Can You Smell The Final Boss? Diving Into The Rock’s Digital Dominance

Sascha H. Funk
5 min readMar 24, 2024


If you’ve read any of my previous wrestling related articles in which I drew conclusions from wrestling to communication you know already that I’m a a bit of a wrestling ner…connoisseur. So to nobody’s surprise I was obviously super happy to have found a reason to write about Wrestling once again and this time it is the most electrifying reason possible.

The spectacle of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s return to WWE has transcended the confines of the ring, spilling over into the digital realm where he reigns as the ‘final boss.’ This evolution is more than a mere character shift; it’s a masterclass in digital engagement and persona management. Here, we dissect how The Rock leverages social media to amplify his heel persona, creating a narrative that engages, entertains, and educates fans worldwide.

The Heel Turn Heard Around the World

The Rock’s transition into wrestling’s ultimate villain has captivated audiences, signaling a narrative depth and complexity that WWE fans eagerly embrace. This heel persona allows for a nuanced exploration of character, enabling The Rock to showcase a range of emotions and strategies that keep the narrative fresh and engaging. Beyond the ring, this character shift has extended into the digital space, where The Rock crafts a persona that is at once formidable, humorous, and surprisingly accessible, engaging fans in a narrative that blurs the lines between scripted events and real-world interactions.

In the digital realm, The Rock’s heel turn becomes a dynamic narrative tool. Through tweets, Instagram posts, and more, he extends the storyline beyond WWE programming, creating a continuous engagement loop that draws fans deeper into the storyline. This digital extension of his character not only enriches the fan experience but also showcases The Rock’s savvy understanding of media dynamics and audience engagement in the 21st century.

Dall-E: The Rock Social Media Maven

Mastering the Art of Social Smackdown

The Rock’s foray into social media as an arena for character development is nothing short of revolutionary — and just by saying that it feels silly that nobody else has ever really thought about utilizing platforms like Instagram and Twitter in a way The Rock does right onw. Those platforms become stages for mini-dramas that complement and expand his wrestling persona and storylines. This approach not only broadens his reach but also deepens fans’ engagement with his character, making each post a must-see event in the ongoing narrative of his wrestling career.

This digital engagement strategy highlights The Rock’s keen understanding of the power of direct communication in building and maintaining fan relationships. Through his posts, he engages fans with a mix of charisma, humor, and the occasional provocation, showcasing the multidimensional aspects of his character. It’s a testament to his ability to adapt and thrive in the evolving media landscape, where the lines between celebrity and audience, performer and persona, are increasingly blurred.

Media Theories in the Ring

The Rock’s digital strategy offers a rich case study in media theory application. The Uses and Gratifications Theory illuminates why his content resonates so strongly with audiences, offering a mix of entertainment, personal identity, integration, and social interaction. His posts not only entertain but also satisfy deeper psychological needs, fostering a strong, engaged community around his persona.

Parasocial Interaction Theory helps explain the intense, personal connection fans feel with The Rock. His social media presence, marked by direct engagement and personal disclosure, creates a sense of intimacy and familiarity, allowing fans to feel as though they have a personal relationship with him. This dynamic is particularly potent given The Rock’s heel persona, where the blend of antagonism and charisma makes for a compelling, complex character with whom fans can engage.

The Rock’s communications, particularly on social media, are rich with meaning, encoded not just in what is said, but how it’s said. The Encoding/Decoding Theory posits that messages are encoded by the sender with specific meanings and decoded by receivers in various ways depending on cultural backgrounds, knowledge, and social contexts. The Rock’s heel persona and his posts are crafted with an understanding that his global audience will interpret them differently. Some fans relish the nostalgia his heel turn invokes, others enjoy the realness and raw emotion he brings, while some may see a deeper narrative about legacy and rivalry in wrestling. This multiplicity of interpretations enriches the fan experience, allowing diverse audiences to connect with The Rock’s persona on different levels.

Cultural Studies Theory, which examines how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power, can also shed light on The Rock’s approach. The Rock’s maneuvering of his persona, from the ring to social media, reflects a savvy understanding of cultural dynamics and power within the media. By adopting a heel persona, he challenges and plays with the expectations of celebrity and sports entertainment, engaging with themes of heroism, villainy, and redemption. His posts, often laced with humor and self-awareness, act as cultural texts that comment on, and even subvert, traditional narratives of wrestling. This approach not only keeps his character fresh and relevant but also engages fans in a cultural dialogue that extends beyond the physicality of wrestling to touch on questions of identity, legacy, and performance.

Returning to the Agenda-Setting Theory, it’s pivotal to note how The Rock uses his platform to not only engage with fans but also to influence what topics are seen as important. By highlighting certain aspects of his persona, rivalries, or even personal beliefs and projects, he sets the agenda for what gets discussed in the wrestling community. This power to influence the public agenda showcases the role of individual agency within media, demonstrating how personas like The Rock can shape not just narratives but also fan engagement and discussion priorities.

Lastly, integrating Social Learning Theory into our analysis, we can understand how The Rock’s behavior and the content he shares serve as a model for social behavior among fans. This theory suggests that people learn from observing others, especially those considered role models or influencers. The Rock’s switch to a heel persona, combined with his strategic use of social media, offers fans a range of behaviors and attitudes to emulate, from his assertiveness, humor, resilience, and even how to engage constructively with adversaries. It underscores the impact of media figures in shaping not just fan engagement but broader social interactions and cultural norms.

The Soundtrack of Villainy

The reimagining of The Rock’s theme music to reflect his heel persona underscores the multifaceted approach to character development in WWE. This auditory cue not only signals his physical presence but also serves as a narrative tool, reinforcing his character’s evolution and eliciting a specific emotional response from the audience. It’s a strategic use of sound to enrich storytelling, enhance audience immersion, and solidify The Rock’s status as the ‘final boss.’

Time to acknowledge

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s embodiment of ‘the final boss’ in WWE is a compelling narrative of adaptation, engagement, and entertainment in the digital age. Through a strategic blend of social media savvy, character development, and media theory application, The Rock has not only captivated the wrestling world but also offered valuable insights into the dynamics of modern celebrity, fan engagement, and storytelling. As we continue to smell what The Rock is cooking, it’s clear that his influence extends far beyond the ring, into the very heart of digital culture and media interaction.



Sascha H. Funk

Head of Media Studies | BKK | New Media & ED #Volleyball, #MuayThai. — hosting @FunkItPod | it’s not rain, it’s liquid sunshine