It’s time for my review of WWE: The Epic Journey of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I watched the 3-Disc DVD edition. The main feature (biographical documentary) will be covered as the basis of the review. Hope you enjoy reading it in the run up to the release next Tuesday. – Daniel
The documentary features new interviews with Vince McMahon, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, John Cena, CM Punk, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Pat Patterson and Ron Simmons. It is however focused on Vince/HHH/Jericho/Foley and Rock himself giving comments. That might sound limited but it works very well being centered around these personalities. After all those four guys were all very influential in Rock’s career and directly involved. You want to listen to them.
If you were expecting Santino and Zack Ryder in here giving cheesy impressions of The Rock’s or his catchphrases, you’ll be pleasantly surprised there is nothing like that. Even John Cena only pops up now again and that’s clearly just because of the WrestleMania 28 relevance. What this translates to is compelling, fairly in depth discussion of The Rock’s career from the people who lived it!
Finally The Rock has come back to WWE DVD..
I don’t know about you, but when I watched the recent WrestleMania 28 promo packages featuring The Rock being interviewed on the move, it crossed my mind he would probably be giving interviews for this DVD in the same brief fashion. I thought that because clearly he’s a busy guy with a packed out schedule. I was wrong though. The Rock sits down specifically for this DVD. He discusses pretty much all the major stages of his WWE career, with obvious passion when recalling it, and it’s great to see for the first time. That’s definitely something we’ve been waiting for on DVD for years. In fact I thought it would never happen when he was gone for so long.
Wrestling is the focus, not movies…
The documentary runs just short of two hours, and there’s no real time wasted. We get a short family background and hear about his roots in football, but it’s just the right length. Less than 10 minutes in we’re hearing about his first wrestling training with his dad, followed up by Rock, Vince and Patterson talking about his process of entering the WWF, and his debut in MSG.
What I loved is from the off we see Vince is involved with this documentary with new interviews and it screams serious business. In the intro and later on in the feature The Rock reveals a truth about why he stayed away from WWE for 7 years. I won’t spoil things in here but Rock says on the DVD it’s the first time he has revealed it publicly. It’s great to hear and sounds legit.
The documentary does a good job of showing early crowd reactions to The Rock at the time, with Triple H, Mick Foley and others talking about the “Rocky sucks” chants prevalent in their matches. Rock addresses it too, feeling his character then lacked authenticity and “the fans see through bullshit”. Rock joining the Nation of Domination and running with his character from there is covered in some nice depth too, with new interviews from Ron Simmons.
I like the recollection of the DX/Nation feud in here because Rock and Triple H touch upon the personal backstage rivalry between them that was going on with egos involved, but feel it was all business and trust when in the ring. It’s great to hear the top stars of the Attitude Era in Stone Cold, The Rock and Triple H, recalling how around Survivor Series 98 they were quite literally fighting to the top guy to be ushering in a new era of wrestling. I laughed out loud at Rock’s comments about his joy of becoming the youngest WWF Champion – “that shit was sweet”. Later on the Rock/HHH feud of 1999/2000 is covered, one of my favourite times in wrestling, and it’s awesome to hear their passion reminiscing that uber heel against hot babyface feud.
So, as you already know the majority of footage being shown in the biography is from the Attitude Era so there is blurring present. I must say the blurring honestly was not all that noticeable throughout these clips, certainly not distracting, although clips are quickly changing on screen.
Discussion on Mick Foley and The Rock’s feud and comedic tag team take up some length on the doc, and this is another good example of why it’s so important to have the right people interviewed. Foley does most of the talking but it’s a joy to listen to. Highlights are looking back on the chair shots and brutality at Royal Rumble 99, and the “This is your Life” segment over which Vince was going nuts backstage because of the length it was going!
It gets juicy when covering Rock/Austin. Rock talk’s about how competitive they both were toward each other, and recalls having an issue with the end of Austin’s signature reading “#1”, because that’s the spot he was gunning for. Foley says their rivalry for the top spot was very real, not just for TV. Jericho is insightful throughout this doc (another one where he really ups the value by being on there), painting a picture of how huge that rivalry was, and that the situation of having two megastars at one time in the same era may not ever happen again.
