rating: 4Through a 115 minute documentary, ten matches and four full length promos spanned over three discs The Epic Journey of Dwayne The Rock Johnson is an attempt to showcase one of the most meteoric rises in the history of the WWE and to detail how for the first time a wrestling personality was able to successfully achieve and maintain mainstream success within the world of film. Showing how the boy became the man and how that man became a wrestling icon and how the wrestling icon became a bona fide movie star this is a sustained look at the matches, promos and rivalries that helped The Rock to create a unique synergy with the public as well as the impact that he had on the wrestling industry as a whole. The Documentary Strengths: Despite approaching almost two hours in length, the documentary feature is entertaining throughout fascinating in its portrayal of just how quickly The Rock rose to superstardom within the wrestling industry. Adopting a laid back but articulate and informative tone, Dwayne Johnson talks in detail about what it felt like to grow up in a wrestling family, how he made the decision to train to become a wrestler, the setback of his initial face turn being derided by fans and how he was able to seize small opportunities that enabled him to stand out and embark upon the road that led to his legendary status. Although never without a smile and always composed, the unrelenting desire still emanates from Dwayne as he expresses the career ambition he had right from the beginning to climb towards the top of the mountain and to then continue in setting himself goals and challenges to further stimulate his dreams and ambitions once he got there. For such a confident, seemingly relaxed individual it is really striking to look back and witness the restless nature of a man who never set himself any limits and who worked himself to the bone to match his talent to the necessary success. What also becomes very apparent during this career retrospective is just how smart and on the ball Dwayne seems in regards to business and in having always understood and appreciated that the goal of making money and widening public interest in the product was far more important than whether or not he stayed face or heel or if he won or lost matches. In this regard, he appears far more enlightened and giving than the likes of Hogan and Austin and an individual who really made himself a star through striving to be the most entertaining character on the roster rather than concerning himself with the politics of protecting his spot. Of the numerous talking heads, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho are by far the most human and engaging as they express genuine admiration for The Rock's contribution to the business and reminisce about their programmes together. Foley in particular offers a number of interesting points as he talks about the unusual but productive rivalry with The Rock in which the handsome, tall, charismatic man with the great physique played the heel and the haggard, odd looking guy with the less than great physique managed to garner sympathy as a baby face in something of a unique situation that enabled The Rock to develop a meaner edge in a similar manner to how Foley also managed to show a darker side to Shawn Michaels in the midst of their excellent brawl at the Mind Games PPV in 1996. The feature also demonstrates the importance of competition in helping a wrestler to make ground as a main event talent. For Rock, this is detailed in his brilliant upper mid card rivalry with Triple H during which time both men were given room to try and steal the show with their matches, promos and increasingly engaging personalities and then in examining how Rock's quest to overhaul Austin as the face of the company kept both men on their toes and created the type of intense energy that prevented the product from becoming stagnant or the top stars becoming too comfortable in their positions. Reflecting on this dynamic, it becomes apparent just how much the WWE have suffered creatively in the past five years in not being able to make another superstar who can rival Cena's mainstream credentials and having to rely instead on bringing back a megastar of old in order to freshen up the product. Weaknesses: Unfortunately the documentary glosses over any form of conflict during The Rock's tenure with the WWE. We hear about how Rock and Triple H spurred each other on to achieve greater things as they were climbing the company ladder but there is no admittance from Hunter or indeed anyone else about the obvious professional jealousy that saw him try to derail Rock's push and attempt to take his place in several main events. Indeed Triple H is so corporate as a talking head that not only does he sound scripted the entire time but we're actually supposed to buy that he was always delighted about The Rock's emerging movie career and that he loves his range as a performer. Whilst a full blown admittance is perhaps too much to ask for, it still would have been more interesting if Hunter had actually adopted a more honest reflection in regards to his conflicting thoughts about being the third man behind Rock and Austin and on Rock making the full blown transition from wrestler to movie star. Instead watching him act all giddy as he talks about Rock during various stages of his career just appears phoney. Despite providing great insight, Foley is also guilty of this too as he either refrains or is told not to discuss The Rock breaking script and decimating him with some horrific chair shots during their I Quit Match at the Royal Rumble. Hearing Foley express his hurt at the situation which was palpable in the documentary Beyond the Mat and Rock offering his take on proceedings would have been an insightful look at how even the nicest of individuals can sometimes lose the plot in the heat of the moment and would have given the documentary some variety in tone instead of people inventing new superlatives to describe The Rock's greatness every time they appear on screen. Whilst The Rock expresses himself very well as he explains that he took a long absence from the WWE in order to establish himself as a movie star on his own terms there is no conflicting viewpoints