#WWF54111 – The Rock – Just Bring It!
James Dixon: This is the third Rock VHS release, all of which came out during the years covered by this volume.
The subtitle of the tape (“just bring it”) is the first point of discussion, with Rock giving us insight on how he came up with it. He talks about a particularly gruelling schedule where he went from filming for The Mummy Returns in Morocco to appearing live on RAW a day later, and his reaction to it all was “just bring it, bring all of it”. He says he liked it and it ended up becoming part of his persona, and it does indeed fit the character perfectly. We go to brief footage from the absurd main event of King of the Ring 2000 where Rock pinned Vince McMahon to win a six man tag match and also the WWF Championship. Don’t ask. Rock modestly says that selling out arenas and doing large buyrates is a collaborative effort from everyone in the WWF, and is not just down to one guy. He is right of course, because from the Attitude Era and beyond it was the company brand that sold tickets rather than any individual talent, but there is no doubt that Rock (along with Steve Austin) being on the cards made a huge difference in getting the company to that level, and either of them appearing was a difference maker.
We get some rare behind the scenes locker room footage of Rock preparing for his match and generally larking around with some of the boys. Scotty 2 Hotty wants to get his cock out but Rock is having none of that: “I’ve seen it already. Now I know why they call it the Worm”. Rock wanders around a bit and finds an embarrassed Kurt Angle in the shower, who quickly hides his manhood and pleads with Rock to go away. “You’re begging me to turn heel, aren’t ya?” jokes Angle to Rocky. Next, rare house show footage from a match against Steve Austin! Not much of it is shown, but we do see Rock wearing Austin’s waistcoat and prancing around, which is a spot they lifted and used again for their WrestleMania XIX ultimate blow-off match. Following the house show bout, the two fierce rivals put their differences aside and do some impromptu karaoke together, then Rock gives Austin a Stunner. Backstage immediately afterward Rock is unlacing his boots, and he comments that Austin is still out there entertaining the fans with his post-show antics. We see similar footage of Austin doing the same thing on his Stone Cold Steve Austin – What? Video release, again showing what a dedicated performer he is and how he is willing to go that extra mile to make sure the punters get their money’s worth. It is something he deserves more credit for than he perhaps gets.
We go behind the scenes of The Mummy Returns, which is kind of bittersweet to watch because it was ultimately the first step that took Rock away from wrestling, but at the same time catapulted him into the mainstream consciousness and made him a huge star. We hear Arnold Vosloo who plays Imhotep in the franchise and he talks about first hearing of the Rock, asking in his distinctive South African accent: “What’s this “rock” business?”, which tickles me somewhat. The film’s director Stephen Sommers puts Rock over, and they discuss a fantasy match between the Mummy and the Rock characters. If it was made in the 80s, you can guarantee Vince McMahon would have done it on PPV too.
Back to wrestling, and Rock talks about promos, saying how he feels that every one of them means stepping up to the proverbial plate. In keeping with that analogy, it is fair to say that Rock had a higher homerun ratio that nearly anyone else in the history of the business. We see some highlights from recent Rock promos, including him asking Steve Austin for a hug and verbally decimating Booker T. Rock talks about finding the balance between seriousness and adding humour, then lets us in on the fact that all of his backstage promos are done live, before adding that he likes to reference things about the city he is in that night in order to make the interviews more personal. Or get cheap pops… same difference.
That leads us to Fully Loaded and the excellent Rock vs. Chris Benoit main event for the WWF Title. Rock had some great matches on PPV in 2000 and this is another, probably one of the best actual wrestling matches of his career, though it is also a slugfest and a brawl too. There is a little bit of everything. The match is shown in highlight form set to dramatic music, though the structure and flow is fairly well retained, which is a change from the norm on these kind of releases. The finish sees Shane McMahon get involved and belt referee Earl Hebner with a chair, then Rock chases Shane away and seemingly beats Benoit with the Crossface. But when Earl recovers he instead calls the match for Benoit via DQ, which also happens to be a title change because of the pre match stipulations. Commissioner Foley disagrees and calls for a restart, and a bloody Rock wins it the second time around with the Rock Bottom.
