Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock speaks to the crowd before Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the prospects of a return to WWE, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has typically played it coy.

But while appearing live on The Pat McAfee Show in Boulder, Colorado on Friday, The People’s Champ revealed that he nearly returned to the squared circle earlier this year for what would have been perhaps the biggest match since his last in WWE a decade ago.

“The Rock headlining Wrestlemania with Roman Reigns at SoFi Stadium — that was locked. We were doing it,” Johnson answered when asked by McAfee how close he was to facing the current WWE Undisputed Universal Champion this past April. “In the beginning of 2022, [WWE President] Nick Khan, who we know, he’s the man. He was very instrumental in bringing Vince [McMahon] and I together.

“We all flew to L.A., we met, we sat — this is the beginning of 2022. And we broke out the Teremana. We toasted life, we toasted the business we love and about an hour later, we started talking about the potential of what this match could be between myself and Roman Reigns headlining Wrestlemania at SoFi. And we shook hands and we hugged. All three of us at the table, right there, we said, ‘let’s do this.'”

So what happened?

Johnson didn’t offer specifics, but hinted that the creative plans simply weren’t he was hoping they would be.

“The North Star thought was ok, let’s not do something good, let’s not do something great, let’s do something unprecedented,” Johnson said. “A match, great. Roman, incredible athlete, he’s going to be on Mount Rushmore. Super handsome, good dude, my cousin, my family — amazing. We can have the match, but the bigger thought was, what can we do for the fans in this business that we love where Wrestlemania isn’t the end of something, it’s actually the beginning of something bigger.

“So we got really really close, but we couldn’t nail what that thing was. So we decided to put our pencils down.”

With the merger between WWE and UFC now complete and the start of the next Wrestlemania season just months away, it appears those pencils may have been picked back up. After noting “there’s Wrestlemania in Philadelphia,” Johnson seemingly transformed into wrestling persona, playing to the crowd of cheering fans with his signature “People’s Eyebrow.”

“That’s a potential too,” Johnson told McAfee. “I’m open.”

At this point, it appears to be a matter of not if, but rather when Johnson will return to the ring to face Reigns, who’s entire three-year championship run has been built around being the “Tribal Chief” of the family that Johnson is also a part of. It’s also notable that the typically tight-lipped Johnson — at least on wrestling matters — was willing to so strongly tease a potential match, although that could also be considered a credit to McAfee and the platform he offers.

With the ongoing writer’s strike limiting what was once one of the busiest schedules in Hollywood, the stars appear to be aligning for the 51-year-old Johnson to make once last run in the business he first became a household name. For what it’s worth, WWE SmackDown happens to be in Denver on Friday night — a short drive from Boulder, where Johnson will serve as the celebrity guest picker for ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday morning.

[The Pat McAfee Show on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.