An Old WWE Sketch Predicted 'Young Rock' And PO'ed Vince McMahon
Today marks the return of Young Rock, that sitcom where Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson reminisces about the most important moments of his life, like his childhood friendship with Andre the Giant (which means The Rock is one step removed from a childhood friendship with Samuel Beckett) or the day he watched Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris and said, "Hey, that's a great idea for a show."
In one episode, young Dewey J. learns a valuable lesson from a high school football coach who ended up changing the direction of his life, helping him transition from an aimless juvenile delinquent to a hyper-motivated sports jock.
But this sentimental storyline had a much different treatment 23 years ago, the first time “The Rock goes on a trip down memory lane” was billed as a major TV event. A 1999 episode of Raw paused the pretend carnage for a whopping 21 minutes for a bit titled "This Is Your Life," inspired by the classic TV show of the same name in which guests were surprised by important people from their lives. The sketch had the same basic premise, only instead of being hosted by a clean-cut 1950s game show host, the presenter was a masochist in a leather mask (Mick "Mankind" Foley, Rock's tag-team partner and best/worst frenemy).
In it, Foley attempts to impress The Rock by bringing out some of the same people who would go on to be featured in Young Rock: his grade school teacher, his high school sweetheart, and his old football coach. However, instead of reflecting on the life lessons he learned from each of them, the edgy late '90s Rock just tears them a new one -- like when he instructs the coach to shove his whistle up his "candy ass," or when he exposes his girlfriend as a shameless Rock-teaser.
While the fans seemed to be eating up the sketch, behind the scenes, WWE executives were fuming. CEO Vince McMahon thought wasting over 20 minutes on a "talking segment" was a stupid idea and ordered the writers never to let it happen again, while Executive Director Bruce Prichard was "pissed off" that they were going over the allotted time and would have to cut other segments. Their anger was somewhat soothed the next day when they found out that the sketch was the highest-rated Raw segment ever, at 8.4 points (over three times the rating of the average Young Rock episode today).
After that, McMahon reconsidered his "never again" position, and they actually repeated the gimmick twice, once with The Rock honoring Foley and once with Foley honoring John Cena.
To this day, it's still one of the most remembered segments in the history of the show, and it had nothing to do with wrestling. The lesson is clear: if NBC wants Young Rock ratings to triple, change the premise of the show from "The Rock reminisces" to “The Rock tracks down people from his past and threatens to shove stuff up their butts.”
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