In Ring Work: ****1/4 Mic Work: ****** Character Work: ****1/4
It's amazing what a gimmick change can do for a man. In this case, it created a legend.
So, how do I put this...The Rock had a very unorthodox career. For an early portion of it, he looked directionless, bound for failure and misery. And then, something magical happened. He became the first heel that I was actively cheering for, and for good reason. His character was legendary, but I'll discuss that a lot more in a bit. The one thing I always loved about him was the idea of him being Austin's rival. Him and Austin in the same ring together always made me mark out like crazy. He was a perfect rival for Austin. And with the other cast of supporting characters in the WWF, it was the perfect time frame for the Rock to rise to stardom. But enough about what I felt about the man, lets dive right into things.
So much like Steve Austin's Stone Cold character or Daniel Bryan's underdog character, this was the perfect gimmick for the Rock. His look, his voice, his attitude, it fit what they were going for. I actually haven't talked much about it in these analysis threads, but the Rock's charisma was off the charts. This man could electrify any crowd anywhere he went just by saying a sentence on the mic. A lot of the little things he did, such as his constant ticks and mannerisms, his eye-brow raising, always wearing sunglasses in the building like a fucking idiot but who cared because it looked awesome, it created an image. An image of what this character should be. If you think of the Rock, this is what comes to mind. An eye-brow raising sun glass wearing man ready to kick ass. I don't really have much else to say about this portion of his character work because so much has been said about it already. It was just one of the all time greatest gimmicks in the history of Pro Wrestling, one capable of being an extremely effective heel but an even more effective face.
So why did I only give him a **** rating in character work? What took away an entire star for me?
Well, it's time for a mini section bonus:
The Rocky Mavia Gimmick
God damn that is terrifying. Hold on.
There we go
So for anyone who doesn't know, I have a particular hate for the Rocky Mavia character. And I can't stress that enough. Rocky Mavia is one of my all time least favorite characters. I hated the way this guy dressed, I hated the way this guy walked, I hated the way he talked, I fucking hated everything about him. And it's strange because one of the first times I watched him was after the Rock gimmick was already a thing, and I saw a video clip from previous Raw episodes in the year the Rocky Mavia character debuted. And I cringed. If it was someone who was able to fit the image of this character more, then I would find this more bearable. But the Rock looked way too much like a bad ass to make this work. The Rock was someone I could buy as a legitimate ass kicker. This was a legitimate ass kicker being used as a personified pussy and it pissed me off.
And unfortunately, Dwayne just couldn't make it work. He looked so damn uncomfortable doing this gimmick. His facial expressions always looked off to me. And nothing he did ever came off as natural to me. As a result, all we got out of this was a guy constantly smiling with no charisma, no personality, and literally no reason what so ever to like the man. And as much as I love the Rock, I do have to discredit him for not making the gimmick at least somewhat likable. This gimmick was so terrible that fans were actively booing the man, and this was at a time where fans booing a face was a rarity. I do want to cut the Rock some slack because, again, this was a pretty terrible gimmick. And I guess they did overpush him a bit starting out. But he was just terrible in this role.
So while The Rock is one of the greatest characters of all time that he was absolutely flawless in, he did have a pretty terrible performance overall with the Rocky Mavia gimmick. But thank fucking god this man had a change of character. Thank fucking god he was capable of playing another role unlike a certain someone else who is apparently a part of his family (sort of).
This part is going to be extremely brief.
We've all praised the hell out of this guy for his mic work. And it's praise he deserves.
His delivery, timing, the pacing of his promos, all of it 10/10. Created some of the greatest pro wrestling catchphrases of all time. He could be funny, he could be serious, and he could be downright brutal with some of the shit he said. He had some of the greatest promo exchanges ever, and he knew how to react appropriately to others in segments. He was actually capable of putting others over in segments just by reacting to their insults. The amount of bat-shit insane shit he said in his promos was awesome. It's amazing he didn't botch in every promo he had with how quickly he talked and how much he had to say. But I loved how flawless he made it look. He was so natural that I was legitimately surprised when I met the man for the first time in real life in 2004. In case you guys are wondering (and as I'm sure a lot of you know by now but I'm just going to throw it out there), he's nothing in real life like the man he is on screen.
Hell, as much as I hate the Rocky Mavia gimmick, I do have to admit that his promos while playing that character were pretty good as well...sort of. I hate the gimmick okay? Leave me alone.
So yeah, that's all I really have to say about his mic work. I don't need to explain why he was such an incredible mic worker. If you want demonstrations, watch these videos. That's all.
Fun Fact: I didn't even watch these videos before I posted them here. I know I've seen two of these but I barely remember what happens in them. I'm just assuming they're going to showcase the things I just talked about above.
