You Heard It From Me: How The Rock Represented Me
For those of you reading this that know me, you may or may not know that I’ve been a wrestling fan for most of my life. Those of you that are aware of this, most likely know that I’m a big fan of Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as the Rock. Back in high school, I even developed my own persona based upon “The People’s Champ” as “The Seth,” making habit of quoting him regularly. After a few years, this part of me laid dormant until my last few years in the Air Force, stationed up in Alaska, where as the Seth, I was now, “The People’s Airman.”
Of course now, I’m very rusty when it comes to my Rock impressions, but there was a time where I could quote entire promos, or at least most of them, like the one here where he mocked his five opponents from the 2000 Armageddon.
Well you’re probably wondering how the Rock represented me. Well, of course, I count myself as one of his “millions and millions” of fans, but it goes much deeper than that.
You see, I grew up watching the World Wrestling Federation during the late 1980’s/early 90’s, with larger than life figures like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Andre “The Giant,” “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts. Then we go from there to the New Generation era with Bret “the Hitman” Hart. Then came the Attitude era. Of course, when it comes to the Attitude era, the first name that’s typically mentioned is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
This isn’t the popular opinion, but I was never an Austin fan. You see, I grew up cheering for baby faces, or good guys, who were goody two shoe types. Hogan told his Hulkamaniacs to train, say their prayers, and eat their vitamins. Bret Hart was a role model for the fans. Even the Warrior, with his wild persona, talked about his union with his Warriors and was as super hero come to life. So we go from that to a bald, Texas redneck, who drinks beer, flicks people off, says he doesn’t care if the fans cheer him or not, gets arrested, and I’m supposed to cheer for him? The answer was “No” for me. Plus, it didn’t help that I blamed Austin for turning the fans against Bret Hart.
Now I know that this reflected a shift in the taste of the masses, but it left me disillusioned. One of my bosses in the Air Force, himself a lifelong wrestling fan, explained to me how Austin represented Middle America. I understood what he was trying to say, that Austin represented the working class man who sought to stick it to the corporate big boys. However, while Austin may had represented the masses, I didn’t feel that Austin represented me, personally.
So then Austin resumed his feud with the Rock. Though I remembered the Rock as the big headed jerk from the Nation, and was now part of the evil Corporation, he was feuding against the guy who I didn’t feel represented me, plus, he started saying all these cool catch phrases. Then the Rock turned face, so it was now “okay” for me to cheer for him, so now I was unapologetically one of his fans.
From 1999 until now, the Rock has been my favorite wrestler, but here’s the heart of the matter. Here’s why I’m a fan of his, why he represented me.
Like I said, I didn’t feel that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin represented me. He represented, in my opinion, a group of people, I didn’t identify with. I was a light-skinned black kid from Michigan who everyone thought was a mulatto (mixed), raised in predominately white neighborhoods. Now with that said, I generally never felt I needed an example of a black person doing something or becoming the first black person to achieve something to believe that I could achieve things. That’s because my mother taught me that with God, all things are possible; and God blessed me with some great teachers in elementary school who told me I could do anything I wanted just like anyone else.
However, there was a part of me that felt a little bit alienated for a long time, that there hadn’t been a black WWE champion, but the Rock changed that. Yes, he’s only half black (and half Samoan), but he and I have very similar completions and we’re both considered minorities.
To see someone who in a sense “looked like me” become the biggest star in professional wrestling, be adored by fans worldwide, with popularity that transcended gender, ethnic, and national lines, who was just awesome with one catchphrase after another, witty, clever, funny, and downright entertaining, was refreshing. The best part was that there never seemed to be a big deal about him being the first black/Samoan world champion in WWE history, though he was a trailblazer. He was simply the “People’s Champ,” who just so happened to be a minority. At least that’s how I felt.
The Rock would actually play a role in me confronting and embracing my past. In 2011 was my 10-year high school reunion; and my time in high school could be best described using the beginning of Charles Dicken’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” There were times where I thought about how much I wanted revenge against those who were bullies back then, but I had to learn how to forgive, which I did, of course. What actually helped me was watching the video of the Rock’s return from that year, after he had been gone for seven years. I had only been back from the Air Force for a year after leaving in 2002, a year after I graduated, intending to put my past in the rear view window. Seeing the Rock return “home” and embrace his past helped me to come to terms with my own past, actually look forward to my reunion, and arrive there having already forgiven those I would run into, while catching up with old friends.
So that’s how the Rock represented me and continues to, even though he’s seven inches taller and has more muscles than me. Cheering for the Rock is personal for me. It’s always been. It doesn’t hurt that our birthdays are in the same month, May, and only a couple days apart.
If Dwayne Johnson himself ever reads this, I want him to know that his impact meant so much to me, more than he may ever know. His impact gave me hope during a critical period in my life, high school, where he showed that no matter who or what is against you, you can stand against your obstacle, and do it standing tall, defiantly, and with style. For that, I would tell him, thank you and God bless you. You heard it from me, Seth Walker.