Say what you will about wrestling: it’s fake, it’s not real fighting, MMA is better, it’s a soap opera…the list goes on. But when a wrestler steps foot on the canvas, no matter how scripted the match might be, there’s still a significant degree of danger involved. Moreover, different wrestlers have varying degrees of skill, so less technical combatants can stick out like a sore thumb. For avid fans of the sport, it can lead to some underwhelming main events. But that’s only one cog in the complicated machinery that forms the WWE. You need to be a decent actor, too, as much of your time will be spent backstage in front of cameras, fueling rivalries and moving the storyline forward. It’s a guilty pleasure for fans and adds some extra drama to matches already well-oiled as a spectacle.
Because the WWE is a multi-faceted sport, there are few wrestlers who have successfully mastered each component to become the whole package. We’re not going to go through a list of the best all-around wrestlers, maybe we’ll save that for another day, but we will examine the all-time greatest in this regard and what makes this wrestler such a commodity for the WWE.
If you haven’t figured it out despite the title, we’re talking about The Rock, of course. The Great One, The Brahma Bull, The People’s Champion, The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment…he’s earned these nicknames for good reason. So without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons The Rock is the greatest wrestler in WWE history:
10 The People’s Eyebrow
It takes a special kind of wrestler to have the audience at your feet by simply raising an eyebrow, but that’s The Rock in a nutshell. “The Great One” has several one-liners and signature moves in his back pocket—er, speedo—and that’s what makes him such a marketable commodity for the WWE. He’s recognizable even to those who despise wrestling. And why, you might have just asked. It’s simple: The Rock can raise an eyebrow and have an arena in an uproar. Think about that for a second before you dismiss The Rock in the company of WWE hall of famers.
9 The Rock and Sock Connection
The Rock and Sock Connection remains as one of my favourite memories as a wrestling fan. The tag team spawned countless segments of unhinged hilarity that is still remembered to this day. The magic of it all is that apparently the duo faced the camera in unscripted interactions that had the audience in stitches. That’s true chemistry, and considering the amount of politics behind the scenes in wrestling, it was nice to see two wrestlers give it their all for the good of the sport. One can dream that the two will reunite in some kind of hall of famer tag team match in the future. Hey, don’t tread of my dreams.
8 The People’s Elbow
Let’s be honest, The People’s Elbow is an elbow drop, nothing more, nothing less. So why does it deal such ferocious damage that has The Rock’s foes bounce off the canvas in excruciating pain? Again, it’s simple: The Rock is better than your favourite wrestler. That or his elbow possesses some sort of superhuman power, thus the elbow pad concealing its might. Regardless, it’s pretty amazing that The Rock took the time to strip his elbow pad, throw it into the crowd, cross his arms twice, bounce off the ropes on opposing sides of the ring, and dramatically unload an elbow into the chest of his opponent. It was the perfect finisher to follow up The Rock Bottom.
7 The Nation
Poor Farooq had no idea what was in store for him the moment he accepted The Rock into the Nation of Domination. Sure, the group started out alright as a mildly entertaining collection of coloured wrestlers demanding respect. But things really took off the moment The Rock decided to usurp Farooq and make the Nation his own. By far the best moment of the Nation’s existence, though, is when The Rock presented members of the group with three 15 thousand dollar solid gold Rolexes. Except for Farooq, who was gifted a portrait of The Rock himself wielding the Intercontinental Belt. That’s gold, Jerry, gold.
6 The Rock v. Stone Cold Steve Austin rivalry
This rivalry spanned three WrestleMania matches and several hilarious segments from the weekly Raw events. Stone Cold took the first two matches, in what were stunning battles that pushed both wrestlers to their limits, until The Rock defeated his rival at WrestleMania 19. For my money, it’s one of the best matches ever, mostly for the entertainment factor, which is what wrestling is all about. The Rock famously wore Stone Cold’s vest and the two proceeded to exchange each other’s finishing moves. Witnessing The Rock deliver a Stone Cold Stunner, and vice versa for Steve Austin, was as hilarious as it was surprising. The Rock then finished Stone Cold with not one, not two, but three consecutive Rock Bottoms to earn his first victory against one of WWE’s most popular wrestlers.
5 “The Corporate Champion”
The Rock is at his best when he’s a villain, there’s no denying that. This is why Vince McMahon deserves props for this stroke of genius. The Corporation was McMahon’s response to rebellious wrestlers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, using their political power to gain the upper hand and dominate the scene, at one point holding all three major titles. The Rock won the WWF Championship belt three times during his time with the stable. While it only lasted a couple years, which is actually fairly long, the group spawned some of the WWF’s most memorable moments. Stone Cold is to thank for that, too.
4 Controlling the Audience
The Rock knows how to rile up a crowd. Heck, The People’s Elbow wouldn’t be half as entertaining if it didn’t inject life into the audience and have them roaring in approval, or disapproval. When The Rock grabs hold of a microphone, get ready. Here are just a couple of his most memorable lines: “The Rock will take you down Know Your Role Boulevard which is on the corner of Jabroni Drive and check you directly into the Smackdown Hotel!” and then this to Bad Ass Billy Gunn, “Your house started to shake, the heavens opened up, and God Himself spoke to you and said this: "Bob..." (little boy voice) "But my name's Billy." (back to Rock-voice) "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!" Enough said.
3 The Rock v. Hulk Hogan
From a technical standpoint, Hulk Hogan isn’t the greatest wrestler. He’s actually pretty mediocre. But it doesn’t matter, because back in his heyday the Hulkster entertained the audience and controlled them at will. That’s real power. In the later stages of his career, though, Hulk Hogan was drifting into irrelevance. It was time to hang ‘em up. Until, of course, The Rock entered the picture and formed a rivalry with one of the all-time greats. The two fought in WrestleMania 18 in what was dubbed “Icon” vs. “Icon.” The match still stands as one of the all-time greats, with The Rock claiming victory after dishing out two consecutive Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow for the finish. They even shook hands after the match, demonstrating their respect for one another.
2 The Rock hosts Saturday Night Live
The Rock hosting Saturday Night Live was the beginning of the end of his wrestling tenure. He has since returned to the WWE, mostly on a part-time basis, but his work on SNL solidified his career as an actor. In fact, his most recent film, Furious 7, has been a hit in theatres. Pertaining to SNL, The Rock has gone on to host the live comedy sketch show three more times, a testament to his natural ability as an entertainer. He used SNL as platform to flex his comedic muscles, which is one of his best traits as a wrestler, and now he is by far the most recognizable name in wrestling history, I’d argue even over Hulk Hogan. The People’s Champion entered legendary status that day in 2000.
1 The Rock is the Ultimate Package
Nine paragraphs later, it’s clear The Rock is the ultimate package. He’s technically sound as a wrestler, he’s hilarious, he’s marketable, he does it all. He’s been involved in some of the best wrestling rivalries ever and he’s in at least two of the top 10 best wrestling matches of all-time. And even if you dispute that, his work on the mic alone warrants him the title as the People’s Champion. The Rock can wrestle with the best of them and work the mic better than anyone. So who, who I ask, is a better wrestler than The Rock? Oh, you don’t agree? Well, The Rock has something to say to you, Jabroni: “Know your role and shut your mouth.”