The Rock is the greatest mic worker of all time. Moving on.
In Ring Work
Now, this one I sort of have mixed feelings on.
I'll start with the good. He knew how to work the face and heel roles in the ring, so there's that. His storytelling overall was generally very good. If he had good chemistry with a particular in ring performer, he was capable of having matches ranging from good to downright legendary. He was terrific at putting people over in the ring. I loved the way he made Chris Benoit and Brock Lesnar look in their respective matches with him, and there's probably others that I'm just not thinking of off the top of my head. I always thought his execution was great. And all in all, a lot of his most legendary moments were created in the ring. Considering how talented the man was on the mic, that's pretty incredible on his part. So what do I hate about his in ring work?
Two things, and unfortunately they are pretty big problems.
The first one was his selling. Now, don't get me wrong. Sometimes his selling was on point. And he never undersold a move, except for on very, very rare occasions. It was his tendency to oversell moves that really irritated me. I'm sure we all know about his tendency to oversell the fuck out of Steve Austin's Stone Cold Stunner.
Okay, the last one is actually hilarious but regardless, that's not how you sell the fucking Stunner. And it would annoy me when ever he did it this way. In segments? Fine, fair enough. But in an actual match, him selling it this way took me right out of the match.
How about his selling to just a regular beat down? Skip to 1:44 where CM Punk turns heel and first clotheslines the Rock, and watch the rest of the video.
Look at this shit. What the hell are you doing Dwayne? The man looks like he's choking on balls or some shit after taking a regular clothesline from CM Punk. And it's odd because all of a sudden he almost sort of redeems himself by selling the GTS like a boss.
I could go on but you get the idea. The second thing that I hated was the pacing of his matches. His pacing was horribly off at times in his matches. He had a tendency to do a little bit too much character work in his matches, and as a result it would mess up the flow of the match. There were a lot of awkward pause-like moments in his matches that happened for the sake of his showboating. And even when he wasn't showboating, the pacing was always off for what ever reason. And although I don't have nearly as much to say in this regard as I did regarding his selling, it was a pretty big negative.
Other than that, the only problems I really have was his tendency to over-rely on finishers in his matches. It wasn't a major problem with him, but it was something he did a bit too much if he had a high profile opponent.
And there's of course the second match he had with John Cena. Yeah...I don't want to talk about it.
So while I did enjoy him as an in ring performer, and do give him the benefit of the doubt despite not having many great matches under his belt (even though that's never a way to judge someone's in ring talent, with Christian being the best example of that), I do think he has noticeable weaknesses that are a problem. But all around, I consider him a very good in ring worker.
No one can take away what this man has done. No weaknesses he may or may not have had as a Pro Wrestler can take away the impact he made on the WWF and Pro Wrestling in general. And what he was able to do was pretty remarkable considering the circumstances. This was a man who went from having one of the worst starts imaginable and became one of the most popular WWF Superstars of all time. And all it took was a change in character. Compared with Austin, his main rival, who had a pretty good gimmick and changed it thinking he could do much better with something different, Dwayne Johnson NEEDED something different. He desperately needed to get out of the Rocky Mavia character. And what he was able to come up with was original, awesome, and a game changer in the Pro Wrestling world. And it was through that character that his skills as a mic worker were put on display. And when it was all said and done, he proved, in my opinion, to be the greatest talker and entertainer in the history of Pro Wrestling, even better than Ric Flair himself (something I will admit I find myself going back and forth on). He did have his problems as an in ring performer, but for the most part, he still did a great job in the ring. He was someone you could rely on to have a good match and play his part, regardless of whether or not he was a heel or face.
So in all honesty, I'd put the Rock in the same category as Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, etc. The group of Pro Wrestlers who had their obvious and glaring weaknesses in particular areas but were so excellent in others that they still were able to make an impact on the business in some form or fashion. In the Rock's case, he showed us that just because you don't hit a home run right off the bat doesn't necessarily mean you're not capable of becoming one of the most popular Pro Wrestler's of all time, which is exactly what the Rock was.
...unless your name is Roman Reigns.
**STAR RATINGS UPDATE**
(In case you're wondering, no, I'm not giving the Rock five stars in all categories. Get over it).
I don't plan on doing this often, but with this I am going to make an exception and change the star ratings for two categories: in ring work and character work. For in ring work, I will be adding half a star, giving the Rock an in ring rating of ****1/4 instead of ***3/4 in the ring. As for character work, I will be adding a quarter of a star, giving him the same rating as in ring work rather than just four stars.