I often think I’ve seen all of The Rock’s promos that many times over that they’ve lost their appeal somewhat but this documentary does a great job of putting them all together in a highlight reel and the result is you laughing out loud. They show off that Rock really did have the whole package, and Jim Ross feels it was all about this variety he brought, not relying on just one catchphrase or one way of delivering comedy.
We begin to move on to The Rock becoming a superstar in other forms of entertainment. My feeling was that here the doc would take a turn for the worse, but actually there was interesting clips of his media attention and his Saturday Night Live skits. It’s interesting to hear of Rock’s talk with Vince about “growing” in which Vince had no reservations with Rock reaching for the stars. Rock talks of wanting to be on the big screen since he was 8 years old.
WWE is not shy in this to express the opinion that Rock had become more mainstream than Steve Austin, even though Austin was hugely popular too. After those short clips outside of wrestling, we’re on to Wrestlemania 17. They bill it as the return of the king (Austin) and the two megastars going at it. Jericho says here that WrestleMania 17 was the one that was just amazing. Agreed. You don’t hear this mentioned on WWE DVD’s much but it truly was.
Rock/Hogan next. Good film footage of their match at WrestleMania X8, showing off the spectacle it was. A few comments from Hogan in here (taken from The Mania of WrestleMania). Interesting to hear from Rock that at this point Rock was beginning to think he’d accomplished everything he wanted to in wrestling, and how he pitched the idea of going up against Hogan at WrestleMania to Vince, who already had it in his head too.
Next, the doc does a great job at covering something I didn’t expect it to. This was the effect Rock making it big in Hollywood had on the wrestling fans reaction to him. Naturally, the match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam is brought up and fantastic to see was some footage I don’t recall seeing before of Rock off the air at that event, where Rock st looking quite pissed off with the crowd. JR thinks the fans were asking, “Is he with us or is he a movie guy now?”. We see how this was the roots of his new Hollywood character in WWE at a time he was still transitioning into movies. The doc has a nice amount of time on this character in 2003, and rightly so, including Rock recalling the Sacramento “concert” which is hilarious.
WrestleMania 20 is touched upon, where Foley reveals how Rock felt that match really was a big deal to him, but nobody expected he’d be away for 7 years following it. Rock’s return to WWE last year on Raw still gives me goosebumps, and it’s shown here in the doc. I must say when you watch it after going on a nostalgic ride through The Rock’s whole career it makes it even better, and there is real emphasis on how big of a deal it was because he had been gone for so long prior to it.
Two other great things. Jericho sticks one to any Rock haters out there (and I guess, John Cena, too) saying he paid all of his dues back in the day and has nothing left to prove. Off air footage from Rock’s recent Raw birthday show, where we see The Rock in the ring watching the “Coming Home” tribute. It’s cool to see his reaction to that emotional video.
Let me point out that I feared this Rock DVD would have heavy emphasis on Hollywood, and be more about the all around Superstar he has become, but watching through it you soon realise this is WRESTLING focused. Pretty much every stage of his WWE career talked at length, which is what Rock is sitting there to do. The right personalities are joining him, and the right topics are covered.
The movie stuff is actually brief and only brought into the documentary when relevant. It is also interesting whenever it does comes into discussion. This really is the WWE career documentary on The Rock we hoped for.
Was every single detail of his career covered? No, but enough was. Was the documentary long enough? Nope, I could have easily listened to another hour of stories but 2 hours was a decent length. The production values of the feature I thought were superb.
One criticism is that toward the end of the feature I felt it was more the other stars like Foley and Jericho doing the talking, more so than The Rock, but WWE managed to get Rock sit down to interview for this DVD and he doesn’t hold back in recalling his wrestling career so you have to respect that.
I give the main feature of an 9/10 rating. A fantastic, in depth look at The Rock’s time in WWE. Something to show anybody who thinks Dwayne has no passion left for the business, and something you’ll be watching for years to come. The additional matches and promos present on the set I feel are the usual suspects, and not really that exciting, but one could argue they deserve to be on a Rock career DVD. I think you can make up your own mind on those based on the other sets you own. The Blu-ray edition with about 90 minutes of extra material on top is the way to go.
The DVD and Blu-ray is released to the United States on February 21st. Click to buy your copy.
Following that, the United Kingdom gets it in March, in stock first at Silvervision.co.uk!