‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest star to ever come from WWE. He was over as both a babyface and heel, cut memorable promos and always seemed to have the pulse of the fans who were paying to see him. That is why in 2003, WWE fans were given perhaps the greatest incarnation of ‘The Great One.’ This version was “Hollywood” Rock and this is the story of how the character came to be.
In 2001, the Rock landed a small role in the movie…’The Mummy Returns.’ His part in the movie received such positive reviews, it led Rock to get his own starring vehicle called ‘The Scorpion King.’ The filming of the motion picture took Dwayne Johnson away from a WWE ring for about four months in 2002. When he returned, he was still being pushed as a top babyface talent…only the fans were beginning to slowly turn on him due to becoming somewhat of a part time wrestler.
While the Rock was at the top of his game as a wrestler winning the WWE Undisputed World title, the popularity of his movie The Scorpion King was garnering him more projects as an actor. With the reports coming in that Dwayne Johnson was going to take another wrestling hiatus to film new movies….his title defense against a young Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002 was the turning point for many fans. The Rock received more boos than cheers during this match and it seemed like Johnson was becoming visibly agitated by it.
After losing the title to Lesnar to thunderous cheers…..Rock grabbed the house microphone and cut what seemed like a shoot promo on the fans that booed him. He said, “Whether you like it or you don’t, the Rock still leaves here as your People’s Champion.” With that, the Rock jumped out of the ring and out of WWE for several more months.
In early 2003, Vince McMahon announced that The Rock would be returning to WWE which received both loud cheers and boos. The Rock would appear a couple of times via satellite to badmouth the city that WWE was in solidifying him as being a heel once again. This time, however, he was more arrogant than ever before with him bragging about his Hollywood accomplishments. His first feud would be against a babyface Hulk Hogan reigniting their Wrestlemania 18 rivalry.
The two superstars would face off against each other at the No Way Out pay per view. This time Hogan was the babyface to the Rock’s new heel persona. The Rock won the match after outside interference from Vince McMahon and a crooked referee aka Sylvan Grenier.
Along with his new attitude, came a brand new theme song with entrance video to make sure fans knew this wasn’t the same old Rock.
As ‘Hollywood’ Rock, he also performed in the middle of the ring something he called…A Rock concert. Where he would play a guitar and sing. It was basically him badmouthing fans, the city they lived in and the top babyfaces during that period of time. WWE fans became somewhat conflicted with Hollywood Rock, because despite being a heel to boo…he was his typical self and very entertaining on the microphone. Cheers would be mixed in with the boos.
In true form, Dwayne Johnson didn’t try to appeal to the fans cheering, he would just act more cocky and arrogant and talk down to them. An interesting side feud developed during Hollywood Rock’s tenure in WWE. He began interacting with Hurricane Helms. The backstage segments were extremely comedic in nature with Helms actually holding his own against the quick wit of Johnson. The two would end up wrestling against each other with Helms scoring a shocking pin fall on the Rock after outside interference from Rock’s archrival ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
The two would main event Wrestlemania 19 in Seattle, Washington. It would be the third time The Rock and Austin headlined a Wrestlemania. This match saw the Rock defeat Austin after delivering three Rock Bottom’s on the Texas Rattlesnake. After the event, it was reported that Austin was walking away from WWE….as was The Rock who had more movies to make. The final appearance of Hollywood Rock took place the next night on Raw. The Rock continued his heel shtick to get the fans to go against him…only for former WCW star Goldberg to make his debut in WWE and spear the Rock to a mixed reaction. The Rock was subsequently written off WWE television and the Hollywood character was never seen again.
The Rock of course made several other appearances in the company, but as a huge babyface once again. No doubt, the 2003 version of the Rock was one of the all time best from the self proclaimed ‘Most electrifying man in sports entertainment.’