The second season of WWE’s Ruthless Aggression features an episode looking at The Rock’s memorable run as Hollywood Rock.
Here’s the synopsis of this episode on WWE Network:
S2 | E1: Hollywood Rock
“When the WWE Universe begins to reject The People’s Champion during his transition to Hollywood, The Rock embraces his newfound role as a despised antagonist, leading to one of the most entertaining runs in WWE history.”
The Ruthless Aggression series intro video aired. The narrator for season two is WWE Smackdown announcer Pat McAfee.
It started out with “Rocky” chants along with clips of The Rock doing promos and highlights of him in matches. Bruce Prichard talked about Rock’s impact on WWE and business in general was astronomical. Brian Gewirtz talked about Rock having charisma that we had never seen before. Michael Cole said there was never anything like it and it was electric. Kofi Kingston mentioned Smackdown was his phrase that became the name of a show.
John Cena said that The Rock’s name resonates past the ropes, past the arena and he’s a global phenomenon. Bruce spoke about how Rock was outgrowing his position in the company. Bruce said that you can’t deny talent. Johnny Gargano spoke about how there were few people like that and you could just tell that Rock had “it” in spades. Bruce said from a creative and company standpoint, there’s a risk when a talent has success outside of WWE, are they going to enjoy it and stay outside WWE? That’s where Rock was in his career.
The focus turned to February 2002 when Hulk Hogan and the New World Order came to WWE after WCW died. Hogan was in the ring talking about how he was the biggest star in wrestling in the past and present while adding that there will never be a bigger star than Hogan.
Hulk Hogan said that Vince McMahon asked him if he would wrestle The Rock at WrestleMania 18. Hogan had watched Rock climb the ladder and had this business down to an artform, so Hogan said, “hell yeah I’ll wrestle him.”
Back to that Raw in February 2002, Rock called Hogan he was an icon and quite possibly the best ever, so Rock challenged Hogan to a WrestleMania match.
They showed a Rock interview from 2013 where he said that came at a time when he had honestly accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish in wrestling. Hogan wished Rock good luck and he’s going to need it. Rock: “Not as much as you, brother.” Rock dropped Hogan with a Rock Bottom after that.
(They did not show or even mention Hulk Hogan driving a truck into an ambulance that The Rock was supposed to be in. That was done to get heat on Hogan, but he was still cheered heavily at WrestleMania even after doing a vehicular assault!)
They skipped ahead to WrestleMania 18 with Kevin Owens talking about how he was in that crowd. Owens said that people were so electric for the Rock/Hogan match. Bruce said he was on the floor for the Rock/Hogan match so he could be in the audience to feel it. Bruce mentioned the crowd reaction for Hogan being so strong and the audience told WWE that they wanted Hulk. Bruce noted that the crowd was so happy to have Hulkster back and the fans thought that Rock could never replace Hogan. Hogan noted that when Rock made the comeback, the fans started booing him and Hogan’s leg drop was shown with Rock kicking out. Hogan said that it was just magic. Hogan said that he hadn’t ever been in the ring that could get what was going on out there and said Rock was “perfect to be in the ring with.” The Rock said he won at WrestleMania 18 and he was grateful to Hogan for that. Gewirtz said that Rock was the number one babyface, so they shook hands after the match where they planted some seeds a bit.
It was onto Rock’s movie career showing highlights of Rock’s new movie Scorpion King and when Rock was hosting Saturday Night Live for a second time.
The Rock made his return to WWE on the June 17, 2002 edition of Raw.
(What was not mentioned is that this happened after Steve Austin walked out on the company and in Rock’s return promo, he trashed Austin a bit.)
At Vengeance 2002, Rock was in a triple threat match against WWE Champion The Undertaker and Kurt Angle. They showed highlights of this great match where they stole eachother’s moves often and Rock hit a Rock Bottom on Undertaker for a two count. Angle hit an Angle Slam on Undertaker, but Rock was back up with a Rock Bottom on Angle so Rock won the WWE Title again.
(That match was outstanding. It really is one of the best triple threat matches in WWE history.)
It was onto SummerSlam 2002 with Gewirtz saying that the wrestling business was ingrained in Dwayne Johnson, so Rock was big “in doing the honors.” Gewirtz said that Rock saw the future of the business in Brock Lesnar. They showed SummerSlam highlights when the fans were cheering for Lesnar even though he was the heel. Lesnar hit Rock with the F5 and pinned Rock to become the WWE Champion at 25 years old. They made the point to say that just like at WrestleMania, the fans turned on Rock. After the match, Rock was leaving again for Hollywood.
