Young Rock Season 1, Episode 1 “Working The Gimmick” Review

YOUNG ROCK — “Pictured: “Young Rock” Key Art — (Photo by: NBC)

A biopic of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sounds like it should be made into a feature film. But there is too much history of the professional wrestler turned actor to cover in ninety minutes. Which is why Young Rock works better as a series than a film.

Young Rock created by Dwayne Johnson and Nahnatchka Khan, tells the story of The Rock in three different decades as he grows up while his father Rocky Johnson (Joseph Lee Anderson) is a worldwide star in the wrestling industry.

The first episode titled “Working The Gimmick” sets the tone for what to expect for the rest of the season. Dwayne Johnson in the year 2032, is running for president. The TV Host that is interviewing Dwayne Johnson is portrayed by Randall Park as Dwayne explained his upbringing to the TV Host. The first story took place in 1982 as 10 year old Dwayne (Adrian Groulx) and his mother Ata Johnson (Stacey Leilua) witnessed Rocky Johnson defeating Afa Anoai at a wrestling event. Rocky was seen as a superstar in the viewers eyes. But outside of the ring, Rocky Johnson was a normal person that took care of his wife and son.

It is here where the viewers get a first look on the reality of the world of professional wrestling as the big stars have to keep a persona up whenever they are seen in public. Even if you have to stay at an old hotel for one night, that is how the business was that time.

YOUNG ROCK — “Working The Gimmick” — Pictured: (l-r) Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson, Adrian Groulx as Dwayne, Nate Jackson as Junkyard Dog — (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)

The most comedic part of this portion of the episode, is when Young Rock sees Iron Shiek, Wild Samoans, Junkyard Dog, and Andre The Giant hanging out and playing cards with Rocky Johnson. I must say that the actors that portrayed the wrestlers were spot on with the mannerisms and how they acted and sounded like the real life wrestlers at that time. The amount of research and history that went to the production of this show is amazing and I give them credit for doing so.

Rocky was only supposed to be there for a few minutes, but he ended up going out with the rest of the boys even though he promised Young Rock a trip to the ice cream store. I also love the back and forth comedy between Young Rock and Andre The Giant after Rock making a comment about wrestling not being real.

Dwayne Johnson later told the story of his teenage self (Bradley Constant) in 1987 stealing from stores, his alias Tomas while he wanted to get Karen’s attention in high school, and even buying an old car that barely even worked. I believe here , is when he starts to get a sense of how much time Rocky Johnson has been on the road since he was doing an autograph signing the day that this happened. But he did not forget his mom Ata when Teenage Rock picked her up at the bus stop.

Teenage Rock hopes to give his mom Ata everything one day and Dwayne Johnson went on record numerous times on interviews that he was always close to Ata and that is really showcased here on the first episode. Towards the end of “Working The Gimmick”, Dwayne Johnson begins to go over the beginning of his college football run in 1990. Adult Rock (Uli Latukefu) meets the players and the coach of the team.

YOUNG ROCK — “Working The Gimmick” — Pictured: Uli Latukefu as Dwayne — (Photo by: Mark Taylor)

He finds out that Rocky Johnson was there earlier in the day to tell lies about Dwayne Johnson being on the cover of Wheaties cereal. It did slightly upset him, but he used what Rocky Johnson told him for years and that is, to work his gimmick wherever he is to let them make believe that you are who they say you are. He did this by also beating the record for the most reps at the gym and proceeded to do the eyebrow that he is known for to this day after he beat the challenge.

“Working The Gimmick” is a fun introduction to the series. A great key here, is that the timeline was not all over the place as it started with his 10 year old self and finished when he was in college. I hope that this structure continues for the rest of the series with more stories to be told. It also makes me think if Dwayne Johnson himself will actually run for president one day. An amazing start of “Young Rock” which is a must see series, and NBC hit a goldmine to tell Dwayne Johnson’s story!

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Julian Cannon

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