Welcome back to the my favorite wrestler series. After taking a few weeks off due to all the pay per views, I was waiting for a slow week to resume the series. As you may or may not know for the past month or so I have been talking about my favorite wrestlers in chronological order. It started with Brian Pillman, then Lex Luger, Ultimate Warrior, Crush and now, probably my all time favorite, The Rock.
It was probably late 1997 or 1998 I started taking notice of The Rock. Not Rocky Miavia, but The Rock. I, like just about everyone else, was not a fan of the Rocky Miavia character. I would say by Summer of ’98 I was fully invested with The Rock as my favorite.
In 1998 I was sixteen years old, and was back into wrestling for about a year at this point. All my previous wrestlers were not cool to me anymore, except for Pillman but he had passed away in October of ’97. Stone Cold Steve Austin was all the talk in WWF at the time, and although I thought he was cool, he was no Rock in my opinion. You were supposed to cheer for Stone Cold, but you weren’t supposed to cheer for The Rock. And I think that is why I liked him more. He was a cool bad guy, the first cool bad guy since Ric Flair. Yes, there was the N.W.O. but by ’98 I was over it.
If memory serves me correct, The Rock lost an intercontinental title ladder match to Triple H, and then started a brief baby face run. I also started my junior year of high school that fall and I was acting a lot like The Rock. Calling myself the people’s champ and raising my eyebrow. But, at the 1998 Survivor Series, The Rock turned heel again. Calling himself the corporate champion, instead of the people’s champion. That did not stop me from rooting for The Rock. I liked him before his brief good guy run, and I wasn’t going to quit rooting for him.
The 1999 Royal Rumble was probably the closest I came to not liking him. His “I Quit” match with Mankind was absolutely brutal. I believe Mankind took well over a dozen chair shots to the head that night. More than a violent scene, but a great match. Mankind took so many hard bumps that night, including one where he fell off a balcony and onto some electric wires that cut the lights to the arena and caused sparks to fly everywhere. An incredible scene and I think it really added to the match. The Rock won that night when a recording of Mankind saying “I Quit” played as he lay on the entrance ramp unconscious.
At the end of WrestleMania 15 in 1999, the Rock was starting to turn baby face again. Once he did he never looked back. He was a good guy for the next four years. He went on to star in movies, write books and host shows like Saturday night live. Most everyone in the world has heard of The Rock by now.
In wrestling he went on to become a multi time world champion. He had so many great lines and promo’s during his baby face run. His matches were great too. He would stand over a lying opponent and look at the crowd, pull his elbow pad off, hit the ropes and drop the most electrifying move in sports entertainment, the people’s elbow. He received reactions like I have never heard before. I remember one of the funniest segments on RAW was in the fall of 1999 with the “this is your life” skit with him and Mankind. Mankind brought back “significant” figures from his past. YouTube it and watch it, it is worth your time.
The Rock left wrestling in late 2002 and would only be back on a part-time basis. He came back around Wrestlemania in 2003, this time as a heel. It was nice to see him play the bad guy one more time. He went on to beat Stone Cold at Wrestlemania that year which ended up being Stone Cold’s last match. The Rock would only appear sparingly in WWE over the next few years, before leaving for several years. He eventually returned to take on John Cena at a couple of Wrestlemania’s and even won the world title one more time. The Rock is rarely involved in WWE anymore, but he is quite the ambassador for the company.
Ryan Kessell aka The Rock
For Christmas in ’98 all I asked for were clothes like The Rock. I cut my hair as close as I could to his and if I could have grown sideburns at the time, I would have sported those as well. I was obsessed with everything The Rock. My friends at school would call me The Rock, as well as some of my teachers and coaches. I worked for a grocery store and even my associates and a few supervisors would call me The Rock, and I loved it. I would walk like the Rock, talk like him, dress like him and act like him. This went on well through my senior year in high school. When I would pull in the parking lot at school I would turn my c.d. player to the Rock’s entrance music as if it were my own entrance music for school. I would walk through the hallway’s and get small chants of “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky.” Or a lot of the time it would be “Rocky sucks, Rocky Sucks.” Either way I would give a flex of the eyebrow and tell them to “know their role and shut their mouth!”
I can remember specifically my senior year speech class, was an opportunity for me to talk about wrestling. I was never more comfortable speaking in front of people than I was that day. I was able to get some great Rock quotes and ask for volunteers, or victims, now that I look back on it. I would ask people for help and then I would ask “what is your name?” Of course when they started to talk, I would cut them off yelling “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!” It always gets a reaction. I still, nearly twenty years later, use that line on my kids.
My career aspirations at that time was of course, to be a pro wrestler. I had the drive, I had the knowledge, I knew more about ring psychology than I should have, for never being in a ring. But I studied wrestling, I mean really studied wrestling. There was absolutely nothing else I wanted to do. The problem was, I was 145 pounds soak and wet. I had a baby face and would not be taken seriously as a wrestler. So, I went to college and dropped out, then eventually started dating a woman who would become my wife. So, time to get a real job and give up on those hopes and dreams of being a pro wrestler. And that’s exactly what I did. You start buying cars and houses, then kids come along and you realize the dream you had as a kid is just that… a dream. Your priorities change, your responsibilities change and what was once you love and passion, is now just a hobby.
It’s kind of sad when you think about it. To love something so much, only to put it on the back burner for fifteen years. Thank God for my kids. I have been blessed with two great kids, who love their daddy. And they watch my every move. They say what I say, do what I do, act like I act. My son wants to grow his hair out like mine and beat up his stuffed animals much like I did as a kid. My daughter and I have been to several WWE events and though she is a teenager now and doesn’t care about anything, I like to think she will look back fondly on those trips with her dad. For probably the past five years my kids and I have an annual Kessellmania match. We put on a match either in our living room or on the trampoline in the back yard. This is quite a production, and the kids and I look forward to it, even more than Wrestlemania itself now.
I may have given up on my dream of being a pro wrestler, but I hope I never take for granted the blessing of my wife and kids.
This could have probably been a completely separate read. It sounds crazy, but in a small way, The Rock helped shape me into the person I am today. I can’t go to a high school reunion without raising my eyebrow. I look back on those years with a smile and wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I was able to dig up some footage of me as a teenager acting like The Rock. I actually forgot, but I walked across the stage at my high school graduation and gave one last people’s eyebrow. A fun way to put a period on that chapter of my life.
Enjoy the videos and thanks for reading. On Monday I will jump right back into my favorite wrestler series. As I discuss my sixth favorite wrestler.