The Rock: Ranking the Different Phases of His WWE Career

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterFebruary 1, 2013

The Rock: Ranking the Different Phases of His WWE Career

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    From his days as the grinning Rocky Maivia to his time now as the man who ended CM Punk's historic reign, The Rock has morphed time and again.

    Which of his phases offered spectacular entertainment and which ones left fans wanting more?

    The Rock, WWE champ once more, is embarking on the newest stage of his WWE career. He's now a surefire movie star who loves the pro wrestling business enough to come back, at least on a sporadic basis.

    Of his many character shifts, which ones offered the greatest matches, the most hilarious promos and lasting WWE moments? This list ranks which Rock era electrified fans the most.

6. Part-Timer, Hollywood Star Pt. 1

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    If fans are bitter about the part-time nature of The Rock's return, they're forgetting how much of a tease 2003-2010 was.

    The Rock left the WWE to make movies like The Run Down and Spy Hunter. In between films, Rock would pop in on WWE for an unsatisfying experience.

    He made an appearance on Raw to lift Eugene's spirits, calling Jonathan Coachman a popcorn fart in the process. He hosted a Divas Search pie-eating contest.

    Those moments were entertaining in their own way, but they only served as reminders of what fans were missing.

    The Rock saw very little ring action during those years.

    Other than when he and Mick Foley reunited to take on Evolution at WrestleMania XX, Rock's return was in a non-wrestling role. He gave fans reminders of the past and little else.

5. Rocky Maivia

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    Before Dwayne Johnson made his transformation into The Rock, he wrestled with a flat top and came to the ring in a mess of aqua streamers.

    It was clear back then that he was an athletic marvel, darting around the ring with grace. His character, though, was so bogus that fans eventually chanted with fervor, "Rocky sucks!"

    He was a goody two-shoes with a sterile personality.

    Despite that major setback, Maivia did have a handful of memorable matches during this period.

    In his debut in 1996, he was the sole survivor in his Survivor Series match. One of the men on the opposing team, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, would serve as his primary adversary during this stretch.

    It was the man who'd later become Triple H that Maivia beat for the Intercontinental title in February of 1997. Other opponents of his included Owen Hart, Savio Vega and The Sultan.

    Looking back, it's clear this pre-Rock period was a time of learning and fine-tuning. Had there been no Rocky Maivia, there would be no Rock, and there's certainly value in that.

4. Boots to Asses

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    The Rock is too big of a player in Hollywood to ever return to getting bruised and beat up every night on a full-time basis. It was surprising to even have him back at all.

    The difference between Rock's part-time stint from 2003-2010 and his current one is that he's been placed in prominent feuds, creating dream matches in the process.

    His newest WWE run has had him clash with John Cena and CM Punk.

    He and Cena had a year-long feud, building ever slowly to their main event match at WrestleMania 28. The Rock taped his promos, but his dynamic charisma made them feel more alive.

    His appearance at Raw 1000 served as the catalyst for CM Punk's heel turn and set up their Royal Rumble match some six months from then.

    Both his match with Cena and with Punk were not his best, but they certainly were among his biggest of his career.

    Perhaps Rock's WWE title reign is memorable and compelling enough to move this period higher in the ranking. Elimination Chamber 2013 and WrestleMania 29 will tell us how that story goes.

3. Nation of Domination

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    Watching Rocky Maivia transform into The Rock was like watching a kitten morph into a lion.

    The Nation of Domination offered a place for him to grow, to develop his character, for his charisma to build up until it exploded.

    This was a period of fantastic feuds.

    The Nation of Domination battled DX. The Rock took on Ken Shamrock, Steve Austin, Triple H and eventually even his group leader, Farooq.

    The Rock overthrew Farooq's leadership and grew into the performer fans adore today.

    These years (mostly 1997 and 1998) gave us most notably, the SummerSlam 1998 Ladder match classic between Triple H and The Great One.

    To witness the birth of The Rock was a beautiful thing, but it was a few years after this that produced his absolute best work.

2. Post-Corporation/Invasion

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    Between late 1999 and 2002, The Rock continued his long-running feud with Triple H, made Booker T look the fool and took part in some legendary matches.

    He began this period joining the odd-couple team of The Rock and Mick Foley, The Rock 'N' Sock Connection. Their contrasting personalities were a blast to watch. The highlight of this pairing was the highly rated "This is Your Life" segment on Raw.

    Soon after The Rock fended off Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle and The Undertaker to retain the WWE title, WCW closed its doors and the stars from that promotion (minus Sting) came over to WWE.

    The Rock famously tore Booker T apart with some equally harsh and hilarious promos.

    He was also a central figure in the captivating Survivor Series match that pitted Team WWF vs. Team Alliance. In addition to that magic collision, Rock met a legend in the ring.

    WrestleMania X8 saw the icon Hulk Hogan pass the proverbial torch to The Rock.

    The year before delivered perhaps the best of the three Austin vs. Rock WrestleMania bouts. This time period featured some of The Rock's most memorable matches and promos, which were fueled by his sharp wit.

1. The Corporation

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    The crux of The Rock's career occurred during his run as a member of the Corporation. In the heart of the Attitude Era, Rock spent the late '90s delivering his best feuds and the freshest and sharpest version of his character.

    The match list from this period reads like a "best of" DVD.

    The Rock vs. Mankind in an "I Quit" match at Royal Rumble 1999, The Rock vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV and Austin and Rock at Backlash 1999 are three of The Rock's finest works in the ring.

    The feud with Mankind highlighted Rock's more brutal side in their many brawls.

    Austin was, of course, his greatest rival. The Rock as a crony of The McMahons and Austin as the ultimate anti-authority figure made for the perfect pairing.

    The Rock won the Royal Rumble during this period, made Billy Gunn kiss his buttocks (sort of) and let the world smell what he was cooking.