Young Rock as a retrospective has a compelling start – catapulting the viewer into the future. The year is 2032, a presidential candidate sits down with Randall Park for an interview. The interview tells of Dwayne Johnson’s life and career, with great humour and levity from both The Rock and Randall. In using the ‘Brahma Bull’s’ life story, you learn a lot about The Rock and his younger days and how intertwined it is with other wrestlers. They say that wrestling is like a family, and this concept is introduced early on with references to ‘Uncle Iron Sheik’, who is treated like family despite no blood ties to the Johnsons. Perhaps the show has got you questioning who some of the wrestlers featured are? Well ponder no more as each week we will delve into the history of the supporting cast of wrestlers featured in Young Rock.
Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, Rocky Johnson is The Rock’s father. Outside of that, he was an acclaimed wrestler and former boxer. The ‘Soulman’ left boxing in the mid-1960s and turned to a different ring. He made his wrestling debut in 1966 and in the 1970s was a mainstay of NWA. Although he won several regional NWA titles, he never climbed to the top of the metaphorical mountain in the promotion. Eventually, he joined the WWF, where he teamed with Tony Atlas. As a team, ‘Soul Patrol’ made an impact, very quickly claiming the tag titles and creating history. In beating the Wild Samoans for the belts, Rocky and Tony became the first African-Americans to win the World Tag Team Championship.
Despite leaving the company as a wrestler in 1985, Rocky Johnson still had an influence on the WWF. Aside from helping train the ‘Great One’, he later trained the stars of tomorrow during a short stint with Ohio Valley Wrestling [a precursor of NXT]. He also made occasional cameos, often coming to the rescue of The Rock. This includes one notable time during WrestleMania 13 where he came down to the ring to help his son during a beat-down from The Iron Sheik, Sultan and Bob Backlund. Rocky Johnson was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2008 class alongside Ric Flair and Peter Maivia.
A graduate in political science from Fayetteville State University and a former prospect for the legendary Green Bay Packers, Junkyard Dog was a perfect blend of brains and brawn. Everything changed in the 1970s as he started making his way to the ring instead of the gridiron. Born Sebastian Ritter, the near 300-pounder debuted for Stampede Wrestling, which was under the stewardship of Stu Hart. He gained his JYD moniker when wrestling for Mid-South Wrestling. In a manner befitting someone living his gimmick, he walked to the ring with a dog collar and chains. He was quick – despite his size – and could back it up with power.
In 1984, he made his debut for WWF. He challenged for the Intercontinental Championship against Greg Valentine albeit unsuccessfully. However, he did later win the first Wrestling Classic [the WWF’s first foray into pay-per-view]. In winning the tournament he confirmed his status as a wrestler of huge prestige. In a ‘Loser Must Bow’ match, JYD took on Harley Race at WrestleMania III. He later left the company to join NWA, which became WCW. During this time, he fought Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship and later claimed the WCW Six-Man Tag Team Championship. Retiring in 1993, ‘Junkyard Dog’ Sebastian Ritter was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004 by the ‘Big Cat’ Ernie Ladd.
Trained by the legendary Verne Gagne and born in the Semnan Province of Iran, Iron Sheik was one of the most loathed wrestlers of the 80s and 90s. He was a former amateur wrestler in his native country and claimed the WWF World Heavyweight Championship just over 10 years after his wrestling debut. In beating Bob Backlund in controversial fashion, he solidified his status in the company. He lost his title against Hulk Hogan 28 days later. This led to an eventual rivalry with Sgt. Slaughter in a heavily nationalistic rivalry. This culminated in a Boot Camp match at Madison Square Garden, which his American opponent won. Teaming with Nikita Volkoff, he took on and beat the U.S. Express at the first WrestleMania and in doing so the foreign team left with the gold.
‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia is arguably the ‘doyen’ of the Maivia/Johnson wrestling dynasty, of which The Rock is a part. Father-in-law of Rocky Johnson and grandfather of the Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment, without him there would be no Dwayne Johnson. The Samoan-born, New Zealand-trained Maivia won multiple championships in both the South Pacific and in Hawaii. He claimed many titles in the west coast of America including the NWA Tag Team Championship with Pat Patterson. He became nationally renowned when he joined the WWF. For a time, he teamed with Bob Backlund, but later turned on his ally when Bob won the WWF Title.
As prolific as he was as a wrestler, Maivia was also successful outside of the squared circle. He trained Afa of the Wild Samoans as well as his future son-in-law Rocky Johnson. He also found success as a promoter of NWA Hawaii and had a cameo in the 1967 film You Only Live Twice. This was not the last time that his likeness was featured on the silver screen. He was the inspiration behind the characterisation of the demigod of the wind and sea Maui in Moana, as The Rock revealed. His grandson also inducted Maivia into the same Hall Of Fame class as Rocky Johnson, with both family members inducted together.
a lil’ @Disney gem of a secret, my character Maui was partly inspired by my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia of Samoa. #gratefulhttps://t.co/VQgj8hJIcS
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) October 3, 2017
Wild Samoans – Afa and Sika
The locker room, they say, can feel like a family. This is no more pertinent than it is for brothers of the Anoa’i family, Afa and Sika. As nephews of Peter Maivia, they were no strangers to the wrestling world. Afa was the first of the two to learn the ways of the squared circle. Maivia and their cousin Rocky Johnson trained Afa, who in turn trained younger brother Sika.
Initially competing at Stampede Wrestling, they went on to debut in WWF in 1979. Led by manager Captain Lou Albano, the grunting pair quickly rose the ranks of the WWF. In total, they had three reigns with the WWF World Tag Team Championships. The first was in 1980, where they beat Ivan Putski and Tito Santana to claim gold. The final time they were champions was in 1983. They lost to Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas on that occasion.
Once done with active wrestling the two brothers became trainers. Between them, they have trained superstars that have won over 50 WWF/E Championships combined. The stars they have trained include Rikishi, Batista and Roman Reigns. In 2007, the Wild Samoans were inducted into the Hall Of Fame by Afa’s son ‘Samu’ and Sika’s son ‘Rosey’. Afa also set up a charity called the Usos Foundation, which provided scholarships to join the Wild Samoan Pro-Wrestling Training Center.
André The Giant
Although not featured directly in episode one, Andre does appear in the teaser for the following week. The ‘Eighth Wonder Of The World’ was born in France and already at the age of 12 was 6’2″. At one point during his childhood, he was driven to school by famed playwright Samuel Beckett [writer of Waiting For Godot]. Andre Rousimoff owed his size in part to suffering from acromegaly, but this was incredibly marketable in the wrestling world. He commenced wrestling at the age of 18 and quickly made a name for himself in Canada and Japan.
In 1973, he joined the WWF, which was being run by Vince McMahon Sr. at the time. Once he signed, he stayed with the company for 20 years and reportedly turned down an offer to play in the NFL. Billed as undefeated for nearly 15 years, he took on and beat many stars, including Hulk Hogan. He was one of the first wrestlers to enjoy mainstream success, making appearances in both TV and Film. His most famous role was as the giant Fezzik in Princess Bride.
He enjoyed two championship victories in the WWF, firstly the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. He relinquished this almost immediately to Ted DiBiase. The other title he claimed was the WWF World Tag Team Championship with Haku. They lost this at WrestleMania VI and Andre became a crowd favourite once more. In 1993, after his passing, Andre became the very first inductee into the WWE Hall Of Fame.