“Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” That is the famous slogan that would blare through the television during The Rock’s entrance of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Thursday night SmackDown show. An entertainer, businessman and The People’s Champ is how you might describe the icon that is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. As someone who’s been a fan since before his overwhelming success, watching his well-deserved stardom intensify over the years has been heartening. Yet despite his worldly fame today, the story of his life and the obstacles he’s had to overcome shows that he’s just like the average Joe. 

His new sitcom “Young Rock” dives into Johnson’s life from his youth as the son of WWE legend Rocky Johnson to his adult life as one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. What makes this show unique is that it is a documentary dressed up in a sitcom suit. There are plenty of comedic moments, but it also illustrates every stage of Johnson’s life from different angles. The first episode, for example, starts with a satirical announcement for Johnson’s 2032 United States presidential campaign, a playful jab toward his past comments about running for office.

Within the first 15 minutes, “Young Rock” explores the relationship between father and son and what it’s like to grow up in the wrestling industry. Because pro wrestling requires one to be on the road constantly and working most days, it is no surprise that the friendship between coworkers behind the scenes is strong. But that work-life imbalance leads to a lack of closeness between Johnson and his father. At one point, the show portrays Johnson’s father leaving him to socialize with his friends instead of spending time with him. 

The most important part of the sitcom is when it transitions into Johnson’s life as a fifteen-year-old living in Philadelphia. Played by Bradley Constant (“Following Phil”), his teenage years teach viewers that family morals and values are the keys to life. The show illustrates Johnson’s financial hardships throughout his childhood as his mother scrambles to pay the bills that his father’s wrestling career can’t. The average teen is more focused on what they want instead of what they need or what needs to improve, Johnson fails to realize the extent of the problems at home until he can no longer ignore them.

The show depicts what it means to be loyal to those of the same blood, especially concerning parent-child dynamics. The illustration of a young male figure who is going through ordinary family and economic struggles eliminates the superficial aura that Johnson and most celebrities develop with popularity. Most have not been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. 

The show proves that to be someone, you have to start from somewhere. The mechanisms of life aren’t meant to be easy to maneuver. From a young age, Johnson was given a plate of responsibilities that drove him to take care of himself and his mother. Family will always come first for Johnson and, importantly, Johnson has become successful enough to pay back his mother for all her struggles — and in this case, it created positive karma.

A good-looking man and an electrifying persona, the show depicts Johnson’s life as a rollercoaster. When life throws you lemons, he is the definition of what it means to throw them back. The constant ups and downs are sure enough to drive the average person crazy. But the show portrays that his life is the basis of his motivation and why he’s one of the greatest entertainers to this day. 

“Young Rock” shows us that through dark times there will always be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Daily Arts Jessica Curney can be reached at jcurney@umich.edu

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