The Rock did a post match promo with Rock saying “Finally” and the fans booed him. The Rock said “it doesn’t matter where The Rock has back to” and the fans booed him. Gewirtz said it came from a real place. Rock felt like he was not a heel, but if the fans are going to make him a heel then he’ll be the biggest heel you’ve ever seen.
They showed highlights of The Rock filming the movie The Rundown for the next four months.
There was a Raw 10th anniversary show from January 2003 with Gewirtz noting that Rock did a pre-tape promo, which Rock didn’t like because he liked doing it live. Gewirtz said that the fans didn’t like that Hollywood took The Rock away from them.
They showed some Rock promos on his cell phone and calling fans hicks. Rock told Hulk Hogan that he was nothing in 2002 and when Rock challenged him, that’s when Hogan became popular again. Rock told Hogan that his entire career resurgence was because of Rock. Gewirtz said it was fun coming up with ways to antagonize people.
They showed No Way Out 2003 highlights. Bruce talked about how the audience will react a certain way, but they wanted fans to know that Rock was better than everybody else so it was going to be a longer and better entrance. Gargano thought it was great and it was the best Rock theme song. The fans greeted Rock with loud boos. Rock hit a low blow on Hogan, there was also a corrupt referee (Sylvan Grenier before we knew him as a wrestler) and Rock won with two People’s Elbows in a row.
They showed a memorable Rock promo in Toronto telling the fans that they were the first to boo The Rock (at WM18) and said that you cannot sing along with The Rock. Rock said that it was a phenomenal success with the fans booing him. Rock told Long Island they had no class, so they can kiss the People’s Ass. Rock ripped on Toronto for cheering when he mentioned the name of the city and told the fans to shut up. Gewirtz said that cheap heat gets the arena fans and hits you at home as well if you do it the right way. The Rock said that the one thing he has never done is whoop Steve Austin’s bald head at WrestleMania. Rock ripped on the fans during that promo too.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin talked about how he always got along well with Rock. Austin said there was a bond, respect and trust there. Austin said that they brought out the best in eachother.
They showed some classic Rock clips with The Hurricane with Gewirtz noting they were both pure entertainers at heart.
They showed Shane “Gregory” Helms (former superstar who is now a producer in WWE) talking about how there was only supposed to be one promo between The Rock and him. Hurricane said it was so well received that it snowballed week after week with one-liners. Hurricane told Rock he knew he could beat The Scorpion King. Rock got a call from “nothing” saying he knew Hurricane. Gewirtz talked about how they had a “woosh” sound when Hurricane would leave and Rock looked up as if Hurricane was flying, so having Rock do that made Hurricane stand out even more. When Rock faced Hurricane in a match, Steve Austin made his entrance to distract and Hurricane did a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Rock to get the upset win. Hurricane said that sports entertainment is at its best when it’s unpredictable.
(I loved the Rock/Hurricane feud. It didn’t lead to a PPV match or anything like that, but it was fun as a TV feud over the course of several weeks.)
The Rock spoke about the classic Rock concert in Sacramento on March 24, 2003. Rock had a great line about how the best part about being in Sacramento was that he would be leaving Sacramento. They had Rock reminiscing about the place going “apeshit” when Rock got massive heat about the Sacramento Kings losing the LA Lakers in the playoffs in May. That was a heated rivalry at the time. Rock said it goes back to the connection he had where the fans booed him, but then they laughed because it was really funny.
It was onto WrestleMania 19 with Austin talking about how Rock was on fire in Hollywood, but he had to try to beat Austin at WrestleMania. It was their third WrestleMania with Austin getting the wins at WM15 and WM17. After three Rock Bottoms by Rock, he beat Austin clean in the middle of the ring. Austin said Rock whispered something in his ear and basically said: “I love you, brother.” Austin added that Rock appreciated it. Rock said he had the best matches and the best times with Austin, so it was emotional. Austin said that when you get two guys like that with total admiration and respect is a hell of a thing. Gewirtz said that those two guys took WWE to heights that it has never seen before. Rock said that rivalry, in so many ways, made Rock.
(That was Austin’s last match also. It wasn’t mentioned here, but few people knew that. Rock knew it was Austin’s last match, so that made it an even more special moment between them.)
There were clips shown from The Rock doing some post-show segments with fans in order to make them happy. They showed Rock putting the microphone to some kids that did Rock impressions and Rock was amazed by it.
The March 31, 2003 episode of Raw was shown. It was the night of WrestleMania 19 with Rock being greeted by “Goldberg” chants and Rock mentioned his accountant Ira Goldberg. Gewirtz confirmed that was really the name of Rock’s accountant! Shoutout to Ira. Anyway, Rock did a promo about how there was nobody else for Rock to beat, how the fans didn’t appreciate him, so you can kiss the people’s ass…and here comes Goldberg making his WWE debut.
