The Rock is arguably the most popular and charismatic wrestler of all time. John Cena and Hulk Hogan come close, but neither of them has the ability to control and manipulate the crowd like Rock.
Apart from being the "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment", he is universally loved all over the world and fans can expect the loudest pop whenever he shows up for WWE.
Sure, his popularity increased when he transitioned into a Hollywood star, but the foundation of that success was built inside the squared circle by a young and hardworking Dwayne Johnson, for whom the sky was the limit.
Rock had the gift of switching the persona and characters with utmost ease and while his characters have always been rooted in by his confidence, his versatility is often undersold. Only a few could claim to be a great babyface and an even better heel.
He kept on making minor changes to his character to bring out the best, but how does his character progress over the years?
#1 Rocky Maivia (1996-1997)
Dwayne made his WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, a combination of his father and grandfather's ring names. He was instantly received by the crowd with complete rejection and boos. The character was just cheesy and was often met with chants like “Rocky sucks” and “die, Rocky, die”. It is nothing short of a miracle that Rock was able to bounce back after leaving the first impression of being an overbearing do-gooder guy.
Unfortunately, the management had huge expectations from him and thus, despite all the criticism surrounding him, WWE still decided to go with their plans and gave him a huge push in his debut match at Survivor Series itself.
He was the sole survivor for his team after single-handedly eliminating Goldust and Crush.He then became the Intercontinental Champion in early 1997, when he defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley on Raw.
He had a couple of forgettable feuds against wrestlers like Bret Hart, The Sultan, and Savio Vega before WWF finally realized that this character was not working and the “The Blue Chipper” persona was finally dropped.
#2 The Nation of Domination (1997-1998)
The Rock returned to the ring in August 1997 as part of an already established stable, Nation of Domination
In 1997, fans had started booing Rocky Maivia out of the arena before WWF realized that it is just damaging his brand and thus decided to use that resentment to turn him heel. After being on the sidelines for four months due to a legitimate injury, The Rock returned to the ring in August 1997 as part of an already established stable,
The Nation of Domination.
He finally got to play the character that he was comfortable in and started showing his charismatic side with his signature style of delivering promos.
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The turn worked wonders for him and he went on to have amazing feuds with Ken Shamrock, Triple H, and D-Generation X. He even overthrew Faarooq as the Nation’s leader to establish his dominance.
No one was safe from his promos as he started insulting everyone from the crowd to interviewers without holding anything back. He deliberately turned babyface over time and for the first time in his career had the crowd support behind him.
He became The Rock and Rocky Maivia character was a forgotten history. From a lower card comedy act, he took himself to the main event scene in just two years. But it was just a teaser for what was to come.