The Rock's Impact On Pro-Wrestling
May 14, 2007 by Steve S.
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There is no denying the Rock was one of the biggest stars of the attitude era, and, along with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mick Foley, helped the WWF win its war with WCW and also lead the company through its most profitable time ever.
The Rock is a rare breed performer with an incredible combination of athleticism, good looks, good smile, charisma and style. Of all the wrestling stars of the attitude era, perhaps none had the mainstream popularity the Rock had. Although Austin was extremely popular, the Rock always seemed to be the more noted in the media and the one more swooned over by female fans.
He didn't necessarily radically reshape the business, but since his appearance the idea of what of a major star is made of HAS changed to some extent. The Rock's creative, original and hilarious promos were always highly entertaining and popular. As a result, major stars today are expected to be even better on the mic than they were before the Rock's era. As an example, if you watch pre-Rock promos from the early 90s, they didn't quite have the flash that promos have now. Although some of that change happened around 1995 (think ECW), the Rock was also largely responsible for crafting the blueprint of what a good promo is in 21st century pro wrestling.
The Rock presents a shining example of a true sports entertainer. He IS a good athlete, but first a foremost he's a great showman, whether it be the People's eyebrow, the "just bring it" gesture, sniffing the air or his fantastic facial expressions, the Rock captivates fans in ways few stars ever have.
Let's not forget his numerous catchphrases and euphemisms: "Pie" "Strudel" "layeth the smacketh down" "jabroni" "know your role and shut your mouth" "candy ass" "it doesn't matter!" and the list goes on and on. Few if any wrestlers have ever spawned so many successful catchphrases.
Hulk Hogan, popular and charismatic as he was, didn't quite have the flash and style the Rock brought to the table. Not to mention the Rock is well ahead of Hogan in terms of in-ring ability.
Now this article isn't meant to blindly shower the Rock with praise. The accomplishments of other stars like Hogan, Ric Flair, Austin, Lou Thesz, Sting are all taken into consideration here. They were all great wrestlers, but did any of them have the kind of wide ranging appeal the Rock has? Among wrestling fans it's arguable, but take it mainstream and the only one who really even comes close are Hogan and Austin. Sure Austin did sell more t-shirts than the Rock but even he didn't have quite the cross-market potential of the People's champion.
Also take into account all that the Rock accomplished in a relatively short period of time. He debuted in the WWE in late 1996, two years later was crowned World Champion and by the year 2000 was a multi time champion and one of the business's biggest names. FOUR years it took him to accomplish that. Although Austin also entered the WWE in 1996, he'd been bouncing around WCW, ECW and the indies longer than the Rock was around for. The Rock's success came quickly, but it was completely deserved.
As it happens, time may also be the one thing preventing the Rock from reaching true status as a bona fide wrestling legend. Men like Thesz, Austin, Hogan, Flair and Sting have had long and illustrious careers. By mid 2002, less than six years after Rock debuted in WWE, he was largely out of wrestling, making a few appearances here and there. Sure he won a lot of titles, but what could he have done if he'd been in the business 10, 15, 20 years?? One can only wonder. He didn't linger around too long and in the minds of some fans, he didn't really have true passion for the business like other wrestlers do. Although he did accomplish a lot in his short while: Multiple World Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion and Royal Rumble Winner, not too mention he headlined numerous PPVs and several Wrestlemanias. Aside from maybe winning a few more world titles, there just wasn't a lot left for him to do.
So while some fans may accuse the Rock of prematurely abandoning the business, he simply felt he'd accomplished everything he wanted to and decided to move on.
The mark he left behind is undeniable. The WWE has taken many elements of what made the Rock successful to market John Cena. The gestures, catchphrases, t-shirts, media appearances, funny promos, it's all there. Cena doesn't quite have the appeal of the Rock, but it seems clear the WWE took quite a few pages from the People's book in crafting Cena's image.
Measuring the Rock's impact on pro wrestling is very tricky. You can look at merchandise sales, PPV buy-rates, championships won but it's really the intangibles that set the Rock apart from the rest The look, the charisma, the electricity, the Rock just had that "IT" factor on a level that very few will ever reach.
He may be in Hollywood now, but he has definitely blazed one of hell of a trail on his way there. If you smelllllllllllll what the Rock.....is cooking!
by Steve S. (View/Submit your feedback here)..
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