Bill Goldberg was shown saying that coming from WCW to WWE to make the big splash, it had to be with the right person. Goldberg said that Rock was instrumental in his success in WWE immediately in the beginning. Goldberg hit Rock with a Spear. Adam Cole said that he was excited for Rock vs. Goldberg.
The Rock did another promo on April 21, 2003 with Rock introducing Gillberg. Goldberg said he hated Gillberg at first, but that means it worked.
They showed the Backlash 2003 match between Rock and Goldberg, which was Goldberg’s first PPV match in WWE. Goldberg hit Rock with two Spears followed by a Jackhammer to win the match. It was the main event of that PPV even though it was not a title match.
The Rock was shown in Hollywood seemingly for good. Bruce Prichard said in the audience’s mind, Rock was gone and he was not coming back. Gewirtz said that fans were happy to go along for the ride. Owens said that people knew Rock was an incredible performer. They showed a Rock promo on the red carpet saying he can’t wait to come back to WWE.
The Rock returned on March 1, 2004 on the road to WrestleMania 20. Mick Foley needed some help dealing with Evolution’s Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair. Foley said he was tired of three on one attacks and counter offered with Foley picking one partner. Orton told Foley to call Mr. Hollywood and tell them that you are on. Foley said he was coming back to Raw, but he was not coming back to Raw alone. That led to The Rock running down to the ring to join Foley in kicking some Evolution ass. Foley talk about how the place just exploded (it sure did) and Rock hit all of his signature moves to a big pop. Rock said that was a powerful night.
They showed WrestleMania 20 highlights from March 14, 2004 in Madison Square Garden in New York City. They showed some fun moments of the match like Rock mocking Ric Flair and some big spots. Foley said that was quite a gift that Rock gave him. Bruce said they got The Rock (as a babyface) back for that night.
(It wasn’t shown on here, but Randy Orton pinned Mick Foley because it was a 3 on 2 and because Orton’s rivalry with Foley led to an even better match at Backlash 2004.)
It was mentioned that in the last 20 years, The Rock’s leading roles have generated $5 billion and 15 number one movies at the box office. Foley talked about how Rock was the biggest star in the world. Bruce said that you can leave home for a while, it’s nice to have him come back and get that feeling again. Gewirtz said that Rock loves to come back and gets a visceral feeling from performing.
Rock said that WWE has always been his family while adding that energy is what drives him and feeds him. They showed Smackdown on Fox premiere in October 2019 when The Rock said: “Finally The Rock has come back…home.” That was it.
This episode has a runtime of 43:14.
I enjoyed this a lot. The Rock is one of my favorite wrestlers ever and I’m sure a lot of people reading this would say the same thing, so if you’re a fan of The Rock then you’re going to enjoy this closer look at this heel run of The Rock. I like how they told the story of his motivation to go heel because the fans did cheer Hogan against him at WrestleMania 18 and they cheered Lesnar over him at SummerSlam 2002, so that led to the Hollywood version of Rock in early 2003. It’s no surprise that Rock was fantastic as a heel for those three months in 2003 just like he was a great heel in his 1997-1999 run as well.
When I look back on this heel run of The Rock, it’s pretty amazing that a guy that was one of the best babyfaces ever could take about five months off to end 2002 only to come back in 2003 as the hottest heel in the business. This version of Rock was so fun to watch because he was a wonderful mix of comedy, while also being serious when needed and of course he had credibility in the ring as one of the best wrestlers ever. Rock was also willing to do the job clean like he did for Lesnar and for Goldberg because those guys needed it more than him. Like Gewirtz said, that’s the kind of guy Rock was and he was going to do what’s right.
Hollywood Rock didn’t even last that long because it was only a few months, but it was so entertaining and a testament to how incredible of a performer that The Rock was, so I enjoyed this episode a lot. Cool stories, fun clips that made me laugh about moments from nearly two decades ago and it’s just a reminder of how much Rock loved being a professional wrestler. The Rock truly is one of the greatest of all time.
In case you missed any of my previous reviews in the Ruthless Aggression series, the links are below.
Episode 1 – It’s Time to Shake Things Up
Episode 2 – Enter John Cena
Episode 3 – Evolution
Episode 4 – Brock Lesnar
Episode 5 – Raw vs. Smackdown
Episode 1 – Hollywood Rock
Episode 2 – Innovations
Episode 5 – Securing The Future
Thanks for reading this review. My contact info is below.