A very key date in the history of WWE took place 25 years ago and that was the debut of The Rock.
The Rock then Rocky Maivia was billed coming from a fine lineage and the history of his family that have graced the squared circle was and is well documented. No pressure, right?
His debut came at Survivor Series 1996 teaming up with Marc Mero, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and The Stalker aka Barry Windham facing off against Crush, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, Goldust and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. A star studded affair, no doubt. Rocky would win the match for his team and be the sole survivor, the blue chipper delivered and certainly showed the higher ups what he was capable of.
As the months went by, he continued to flourish and it was on a special edition of Monday Night RAW where he got his first taste of gold. He would defeat future rival Hunter Hearst Helmsley for the Intercontinental Championship.
Fans comment heavily whether it was a right place, right time kind of scenario but truthfully all these years later I don’t think it was..
His presence, look and in-ring ability did the talking for him and even before he became one of the greatest ever on the microphone he had to rely on all those three qualities to save him.. He was shoved down fan’s throats and the people reacted, things were changing in the then WWF and wrestling in general, many fans were more outspoken and would boo a lot of stuff, even if it meant booing a babyface and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that now BUT 24 years ago when all the Rocky Sucks chants started, it wasn’t the norm at all.
Once he joined the Nation and under the guidance of already veteran Ron Simmons aka Faarooq alongside the likes of Kama aka The Godfather as well as fellow up and coming superstars in D’Lo Brown and now WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry, he shined and was kept grounded but even being grounded he was able to develop and become a fantastic heel, a classic cowardly one too and was able to get the job done. It was all about getting him the confidence, perhaps? Not only that, we knew and perhaps in Vince McMahon and the rest of the creative team’s eyes, he was destined to be The Great One, no pun intended. He also had the likes of Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin and others trying to get to the top, some made it quicker than I can remember, including Kane but the point I am trying to make is that he was being groomed for success and rightfully so.
It was his feud with Stone Cold that made me a fan and after becoming Intercontinental Champion once again, he had some very memorable matches, maybe even underrated ones with Ken Shamrock, I absolutely loved that feud and their classic encounters at both Royal Rumble 1998 and WrestleMania XIV are some of my guilty pleasures. On the side, he was slowly building up to become the eventual leader of the Nation of Domination and would take over the role with a lot of flair and class. It was within that role that I guess even the fans noticed how good he was becoming and it was that whole DX vs Nation feud that did it all for many, especially the Ladder Match between Rock and Triple H.
For the first time in what felt like forever, he became a babyface again for a little while and at Survivor Series 1998 he would join forces with Vince and Shane McMahon and won his first ever WWE Championship. Five other WWE Championship reigns followed, various WrestleMania main events, forming an incredible tag team with Mick Foley as The Rock N Sock Connection and more. I could be here all day documenting his stellar run.
A LOT can be said about him and as the years went by and continue to go by, he is and what he says he is, The Most Electrifying Man in all of Entertainment. His return in 2011 proved that to me more than ever and ever since then that he was in and out on a more regular basis and then when he left again after WrestleMania 29, I guess I yearn like many for him to return again even if it is sporadically. He really did change the course of what professional wrestling became at least in the entertainment side of things, his promos, his way of reinventing his character, I mean 2003 Hollywood Rock, what’s not to love about that time? He was on fire, week in and week out.
His passion for professional wrestling is always the topic of discussion but truthfully, you can feel his love for it everytime he makes an appearance and even when he appears on TV or in any interview he does.
To cap this off.. I am just going to say one thing. There was a time that even non professional wrestling fans would know who Hulk Hogan was, now ask people if they know who The Rock is? Their answer is Dwayne Johnson. His movies, his persona and overall amazing personality is well documented and is one of Hollywood’s most elite celebrities.
Dwayne Johnson is and was what the WWE needed then in 1996, he was different, he was gifted and most important of all he proved his critics wrong.