Warning: This article contains spoilers for Creed III.Creed III showcased Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) in the most emotional fight of his career against childhood friend Damian (Jonathan Majors), all without his greatest mentor in his corner, and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky isn’t expected to return in Creed IV either. After a seven-year time jump since Donnie’s victory against Viktor Drago in Creed II, he owns a gym in Los Angeles and balances supervising the next generation of boxers with being a father and husband, far removed from The Italian Stallion and his life in Philadelphia, where the Rocky franchise has directed most of its focus. This move away from Rocky‘s roots is expected to continue.
While Rocky isn’t the only character absent from Creed III, he’s the most surprising, especially given that he’s been in every Rocky film for the past 47 years, and how much he went through in the Creed franchise to train Apollo’s son. He went round after round with cancer treatment while never leaving Donnie’s side, and supported him when he took on the son of the man who killed his father in the ring. Stallone’s presence in Creed 4 would, therefore, need to not only make sense for the narrative but also be congruous with any planned Rocky sequels too.
Rocky’s Absence Makes A Creed 4 Return Almost Impossible
Given that he’s been in Donnie’s corner through thick and thin, Rocky’s absence in Creed III is strange, particularly given the funeral for Mary Anne, Apollo Creed’s wife (and Donnie’s adoptive mom), Donnie’s retirement from the ring, and his emotionally charged comeback. Any one of those life-changing events warranted at least a cameo from Stallone, but each passed without Rocky showing up in some capacity. Jordan has addressed Stallone returning in Creed 4, but since Rocky didn’t appear for integral moments in Creed III, it’s unlikely he would return for its sequel.
In essence, it would take something monumental in the storyline to see Rocky return, though it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Rocky’s illness could return, necessitating one final visit between him and his protégé, or Donnie could get hurt in the ring, and Rocky could visit him in the hospital. However, if Creed 4 moves further away from Donnie’s life and focuses more on Dame or Viktor, though, Rocky’s presence wouldn’t make any sense for their personal journeys. As such, a return seems incredibly unlikely
It’s Good The Creed Franchise Is Moving On From Stallone’s Rocky
At this point, it’s appropriate for the Creed franchise to pivot away from Stallone’s Rocky, who has his own narrative to focus on. Creed III ends Adonis’s storyline, not Rocky’s, who has a relationship with his son Robert to repair. The conclusion of Creed II showed an estranged Rocky meeting his grandson Logan for the first time, suggesting that future Rocky movies might focus on strengthening the Balboa family, particularly after Adrian’s death sometime after Rocky V.
Adonis prevailed in Creed III without Rocky as a safeguard because he finally mastered his mentor’s mantra “you versus you,” acknowledging that the most important opponent to beat in the ring was himself. Despite being billed as the villain, Dame emerged as a fan-favorite who might get featured in future installments, and Donnie will have other boxers to mentor much like Rocky helped him, signifying the true passing of the torch from one franchise to another. There’s still a chance for Stallone to give Rocky’s character the sendoff he deserves, and given the tenacity of The Italian Stallion, that probably won’t be for several years (and Rocky movies) to come.
MORE: Creed 3 Makes Rocky 7 With Sylvester Stallone Possible