Regarding why, I'll start with in ring work.
made an excellent point regarding his selling and it did change my perspective on his selling. Him overselling it a bit did fit the character, because the truth is that's what his character was. It was supposed to be over the top. It was supposed to go overboard with some of the shit it did. This was a guy who wore sunglasses in the building all the time. And staying true to your character in the ring is an important aspect. I still do think his selling could be off at times, but all in all, for stuff like that as well as the unique way he sold other moves, I'm going to give a jolly good job shout out for his insight on the matter and change my rating for that. Another reason why is because in a PM conversation I had with someone who read this, he asked me what I thought of some of the Rock's matches that I'm about to name now that I, for what ever reason, completely disregarded. He had a damn good match with Chris Jericho at Vengeance that he played a good part in making great. He had some surprisingly good matches with Kurt Angle at a time when Kurt was still inexperienced. They certainly weren't great, but the Rock was able to at least carry him to some good bouts that I enjoyed for the most part. Then there was his match with Hogan. Holy shit the Hogan match. I somehow completely forgot about that match when I was typing this up. For anyone who doesn't know, I genuinely enjoyed that match, and I'm still shocked to this day that I did. Hogan at that point was well out of his prime and was never really the best in ring worker to begin with. And they had a very good match in my opinion at Wrestlemania 18. And while Hogan deserves some credit for it, so does the Rock. There were a few other matches that were mentioned but you get the point. I think all in all, The Rock by the end of his career before he retired the first time was a great in ring performer. Did he start out that way? No. But he had a lot of in ring blunders during a time when WWF didn't have a great focus on in ring work. When more attention was given to in ring work by that point, the Rock was able to stand out more and he produced some great matches, and was in one of the best Wrestlemania main events of all time with Austin. He still had his weaknesses, but I do have to play the devils advocate and give him a higher rating for this one. Even if he did start off poorly, he did make great improvement and when it comes to in ring work, whether or not a wrestler improves in the ring is always an important aspect.
As for character work, one of the reasons was that I guess when thinking about what I said above in regards to the Rock selling in a way that's consistent with his character, that's another aspect of this that I felt I just disregarded or didn't pay enough attention to. Even with the Rocky Mavia character, although the Rock was terrible outside the ring as him, in the ring he was able to at least stay true to his identity, even if it wasn't done at 10/10 levels of great. And as the Rock, you always felt like that was the Rock performing the ring. A lot of wrestler's now a days don't really translate their characters in the ring, but rather just try to be a face or a heel and that's it. The Rock always did a good job with that however, and it's something I think he deserved a little more credit for. So I will give him a slightly higher rating.
Each should be 5 stars. Biggest draw in the history of the business.
Wrestlemania XXX: Greatest Wrestlemania of All Time, Thank You YHWH/God(Who is The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit) for that wonderful moment, Daniel Bryan(Bryan Danielson) was determined, worked hard and earned it, YHWH Bless Bryan Danielson
His only weakness in his in-ring ability. He had some sloppy technique (e.g. That horrendous Sharpshooter), and he could be too over-the-top with selling, as you noted. Jericho did call Rock a great in-ring worker in his book though.
I think it's unfair to criticize him for Rocky Maiva character. Nobody could have made that one work, and his later achievements showed that the problem was the gimmick, not him.
Overall, Rock, unlike Austin, is one of the few people who could actually work as both a heel and a face. I loved that short 2003 Hollywood Rock run.
I agree with most of what the OP said, but I'd still rate him slightly higher for his in-ring skills. He had a crappy Sharpshooter, but other than that I think he is underrated. He seemed to click with pretty much everyone he had matches with, and he didn't have many outright stinkers other than the second match with Cena in 2013.
He oversold the Stunner, perhaps, but it fit perfectly for his character. It all comes down to opinion, but even Mr Austin loved Rock's selling of it so if it's good enough for Steve it's good enough for me. Also, just look at how he sold Rhyno's Gore or Goldberg's Spear - he made it look like he'd been broken in half. Fucking legendary.
The thing about pacing in the matches - I guess I never really saw any issues there either. Especially as a heel, his pauses and interaction with the crowds is hysterical and entertaining. His short run in 2003 as Hollywood Rock is especially hilarious because of how he heckled the audience mid-match whenever he had the upper hand.
Heel or face, he made everything work. He also knew how to adjust to a hostile crowd on the fly and make it seem absolutely natural and intentional. For examples of this, see his matches with Hogan and Brock in 2002. He listened to how the crowd was reacting and responded accordingly. He was a master of crowd manipulation.
There's nothing to say about his mic work that hasn't already been said, except that it always seems like people post the same promos as examples when I feel there are so many other moments which highlight his greatness on the mic that need more appreciation.