We see more of the Rock’s crazy schedule, with him constantly doing something when he isn’t wrestling due to how in demand he is away from the ring. This time he does a photo shoot with some baseball player from the New York Mets that I have never heard of and don’t particularly care about, and they debate which is better; baseball or the WWF. Well, baseball is one of the most boring sports I have ever seen so for me that is an easy one.
No Mercy 2000 saw Rock come up against Kurt Angle with his WWF Title on the line, as Kurt looked to complete an incredible rookie year by capturing the belt. He has Steph at ringside to serve as distraction and she does that pretty well, interjecting herself too and giving Kurt the title belt to use as a weapon for a near fall. Steph prevents the People’s Elbow on Kurt and takes a Rock Bottom for her troubles, then Rock goes for the elbow on her, but Angle prevents it. Triple H comes down and attacks both guys, then Rikishi lumbers down and accidentally decks Rocky and costs him the match. It’s a decent enough contest, but Kurt was pretty much buried as champion from the off as he needed all manner of assistance to win the belt.
Rock buries Superman for not showing any “jeopardy” and says that when he watched him as a kid he wanted to see him get punched in the mouth. It’s the same argument most fans would have against John Cena a decade later. This somehow segues into Rock-Rikishi at Survivor Series, which was not one of the finer programs of Rock’s year. The crux of the story was Rikishi ran down Steve Austin for Rock, and Rocky didn’t approve. It was all fairly bollocks. The WWF tried their best to make Rikishi into a legitimate threat, including having Rikishi do a hit and run with a sledgehammer in the build up, but Rock still picks up the win to put the whole sorry affair to bed.
And then a segment about music. There is not a great deal in the way of threads holding this together, but each little snippet is at least fairly entertaining. This feature has Rock in Jim Johnston’s studio “singing” for an upcoming WWF music album and a song called ‘Pie’. It’s about eating pussy. It’s also really horrible. Rock makes it clear that he wasn’t actually TRYING to sing and that it was just a bit of fun. He gives himself 1 or 2 out of 10. Truth is he is actually not a bad singer, as his many “Rock concerts” have shown over the years. One segment on RAW in 2013 where he sang to and about Vicky Guerrero stands out in particular. Jim Johnston claims there will be more music projects together, but while his mouth says the words his eyes scream “NOOOOOOOOOO”.
Back in the ring we skip ahead from the WWF Title loss to Rock winning the belt back at No Way Out 2001 months later. Literally everyone knew Rock was winning going into this, because Rock-Austin was always a lock for WrestleMania the following month. This match is good though, really good, and is quite famous for Angle’s potty mouth: “I will break your fucking ankle” he yells at Rock while he has him in the ankle lock. It’s no surprise that the sound gets turned down for that. The Big Show gets involved, which in an unwelcome sight, but it doesn’t take away from a tremendous effort from both of the guys in there. There are near falls aplenty, a hot crowd and the whole thing has an epic feel for its 16-minute duration, though it probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves and is often overlooked. There were a lot of genuinely great matches in 2001 though, despite the unflattering booking going on around them all. Rock obviously gets the job done and wins the title back, and the showdown in Houston is on.
Rock talks about the “special feeling” of a Rock-Austin match, which is right. They were the two biggest stars of a generation and both were red hot at the same time, which rarely if ever happened before or since on an international stage. Their bout at WrestleMania X-Seven is something else, it is absolutely brilliant in every way. From the wonderful pacing to the impeccable timing and the superb series of near falls, each one of which could genuinely have been the finish. The match is a titanic clash between the two biggest stars of the Attitude Era, and in many ways is the final exclamation point on that period. We get tons of highlights from the match set to high-tempo, frenetic music. There are many cute moments that ape other bouts, such as Austin with a bloody Rock in the Sharpshooter in an homage to WrestleMania 13, and Rock trying to get the same fall over Austin that Bret Hart did at Survivor Series 1996, and then Vince gets involved and effectively ends the Attitude Era with Austin turning heel. He needed freshening up but once he turned heel, interest in the product dropped because the fans’ hero had done the unthinkable. Losing a lot of other main event stars didn’t help the product either of course.
The next night on RAW, Rock beat up Vince with a Sharpshooter until he agreed to give Rock a rematch against Austin that night, and Vince made it a cage match. Rock has the match won until Vince interferes, so Rock locks the cage door and beats the hell out of him. Austin saves Vince with a low blow and he and Vince do a number on Rock. Triple H, Austin’s perennial rival of the last few months, comes down seemingly to save Rock from the pounding and begin a babyface run opposite ‘Stone Cold’, but instead they put the last few months of wars behind them and align to form the Two-Man Power Trip. It was a bad time for the WWF creatively, and no one wanted to see any of this at all.
