Johnson’s thrilling, swaggering persona, his repertoire of exhilarating moves and those wily eyebrows swiftly catapulted him into the highest echelon of wrestling.
This November marks the 25th anniversary of The Rock’s WWE debut, which came at the 1996 Survivor Series pay-per-view. It’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty straightforward trajectory to the top, barring a few bumps (read: the babyface Rocky Maivia debut).
To mark the occasion, WWE announced on social media that the organisation will release a month’s worth of content entirely centred on The Rock. And what better way to kick it off than with a “The Best of The Rock” special, due to be released on Tuesday.
In the meantime, though, WWE has listed The Rock’s 25 greatest moments of all time in the ring, which is a pretty electrifying list in itself.
At number 25 is, of course, the Survivor Series debut as Rocky Maivia, a third-generation blue-chipper with goofy entrance gear. Nevertheless, The Rock took the fight to Goldust, Triple H, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Crush, marking the beginning of a truly iconic career.
Pinning Vince McMahon at King of the Ring 2000 to win Triple H’s WWF Championship slots in at #24. The 2000 King of the Ring was one of the largest editions of the tournament, with 32 competitors in the fray. After a long back-and-forth, The Rock ultimately Rock Bottomed Vince McMahon to win Triple H’s championship belt.
At #23 is an iconic moment in an iconic rivalry: The Rock throwing “Stone Cold” Steve Austin off a bridge. “The Attitude Era” was peak WWE and nothing exemplified the era more than this moment. In what served as payback for when Stone Cold threw his Intercontinental strap off a bridge a few years before, The Rock threw Stone Cold himself off a bridge on Monday Night RAW, along with his tricked-out Smoking Skull belt.
At #22 is a historic moment, a number of which are associated with The Rock; becoming the first draft pick in the history of the WWE Draft. Vince McMahon naturally chose “The Great One” as his first pick, making him switch to the blue brand of SmackDown. While he didn’t grace the brand for too long, The Rock certainly made his mark with his smack talk and endless bravado.
#21: The Rock joins The Nation of Domination, establishing himself as one of the biggest heels of The Attitude Era, which was a feat in itself.
The Rock beating up The New Day with his cousins, The Usos, slots in at #20. Making an electrifying return to RAW, The Rock pummelled The New Day. His first move upon his return? The Rock Bottom.
#19 hosts The Rock nailing Triple H and Shane McMahon with a Rock Bottom through a table at Backlash 2000. While Shane McMahon was the referee for the fight, The Rock couldn’t care less, hitting the Rock Bottom on both of them at the same time through the table.
At #18 is The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection becoming WWF Tag Team Champions after nailing Big Show with a double People’s Elbow. Not even The Undertaker being on Big Show’s side could stop the rampaging Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection.
#17: The Rock’s legendary promo before Armageddon 2000. This was truly one for the ages, complete with smack talk, impressions and more smack talk.
#16 is The Rock’s Intercontinental Championship win vs Triple H back in 1997. Still featuring as the babyface Rocky Maivia, his win over the budding superstar Triple H solidified his status as one of the most exciting young athletes on the roster.
#15: That sliding People’s Elbow on The British Bulldog. ‘Nuff said.
#14: The flamethrower entrance at WrestleMania 32. Now that is a proper Rock-sized entrance.
#13: Mankind’s “This Is Your Life” promo. Yep. That one, where The Rock’s former teacher, coach and girlfriend all made an appearance, only to be roasted by The Rock’s legendary mic skills.
#12: The Rock becomes WCW Champion at SummerSlam 2001. Arguably one of the best matches in the promotion’s history, The Rock vs Booker T was one of the high points of the Invasion angle and truly lived up to its billing.
#10: The Rock winning the WWF Championship at Backlash 2000. In what was a classic matchup between two Superstars with immense chemistry, the number of angles in play and Stone Cold Steve Austin raising hell with a steel chair made this fight one of the most remarkable moments in WWE history.
#9: The Rock beats The Alliance at Survivor Series 2001. Two McMahon kids trying to beat Vince McMahon’s WWE with The Rock in the fray? Oh boy. ECW and WCW’s unholy alliance made for stellar entertainment, but The Rock shone through, taking no prisoners on the night.
#8: The six-second match with Erick Rowan at WrestleMania 32. Only The Rock could pull off a six-second fight packed with just enough swagger and entertainment, couldn’t he?
#7: Beating Hollywood Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Toronto’s SkyDome stood witness to a thrilling fight between The Rock and Hollywood Hogan back in 2002. Too many were worried that Hogan would be too slow for The Rock and that the show would bomb. It went right the other way, with the two Superstars’ experience on full show.
#6: The Rock’s WWE return in 2011 was massive, on Valentine’s Day, no less! “You asked The Rock to bring it, you bet your candy a** The Rock will bring it!” was just one of the few iconic lines he dropped on the night, putting his mic skills to work against none other than John Cena.
#5: The win over Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIX. The trilogy fight between the pair was poetry in motion. It was a fight that signalled the end of an era, in hindsight. Stone Cold was never the same after losing the fight and The Rock headed for Hollywood soon after.
#4: The 2000 Royal Rumble win. It was held at Madison Square Garden, so you know The Rock had to put on a show. He didn’t disappoint. Remember The Rock telling Michael Cole to fix himself a glass of Shut Up Juice? Good times.
#3: The Rock beats John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII. Two WWE icons ready to set the ring alight. And they did. Back in Miami, where he played football for the Hurricanes, The Rock battled through pain and fatigue in a long matchup to ultimately trounce John Cena and take his rightful place at the top of the WWE hierarchy.
#2: The Rock’s first world title reign at Survivor Series 1998. Featuring a classic bit of cunning from Vince McMahon, The Rock won the WWF Championship that night, beating Mankind in the final of the tournament.
#1: Here we go, folks! The Rock beating The Undertaker and Kurt Angle for the Undisputed WWE Championship at Vengeance 2002 was surreal and packed with entertainment. The year WWF transformed into WWE was crowned with this jewel of a main event. The Undertaker almost ruined The Rock’s party, but The People’s Champion beat him to the punch, pinning Kurt Angle for the win.