How did "The Rock", become so big and popular in the WWF/WWE?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made in WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maiva. In a few months he was pushed heavily and the fans…fucking hated him. “Rocky Sucks” was a constant chant. And, lets face it the guy had terrible angles; like needing to be saved from as ass whooping from the Sultan at Wrestlmania XIII by his Dad*.

*No. Not a joke.

He got injured, came back about the time of the Montreal Screw job, where Vince’s express purpose seemed to get him to be Austin’s chew toy (stealing the I.C belt, winning it by forfeit and getting the thing dumped into a river* by Austin)

*Again, not a joke.
Sometime after that, he began to rise in popularity for which culminated in him winning the title, and becoming probably the biggest wrestling icon since Hogan.

How did it turn around so damn quickly? It felt that almost overnight people who were booing him started loving the guy. Cannot say that he got pushed much and he had been making wisecracking promos for a year?

Wasn’t he just incredibly charismatic? I only followed wrestling intermittently at the time, but from my memory he was by far the most magnetic and appealing character in wrestling.

He copied the rise of Dusty Rhodes as the ‘American Dream’ in Florida from years beforehand. He made himself and outrageous heel (bad guy), then did a face turn (turned good guy), something the crowd always loves. He called himself the People’s Champion and copied Dusty Rhodes’ elbow drop. Add to that his dramatic flair and he was a hit. Rocky realized more than many other wrestlers the audience participation aspect of wrestling, his character used a number of catch phrases and humor to draw the audience into the act. Let’s not forget that he is a tremendous athlete as well, he displayed a lot of technical skill and toughness along with the pure entertainment.

Didn’t he take some cooking classes? :smiley:

He’s hot. Really really hot.

After Rocky Maivia bombed as a babyface legacy character, he joined the Nation of Domination as a gang member.

Farooq (Ron Simmons) was the leader. Rock got good heat because fans had rejected him, but he opened everyone’s eyes when he began to cut unscripted promos.

Eventually, he upstaged Farooq. With the looks and excellent mic work, in addition to his ambition and willpower to be the best he could be and learning from the best, there was no stopping him.

Keep in mind in wrestling, talent and skill do not necessarily propel you. The Rock was able to navigate the backstage politics and recover from his initial failure.

His eyebrow. No one could resist The People’s Eyebrow.

It wasn’t really a failure, just a loose cannon shot. He got the crowd chanting ‘Rocky Sucks!’, that’s success. And yes, as you say, the backstage politics gave him the chance to turn that into superstardom. That’s a big advantage of being a 3rd generation professional wrestler.

You get your 8 year old fans every year who aren’t familiar with the back story. They have to pick somebody to root for.

I don’t care one whit about wrestling, but I always enjoyed him as an actor. I remember being genuinely surprised when he started breaking out into movies - he’s got a great mix of physicality (obviously from his years of pro wrestling) and comedic timing. It’s a shame that he’s been in so many bombs, but his good movies are quite good.

An interesting question - has any other pro wrestler managed to do what he did? Hulk Hogan starred in several films, but that was because he was the Hulkster; not because he was a compelling actor. Mr. T doesn’t count because he was an established actor before he did any pro wrestling.

The Rock succeeded in Wrestling for the same reasons he’s now succeeding in film. He has enough natural talent to make it, but he backs it up with hard work and he has charisma in spades. I was only just starting to watch wrestling then and only watched for a few years anyway, but it quickly became clear that what makes a big personality, at least in that era, was mic skills. Stone Cold wasn’t all that great of a wrestler, but he had a character that people bought into, and he could cut a good promo. The Rock has some of the best mic skills I’d ever seen. And like said upthread, he developed a whole set of quotable catch phrases and iconic moves, probably largely due to how effectively he delivered them, that helped draw the crowd into his performances.

That his first gimmick didn’t fly so well isn’t a big deal. A lot of wrestlers who go on to have successful careers had some pretty awful gimmicks along the way. For instance, off the top of my head, I know that Kane’s first gimmick was that he was a dentist, something like Dr. Ivan Yankem. Terrible, but he had the physique and talent to get another shot.

But, seriously, as hard as he works, with his talent, hard work, determination, charisma, mic skills, physique, and good looks, not to mention that he has legacy in the business… there was pretty much no way he WASN’T going to succeed. He exceeded what that might have predicted, but seeing where he is now, I think he really is a once in a generation type of talent.

And I say all of this as someone who found the excessive audience participation very grating when I started watching and found cheap pops annoying, so I hated him, even as a face, but he eventually won me over and I looked forward to watching him and missed him when he left. Though, I haven’t watching in probably a dozen years now.

Kanes second shot was as “Fake Diesel”.

This one’s easy: he’s funny. The Rock is a true entertainer. He was hilarious and knew how to play the crowd. People loved to hate him and, as mentioned by others, when he turned babyface people loved him. You won’t get bored watching the Rock’s promos or watching him in the ring. This is WWE’s problem now - boring characters.

A profile of him in “Fortune” back in 2014

Got to rassle with seven of nine in second worst Star Trek Voyager, and yes we saw it

Two pieces of evidence that pretty much tell the entire tale:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBugDDtdij4: this has nothing to do with wrestling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj-WCPNfq_k: this does

Basically he’s a natural entertainer. Combine that with the fact that he is, to be blunt, stupidly handsome, has an amazing physique, and that he worked really well with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H, the other massive stars of the time. He also kept in mind that wrestling is supposed to be fun.

Women love him for some reason. Anytime that happens it’s an unstoppable force. Think tom brady. Brad pitt, the guy from the wire, Denzel Washington, etc.

his family legacy – his father and grandfather were wrestlers and he had swag – he was a memorable childhood wwe star

And also, as Roman Reigns and Billy Gunn prove, if Vince really, really wants to make someone a star they’ll get endless opportunities.

What happened with Rocky was that as a face he was just milquetoast. He wasn’t very talented yet, so the matches were boring, he had a stupid finisher( shoulderbreaker, yawn), and he was pushed down the fans’ throats and so they reacted badly to him.

Then he joins the Nation, the fans can boo him for actually being a bad guy, he starts coming up with awesome catchphrases(although he didn’t get really good at promos until 1999 or so), and even his ring work just bled arrogance. And the best part is that the Rock didn’t just turn heel and face like a lot of wrestlers do. He always evolved in ways that made sense. So the fans not only got a better wrestler and a cooler bad guy, but they also got one who didn’t insult their intelligence. He was still actually pretty heelish when he teamed with Mick Foley, but he was so cool that fans loved him anyway. Despite the fact that he treated Mick like shit. He didn’t turn full on face until Foley was retired by HHH.

Edge is quite good in Haven and I’d happily watch him in other things.