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USA Insider WWE Monday Night Raw

This Isn't The First Time The Rock Has Been The Bad Guy In WWE

The Rock's feud with Cody Rhodes has him at odds with a lot of the WWE Universe, but it's not the first time he's been booed. 

By Chris Phelan
Wwe Wrestlemania Hosts The Rock

He's been known as the People's Champion, but lately, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been acting like anything but. 

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Following up on the events of the WrestleMania 40 press event, The Rock took to social media to deliver a scathing message to Cody Rhodes, the man currently slated to challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at WrestleMania. In the minds of many members of the WWE Universe, The Rocks' words are shockingly blunt, aggressive, and uncharacteristic.

On Instagram, The Rock fired a direct shot toward The American Nightmare:

"You f–cked around and found out quick, didn't you boy? You, your little friends and all your crybabies have no idea what's coming. The world's on notice."


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What happened to The Rock we've all known and loved for the past 20 years? 

Clearly, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment has embraced his darker side ever since Cody staked his claim to the WrestleMania main event. It's a far cry from The Rock's fan-friendly persona that has captivated millions of fans over the past two decades.

However, this isn't the first time The Rock has embraced a decidedly villainous persona. Today, USA Insider is turning back the clock and looking at the times when he received far more boos than cheers in his WWE career.

Joining the Nation of Domination – 1997

After his historic debut at Survivor Series 1996, The Rock – or Rocky Maivia, as he was known in WWE then – failed to make a lasting impression on the WWE Universe. Although he was billed as a third-generation Superstar, his personality left much to be desired. Let's not mince words here: He was a nobody. During his first year in WWE, The Rock was a bland tryhard who seemed destined to toil in the lower card.

Back then, "Rocky Sucks" chants were common throughout arenas – the WWE Universe wanted nothing to do with this young Rocky Maivia, and perhaps it was then when The Rock realized a change had to be made.

During an August 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw, he officially turned his back on (the few) fans he had and aligned himself with the Nation of Domination. This imposing WWE faction utilized gang warfare and brutality as their weapons of choice. It was the first taste WWE fans got of The Rock leaning into a decidedly bad guy persona, but as the WWE Universe would soon find out, The Rock would go further into a dark place. 

The Corporate Champion – 1998

Something peculiar happened during his time in the Nation of Domination: The Rock's charisma increased with each passing episode of Monday Night Raw. Before long, he usurped Faarooq as the Nation's leader, and the WWE Universe began warming up to The Rock's cocky personality. He was so good on the microphone that he inadvertently turned himself into a fan-favorite despite the Nation of Domination being a decidedly-evil faction.

However, Survivor Series 1998 was home to one of the most sinister turns to the dark side in WWE history. By the end of the "Deadly Games" Survivor Series tournament to crown the WWE Champion, The Rock had aligned with the owners of WWE, Vince and Shane McMahon, agreeing to be their "corporate" champion. The Rock would be everything WWE brass would want in a world champion – the opposite of someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin, who existed at times to make management's lives a living hell.

This time around, The Rock wouldn't pander to the crowds. He quickly became laser-focused on being the ultimate villain champion; someone – like present-day Roman Reigns – would do anything to cut the legs out from any fan-favorite champion.

Hollywood Rock – 2003

For many fans, the "Hollywood" version of The Rock is by far the most over-the-top and cartoonishly evil persona that Dwayne Johnson has ever embraced – and as a result, it's arguably the most memorable. Hollywood Rock was a force of nature – a trash-talking, sarcastic, holier-than-thou WWE Superstar who thought he was above the rest of the locker room after a few successful Hollywood movies.

While he was undeniably entertaining, so much that a vocal minority of the WWE Universe cheered everything he did, The Rock in 2003 was a vicious jerk who ran his mouth far too much. As the video above shows, he did everything he could to tear down the legacy Hulk Hogan had built for generations. 

Fortunately, thanks to the overwhelming star power found in the WWE locker room in 2003, The Rock received his comeuppance on many occasions thanks to Superstars like Hulk Hogan and Goldberg putting him in his place. 

Of course, these previous "villain" versions of The Rock pale in comparison to the venom that Rock unleashed in recent days. By all accounts, The Rock is embracing his newfound evilness in a way he never has before – he's an angry man who will clearly say and do anything to get what he wants, making The Rock the most dangerous man in WWE.

With the WrestleMania 40 main event seemingly set in stone – one has to wonder what strings The Rock will pull to ensure all eyes are on him in Philadelphia.

You can tune in to Peacock to watch WWE's Elimination Chamber on February 24 and WrestleMania on April 6 and 7. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.