March 15, 2005
REAL NAME: Dwayne Johnson
Long before he raised his first eye brow, Dwayne Johnson grew up in a wrestling family. His maternal grandfather was Peter Maivia, a top star in the 1960s and 1970s. His father was former WWE Tag Team Champion Rocky Johnson.
The younger Johnson, the future Rock, played football at Freedom High in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As a defensive tackle, his football skills earned him a scholarship to the University of Miami. Johnson was a Hurricane from 1990-1994, helping the University of Miami win a national championship in 1991.
After graduating from University, Johnson went to play for the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, but a back injury ended his professional football career, and he never got into a game. Instead, Johnson decided to turn his attention to the industry that had made his family famous: pro wrestling.
Johnson was soon wrestling for the Memphis-based USWA under the ring name Flex Kavana. Kavana would team with ring veteran Bret Sawyer to win the first of two USWA Tag Team Championships in a tournament final over Brickhouse Brown and Reggie B. Fine on June 17, 1996.
In the fall of 1996, Kavana was headed to the WWE, but would debut not with the name tagged on him in Memphis but with a conglomeration of his father and grandfather's names: Rocky Maivia. A traditional babyface in perhaps the worst sense of the word, Maivia debut victory at the 1996 Survivor Series did little to win over the fans.
Even an Intercontinental title victory over Hunter Hearst Helmsley on a special Thursday edition of Raw on February 13, 1997 did even less. The crowds, chanting "Die, Rocky, Die!" had turned on Maivia same way they would had he turned heel, but Maivia was still very much a baby face.
Maivia would defend that Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania XIII against the Sultan (Rikishi). Maivia got by the Sultan but lost the title to Owen Hart in late April and a month later was felled by a knee injury suffered during a match against Mankind (Mick Foley).
When Rocky Maivia returned from the injury, he was no longer booked as a face. He joined Ron "Faarooq" Simmons' Nation of Domination. However, soon he was no longer "Rocky Maivia", he had morphed into the ultra-cocky heel known as "Rock"! He soon began peppering his promos with the catch phrases that would make him famous, calling his opponents jabronis, asking if people smelled what The Rock was cooking and dubbing his finisher "The People's Elbow".
The Rock would regain the Intercontinental title when Vince McMahon stripped "Stone Cold" Steve Austin of the belt in December 1997, shortly after Austin had defeated The Rock in defence of the title at the D-Generation X pay-per-view. The Rock would never see that particular belt, though, as Austin threw the belt in a nearby river.
Shortly after The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock via a reverse decision at Wrestlemania XIV, a power struggle began to ensue in the Nation of Domination. Faarooq found himself turfed from the very faction he had created, with The Rock as the Nation's new leader.
After a brief feud with Faarooq, The Rock found himself challenged by Hunter Hearst Helmsley for the Intercontinental Championship. The Rock retained the title against Helmsley thanks to a 30-minute draw in a best-of-three fall bout at July 1998's Fully Loaded PPV, but was not so lucky during a ladder match at SummerSlam '98.
Following the breakup of the Nation in 1998, it seemed as though The Rock might become a legitimate face. That soon ended however when he joined forces with Vince McMahon's Corporation, receiving both Vince and Shane's help to win the WWE Championship at the Survivor Series.
The Rock's first challenger was Mankind who felt betrayed by McMahon. At December's Rock Bottom pay-per-view, Mankind made The Rock submit, but McMahon overturned the decision and The Rock would have entered 1999 as Champion if not for Foley's December 29th victory on Raw.
The Rock and Mankind would trade the title over the next several months. The Rock regained the title as part of an "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble. Two days later, Mankind defeated the Rock for the title and then, during Halftime Heat, a special match broadcast during the Super Bowl, the Rock began his third title reign.
The Rock would take his title into Wrestlemania XV, only to drop the belt to Steve Austin. The Rock would remain, however, a top contender to the belt, attempting to regain the strap from Austin and, later, The Undertaker and Triple H, throughout the rest of 1999. The low point of the year, however, had to be a feud with Billy Gunn which culminated in a "Kiss My Ass" match at SummerSlam.
The Rock would, against his better judgment perhaps, team with Mankind as "The Rock and Sock Connection". Whether the Rock thought it was a good idea or not, teaming with Mankind paid dividends as the Rock and Sock Connection would win three WWE World Tag Team titles over the fall and winter of 1999.
But The Rock's main goal was still to regain the WWE World Championship and he got a good start on that by winning the 2000 Royal Rumble, although it appeared as if The Big Show might also have a case to have earned a WWE title shot. In the end, The Rock would take part in a Fatal Fourway (involving Triple H, Mankind and Big Show) at Wrestlemania 2000.
Wrestlemania 2000 would not be The Rock's day, however, as Vince McMahon (in The Rock's corner) turned on him and helped Helmsley retain the title. The Rock would have better luck a month later at Backlash as he defeated Triple H with interference from every McMahon in the business and from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to boot.