Rock getting the shit kicked out of him was of course so he could take some time off and go and film his first feature film where he had the starring role, The Scorpion King… Rock does well in it and comes across like a natural, but it’s a boring ass movie. Really boring. Obviously his performance did impress the right people though, because it catapulted Rock into the stratosphere and set him on the way to becoming a legitimate box office attraction and a genuine movie star. In 2013 he was the highest grossing actor in the world. Impressive stuff. We get loads of footage from behind the scenes of the movie, which is nearly as dull as the film, unfortunately, apart from Kelly Hu getting all wet about the prospect of kissing Rock in the movie. Rock talks about doing his own stunts and claims: “Am I nervous to walk through fire? Nah I’m not nervous to walk through fire. The Rock walks through fire every single night in the WWF”. He must be confusing his character with Kane’s.
We see Rock’s return a few months later in Philly where Vince and Shane McMahon both begged Rock to join their side in the WWF vs. WCW/ECW Alliance war. Rock seemingly joined the Alliance when he Rock Bottomed Vince, but then he gave one to Shane too, because why book when you can overbook? What a shame too, because Rock could have been the spike that the Alliance needed, even if it would have made no sense. I guess they could have gone with the story of Rock never having forgiven fans for the “Die Rocky Die” chants years earlier and for turning on him for going to make movies. It might have worked. But no, instead the WWF thought firmly inside the box when Rock picked the WWF. Rock claims to have been “invigorated” by the chance to work with new guys from WCW, specifically Booker T. He says he watched Booker use the Rock Bottom while he was in WCW and he thought it was “interesting”. We see a brief snippet from an amazing SmackDown! promo where he asks Booker if he is the “WCW champion sucker?” and then a promo from RAW where he says “motherfucker” on the authority of Stephanie, which apparently enraged Vince. The Rock-Booker match at SummerSlam for the WCW Title follows, which somehow was the main event ahead of Austin-Angle. I guess it was Rock’s return match, but positioning the WCW Title ahead of the WWF Title was a surprising choice from the company after they had been decimating the group on television for weeks. Of course, the reason was so Rock’s victory was seen as more important, but the title situation got so ridiculous that quite quickly the WWF guys held most of the WCW belts and vice versa. Something like that should have been saved for a year or two into the angle, not done within a month. They just had no idea what they were doing with this at all.
Next we take a look at Rock ripping into Kevin Kelly on a weekly basis, including a segment where he forced poor Kev to spend an entire promo with his finger up his own nose. A few minutes of Rock working out in a gym follows, which as ever with these things is like watching paint dry. At least give us some cheesy porno music like we used to get on Coliseum tapes when the likes of Power & Glory would get features like this. After that Rock talks more about life on the road and gives us a snapshot of his day, which like everyone else on the roster includes waking up early, doing long drives and trying to find a few minutes of solitude away from pestering fans. He doesn’t actually say that mind you, but it is implied.
Finally we get a glimpse at some of the great work the Rock has done for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is one of the finest and most genuine things that the WWF/E is associated with. At the point this tape was filmed Rock was up to 30 wishes, which is very commendable and warranted him receiving an award, but it is absolutely dwarfed by John Cena’s remarkable 300+ wishes. For all of his detractors, there is no doubting that Cena’s dedication to that particular cause deserves endless plaudits. Whether 30 or 300, it is a helluva job and takes a lot of mental strength to do due to the upsetting nature of the work.
Summary: Coming in I was expecting another generic Rock tape just featuring a bunch of matches, but it’s a little bit more than that thanks to a decent portion of stuff away from the ring. It actually starts a lot better than it ends up, and more of the real backstage shenanigans and house show match stuff would have been great, and much better than seemingly endless Scorpion King crap. It really is a tape that goes back-and-forth between really good and fairly boring, but as with any profile tape your enjoyment will depend largely on how much you like the guy profiled. I have a lot of time for the Rock and found this to be an easy hour or so watch, though just be warned it is far more “random footage from a twelve month period” than a coherent career retrospective. Recommended.