expressed on how this neglect appeared as if The Rock was embarrassed by his wrestling past. Again, we're simply led to believe that Vince and co were always on-board and pleased with The Rock's success outside of wrestling and in these instances it makes the documentary appear insincere and one dimensional. Another riveting but unexplained facet of the documentary is how Rock managed to improve so quickly on the mic as he transitioned from a fairly unmemorable talker to someone who became so comfortable and brilliant in interviews that he could rile up crowds with a simple shrug of his shoulders or a movement with his hands. Despite Punk informing us that a wrestler's words are the true key to the fans hearts and footage revealing The Rock becoming more and more confident in his role, there is actually very little insight into the techniques or inspiration that Dwayne used to verbally catapult himself to superstardom. Matches / Promos Strengths: There are ten matches included on the DVD and they are mostly very good in showing how The Rock was able to appear supremely entertaining in the role of both face and heel and how his incredible personality and eye catching athleticism made up for his technical shortcomings inside the ring. Memorable selections include The Rock's intercontinental title ladder match with Triple H from SummerSlam 1998 which is plodding in places but stands out nonetheless as a brilliant example of how to give two rising stars a lengthy, gruelling match in which to earn the respect of the crowd and enhance their popularity. Then there is the famous Royal Rumble I Quit match WWE Title match with Mankind, an admirably creative tussle which perfectly used the gimmick of the microphone to promote the humour and resilience of both competitors and helped The Rock to display a viciousness that made him appear deadly and unpredictable as well as entertaining. Another big clash on show here is the excellent triple treat SummerSlam title match between The Rock, Kurt Angle and Triple H which expertly developed the conflict within the love triangle between Hunter, Angle and Stephanie McMahon without compromising The Rock's position in the match as the defending champion and biggest star. Other rewarding but less heralded matches featured include the WWE title rematch from Backlash 1999 which sees Rock and Austin engaging in a wild brawl around the ring whilst infiltrating some genius slices of entertainment such as Rock filming Austin as he delivers a beatdown, looking up to shoot the crowd and then looking back down to witness his recovered opponent flipping the bird at him through the lens. The 2002 SummerSlam title match between The Rock and Brock Lesnar is also an exhilarating balls to the wall blockbuster which works as a fitting changing of the guard with the fans cheering uproariously for Lesnar winning the match and temporarily establishing himself as the new face of the company. Meanwhile Rock shines as a heel against Ric Flair in North Carolina and in his rematch with Hogan from No Way Out in 2003. In both these clashes, Rock hilariously mocks the mannerisms of his opponents and does a brilliant job in selling his shock and anger at the two men being able to defy their age against him and at the crowd for booing the man who was once their peoples champion. Four promos are also included in the package. Rock manipulating the Toronto fans the night after defeating Hogan at No Way Out is a masterclass in composure and crowd control whilst the sequel to The Rock Concert aimed at insulting Bill Goldberg is very funny especially when Rock brings out Gilberg to parody his rival. The Rock's return to announce himself as the Guest Host of Wrestlemania in 2011 showed that he hadn't lost a step when it came to dealing with a live audience nor any of his value as an entertainer as he mercilessly tore into John Cena to the delight of the fans; introducing a number of new catchphrases in the process. Weaknesses: Rock's debut at Madison Square Garden in a traditional Survivor Series match was well booked in the sense that it mixed together members of the old guard with the new and successfully promoted a new character by granting him victory in his first contest. The actual bout however feels excessive in its length and is a very tedious affair redeemed only slightly by some of the excellent banter between Sunny and Jim Ross on commentary and in Jerry Lawler's general greatness as a heel during his moments inside the ring. Also despite sounding good on paper, the tag team titles clash that witnessed champions Edge and Christian take on the team of Rock and Undertaker from an episode of Raw accomplished little but an unneeded title change that made the Canadian duo seem inferior to their main event opposition and is only really interesting for seeing how little presence Undertaker has between the ropes in comparison to the super worker that he emerged as in the second half of the decade. That particular transformation is worth a DVD on its own... Verdict: This journey of Dwayne The Rock Johnson is a clear, unabashed love fest to the man who has recently helped Vince add to his millions but luckily Dwayne is such an inspiring, engaging personality and The Rock such an amazing, larger than life character that hearing him talk about the development and creation of his successful persona makes for a fascinating look at an electrifying career and the wisdom and drive of the man behind it all. For long time wrestling fans who are well aware of The Rock this package is still worthwhile for the career reflections of Dwayne and the interesting thoughts from Jericho and Foley who both analyse what made Rock so special whilst light heartedly detailing nostalgic glimpses into iconic moments of the past not to mention the inclusion of some excellent matches and promos. For newer fans who are less aware of the Rock's legacy this is an absolutely essential purchase that does a fine job of showing just why The Rock is one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time. The Epic Journey Of Dwayne The Rock Johnson is available now from Silvervision. Don't forget we are also giving away copies of the Blu-ray set HERE.
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