greatest loves was WWE. But Dwayne needed to figure out the ‘Why?’ Beyond his love of wrestling or to try to prove that he was the real Head of the Table. So, it didn’t happen…. Dwayne went about with his empire-building career, and then we re-engaged in late 2022.”

-Nick Khan

Conversations about a possible Rock return would begin again ahead of WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood last year, although yet again, the reasoning behind his return wasn’t significant enough for him to fully commit.

“Dwayne did the on-camera intro before the Super Bowl [at SoFi]. When he was leaving the stadium, Dwayne said on camera to his videographers, ‘I’ll see you again at SoFi this April’. Ultimately, Dwayne and I met again — and again, the ‘Why’ wasn’t there.”

-Nick Khan

According to Khan, that ‘why?’ began to materialise after the formation of the TKO Group, with Endeavor CEO and longtime Johnson agent Ari Emanuel, President Mark Shapiro, and Khan discussing the possibility of The Rock getting a seat on the board.

That reinvigorated interest meant it was time for Johnson to go all in, and thus, he made his on-screen return to WWE at the Day 1 edition of Monday Night RAW on January 1st this year.

“I was excited to work with [Nick], Ari and Mark Shapiro to help expand the WWE/TKO business to new heights.”

-The Rock

The relationship with Khan was the key, and whilst a WrestleMania 39 return wasn’t to be, the timing of things this time around has created the perfect opportunity not only for the company, but for the story of Cody Rhodes to take on even greater significance.

“That relationship that I have with Nick has certainly helped propel a lot of this forward. Even though things didn’t work out philosophically for us to get the deal done for WrestleMania 39 at SoFi Stadium, that allowed this incredible opportunity for Cody Rhodes to come in. And as we are feeling and sensing and hearing from his passionate fans … what an incredible opportunity for him.”

-The Rock

The Rock’s initial direction for WrestleMania 40 saw Rhodes introduce the Hollywood star as Roman Reigns’ challenger for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at Mania 40, however, fans revolted with “We want Cody!” chants that led to the direction change towards where we are today.

Cody now has another chance to “finish the story” and capture the title that eluded his father Dusty Rhodes. For The Rock, the goal is all about making this year’s WrestleMania the biggest spectacle of all time.

“[Cody’s] gotta tell his story. So here we are in WrestleMania 40…. What can we deliver for them? How can it be unique? How could it be different? And how could we still put on the biggest WrestleMania of all time?”

-The Rock

With The Rock’s schedule often being packed full of Hollywood film shoots, many fans have been wondering how often we’ll get to see him appear inside a WWE ring moving forward.

This Saturday will be far from the last time we’ll see him however, as whilst speaking to Brian Gewirtz, Johnson noted that he’ll still be on TKO’s Board of Directors after this weekend and that he plans to be a part of the company long-term.

“I’m not off the board after WrestleMania. I’m still on the board, and I will always be a part of this. And we are in it now. This is our thing and will forever be our thing.”

-The Rock

Gewirtz also added that Johnson’s motivation is currently on another level, noting that his presence on the board has only increased his gravitas on-screen.

“But I do think there’s gonna be a Rock presence in WWE going forward until whenever he doesn’t want to…, I could definitely say that this isn’t [over a] day after WrestleMania and I’m gonna go off into the sunset now. This whole run has really kind of rejuvenated him. He is not physically and mentally capable of ever being on autopilot. But there was kind of like this safe zone in the babyface space that is fun and fan-pleasing, but isn’t the edgiest of things you can do in a ring with a microphone. Not to the point of bloodying up the No. 1 babyface in WWE and threatening his mother and dog. It’s like he’s never been bigger than he is now. He’s part of the board. He just kind of carries a certain weight as opposed to when he came back earlier when he was at a great level, but not this. That’s why the Final Boss feels so organic, because it not only is the TKO literal final boss, but just the weight of Dwayne Johnson in 2024. It just feels important.”

-Brian Gewirtz

For Cody Rhodes, one of The Rock’s WrestleMania opponents, ‘The Final Boss’ character has added a whole new level to Johnson’s game, with this being crucial to longevity in the industry.

“It’s a whole other layer. I can tell you that’s the staying power. You turned this and made this into something incredibly different and very special.”

-Cody Rhodes

The Rock will team with his cousin Roman Reigns to take on the duo of Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins in the main event of Night 1 of WrestleMania 40 this Saturday, with the bout having major implications for Night 2.

Night 2’s main event will see Cody Rhodes challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, with the potential for Bloodline interference hedging on the aforementioned tag match’s result.

As always, we’ll aim to provide any further updates on The Rock’s future plans as soon as we hear more.

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