The Rock debuted for WWE in 1996, and remained one of the top stars in the company until his contract expired in 2004.
Towards the end of his run with WWE, it was clear that The Rock was attracting attention from Hollywood, a move we all know he’d make.
By 2001, The Rock had starred in his first movie, and it seemed pretty certain that he was going to be done full-time with WWE sooner rather than later.
However, Vince McMahon didn’t want The Rock to leave, and Bruce Prichard confirmed in 2020 that the WWE Chairman wanted to keep the top star tied down to a contract.
I do know [Vince McMahon’s] intent was never to ever let a contract expire with Rock.
However, Rock’s contract unceremoniously expired in 2004, and went on to leave the company, not appearing again until 2007.
So, what really went down?
Well, the story is an interesting one, as reports and speculation at the time claimed that WWE simply forgot to extend Rock’s deal, and he just left.
Bruce Prichard also spoke about this a few years ago, stating that the situation around The Rock was that his contract renewal “slipped through the cracks”.
I wasn’t involved in it, but I guess that somehow it slipped through the cracks. And somehow there was that black hole that somehow it got missed.
As noted, Rock did return to WWE eventually, beginning to make sporadic appearances for the company from 2007.
He’s also wrestled a few times too, with his first match since his first departure in 2004 taking place at Survivor Series in November 2011.
It’s good that the situation got sorted and The Rock was able to come back to WWE after making a real name for himself in the acting world, but the fact his contract just expired is a pretty funny story.