The Rock would leave the WWE temporarily to begin work on his first major film The Mummy 2. Back in the ring, he would drop the title to The Undertaker at Judgment Day, only to regain it in a six-man tag match at King of the Ring. Teaming with Kane and the Undertaker, the Rock would pin Vince McMahon who was teaming with his son, Shane, and Triple H.
The Rock's title reign lasted throughout the summer of 2000, including title defenses against Chris Benoit, a Triple Threat match against Triple H and Kurt Angle at SummerSlam, and a Fatal Fourway against Undertaker, Kane and Chris Benoit. But it would be Kurt Angle at October's No Mercy who would finally end The Rock's fifth World title reign.
The Rock's sixth reign would come at 2001's No Way Out PPV when he defeated Angle to regain the title, and headed to Wrestlemania where he would face a familiar foe: Steve Austin. But things would take a turn for the strange when The Rock's loss of both the match and the title would be due to interference by Vince McMahon.
The Rock would head to Hollywood after Wrestlemania to assume his first starring role as the title character in The Scorpion King. Upon his return to the WWE, there was much speculation as to whether The Rock would side with Vince McMahon's WWE or with Shane McMahon's WCW/ECW Alliance. After delivering a Rock Bottom to both McMahons, The Rock pledge his allegiance to the WWE.
The Rock would feud with Booker T leading to a WCW title win at SummerSlam 2001. Even though the Rock would lose the WCW title to Chris Jericho at No Mercy, he would team with Y2J the next night on Raw to win the WWE Tag Team titles. But the battles between the two men would not end there, as The Rock would regain the WCW title on the first Raw of November 2001.
The Rock would also be victorious at the Survivor Series, defeating Steve Austin in the main event elimination tag match that spelled victory for Vince McMahon and the WWE. The next day, the WCW title that The Rock held was dubbed the World title, but The Rock would lose the championship at Vengeance to Chris Jericho, who would eventually unify the WCW/World and WWE Championships.
After an unsuccessful bid to unseat Jericho as the Undisputed Champion at the 2002 Royal Rumble, The Rock crossed paths with Hollywood Hogan, whose NWO contingent had recently invaded the WWE. The NWO attacked The Rock and then ran a semi into the ambulance that was carrying him from the arena.
The crowd reaction during the Rock/Hogan match at Wrestlemania X-8 surprised both competitors, as the SkyDome crowd seemed to favour Hogan over The Rock. The Rock still came out on top, then rescued Hogan from an attack from Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
During the March 2002 brand extension draft, The Rock was drafted to Smackdown! as Vince McMahon's #1 pick. However, The Rock would not remain on Smackdown! long, taking time away to promote The Scorpion King. When The Rock did return in June, it was to Raw, to pledge his loyalty to the WWE in the wake of Steve Austin's sudden departure from the company.
The Rock's first reign as Undisputed Champion would begin on July 22nd at Vengeance when he defeated Kurt Angle and the Undertaker in a Triple Threat match for the title. That reign would end, however, at SummerSlam at the hands of Brock Lesnar and spell the beginning of another departure from the ring for The Rock. This time, The Rock was off to film The Rundown.
The Rock's return to the WWE in January 2003 saw him return as a heel and feud with Hulk Hogan, even enlisting Vince McMahon's help to gain a victory over Hogan at No Way Out. The next night, The Rock jumped to Raw so that he could take on Steve Austin, with the pair meeting at Wrestlemania XIX. The Rock got the victory, his first over Austin at a Wrestlemania.
The Rock would not fair as well when he feuded with Goldberg. Despite winning the war of words, The Rock lost his match against Goldberg at Backlash in April and once again disappeared from WWE TV for the next several months, although he made sporadic appearances from time to time.
It would be a "Rock-n-Sock" Reunion that would bring The Rock back to the WWE for a lengthy stay in early 2004. With Foley fighting a losing battle against the overwhelming numbers of Evolution, he called in The Rock for support. Evolution gained the upper hand, attacking both The Rock and Foley during a Rock-hosted This is Your Life segment on the March 8th edition of Raw. At Wrestlemania XX, The Rock and Foley battled Evolution in a handicap match, with Randy Orton pinning Foley for the victory.
The Rock would continue to make appearances on Raw, helping out Eugene in May, confronting Randy Orton in June and hosting the Diva Pie Eating contest in August. However, most of The Rock's time was spent filming his latest movie Be Cool. As he began to do publicity for the movie in early 2005, he told the media that he was no longer contractually obligated to the WWE, with his contract running out at the end of 2004.
Will The Rock return to the WWE, or will he focus solely on his movie career? He has no fewer than five movies in some stage of production (including the movie version of Doom and Spy Hunter) but many expected him to make an appearance at Wrestlemania XXI. The Rock's future probably lies in both movie roles and the odd wrestling appearance when his schedule allows.
As it turned out, The Rock had all but closed the door on his wrestling career. It would be three years before he made a return WWE appearance, and then only to make a pre-taped prediction on RAW as to the outcome of WrestleMania 23's “Battle of the Billionaires” match.
-- compliled by John Milner