The Rock made his WWF debut as Rocky Maivia, a combination of his father and grandfather's ring names. He was initially reluctant to take the name, but was persuaded by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross. He was given the nickname "The Blue Chipper", and his lineage was played to on TV, where he was hyped as the WWF's first third-generation wrestler.
Maivia, a clean-cut face character, was pushed heavily from the start, despite his wrestling inexperience. He debuted at Survivor Series in November 1996, in an eight-man elimination tag match; he was the sole survivor. On February 13, 1997, he won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Hunter Hearst Helmsley on Monday Night Raw. He defeated Bret Hart by disqualification in a title defense on the March 31 episode of Raw. Though pushed as a face, audiences generally disliked Maivia. Chants of "Die, Rocky, die!" and "Rocky sucks!" were common during his matches.
After losing the Intercontinental Championship to Owen Hart on the April 28, 1997 episode of Raw is War and suffering a knee injury in a match against Mankind, Maivia returned as a heel. He formed a stable called The Nation of Domination, with Faarooq, D'Lo Brown and Kama. During this time, he refused to acknowledge the "Rocky Maivia" name, instead referring to himself in the third person as "The Rock". He insulted the audience in his promos, as well as WWF television interviewers.
At In Your House: D-Generation X, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated The Rock in under six minutes to retain the Intercontinental Championship. The next night, on Raw is War, Austin was ordered by Mr. McMahon to defend the title in a rematch, but forfeited it to The Rock instead, handing him the belt before hitting him with the Stone Cold Stunner. The Rock feuded with Austin and Ken Shamrock through the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998. In March 1998, The Rock overthrew Faarooq as leader of The Nation of Domination, sparking a feud. He successfully defended the Intercontinental title against Faarooq at In Your House: Over the Edge on May 31.
He and The Nation then feuded with Triple H and D-Generation X. The two stable leaders first had a two out of three falls match at Fully Loaded for the Intercontinental title, which The Rock retained in controversial fashion. This led to a ladder match at SummerSlam, in which Triple H won the title. At Breakdown: In Your House, The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock and Mankind in a triple threat steel cage match to become the number one contender for the WWF Championship. He then feuded with fellow Nation member Mark Henry, effectively breaking up the stable.
The Rock's entertaining promos and ensuing popularity led to a face turn, in which he called himself "The People's Champion". This led to a feud with Mr. McMahon, who said he had "a problem with the people" and would thus target "The People's Champion". A double turn occurred at Survivor Series, when The Rock defeated McMahon's associate, Mankind, in the finals of the "Deadly Game" tournament for the vacant WWF Championship in a fashion reminiscent of the Montreal Screwjob. The Rock allied with Vince and Shane McMahon as the crown jewel of their stable, The Corporation.
On December 13, at the pay-per-view named for him, Rock Bottom: In Your House, The Rock had a rematch with Mankind for the WWF Championship. Mankind appeared to win the match when The Rock passed out in the Mandible Claw submission move, but Mr. McMahon ruled that since The Rock did not tap out, he retained his title. The Rock continued to feud with Mankind over the WWF Championship, which was traded back and forth between them. First, in the main event of the January 4, 1999 episode of Raw is War, Mankind defeated The Rock after interference from Steve Austin. Then, in an "I Quit" match at Royal Rumble on January 24, The Rock regained the title, when a recording of Mankind saying "I quit" from an earlier interview was played over the PA system. On Halftime Heat (an episode of Sunday Night Heat aired in the same timeslot as the Super Bowl XXXIII halftime show) on January 31, Mankind pinned The Rock using a forklift truck in an empty arena match. Their feud ended on the February 15 episode of Raw is War, when The Rock won his third WWF Championship in a ladder match after Big Show chokeslammed Mankind off the ladder.
The Rock lost the WWF Championship to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV. He also lost the title rematch at Backlash: In Your House. Though he was a heel, his amusing verbal skills led many fans to cheer The Rock. He turned face again after being betrayed by Shane McMahon and began a feud with Triple H, The Undertaker, and The Corporate Ministry. He defeated Triple H at Over the Edge, then lost to the WWF Champion, The Undertaker, at King of the Ring. He lost a number one contender's match to Triple H at Fully Loaded, after interference from Billy Gunn. This sparked a feud with Billy Gunn, culminating in a match at SummerSlam, which The Rock won.
Toward the latter part of 1999, The Rock had several singles and tag team championship opportunities. He teamed with former enemy Mankind as The Rock 'n' Sock Connection, after he challenged WWF Tag Team Champions The Undertaker and The Big Show, and Mankind offered his help. They won the title for the first of three times. The two performed numerous comedic skits together, including one on Raw is War called "This Is Your Life", in which Mankind produced people from The Rock's past, such as his high school girlfriend and his high school football coach.
At Royal Rumble on January 23, 2000, The Rock entered the Royal Rumble match and was one of the final two remaining, along with Big Show. Big Show seemingly intended to throw The Rock over the top rope in a running powerslam-like position, but The Rock countered the move on the ring apron, sending Big Show to the floor before re-entering the ring as the winner. However, The Rock's feet hit the floor first, although those watching the event on TV did not see that. Big Show proved this with additional video footage, and claimed to be the rightful winner. Despite this proof, the original decision could not be reversed, so a number one contender's match for the WWF Championship was held at No Way Out, which The Big Show won after Shane McMahon interfered and hit The Rock in the head with a steel chair as he attempted to execute a People's Elbow. The Rock defeated The Big Show on the March 13 episode of Raw is War to regain the right to face the WWF Champion, Triple H, at WrestleMania 2000 in a fatal four way elimination match, also including The Big Show and Mick Foley. Each wrestler had a McMahon in his corner; Triple H had his wife, Stephanie, Foley had Linda, The Rock had Vince, and Big Show had Shane. Triple H retained the title after Vince betrayed The Rock by hitting him with a chair.
Over the next few months, The Rock feuded with Triple H over the WWF Championship. On April 30, at Backlash, The Rock defeated Triple H for his fourth WWF Championship reign, after Steve Austin intervened on The Rock's behalf. On May 21, at Judgment Day, the two had an Iron Man match, with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. With the score tied at five falls each, and with seconds left on the time limit, The Rock was disqualified when The Undertaker attacked Triple H, giving Triple H the 6-5 win and the title. The next night on Raw is War, The Rock got his revenge, taking out the entire McMahon-Helmsley Faction with The Undertaker's help. He won the WWF Championship for a fifth time at King of the Ring on June 25, by scoring the winning pin in a tag team match, teamed with Kane and The Undertaker against Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Triple H. He successfully defended the championship against Chris Benoit at Fully Loaded, Kurt Angle and Triple H at SummerSlam, and Benoit, Kane, and The Undertaker at Unforgiven.
The Rock lost the WWF Championship to Angle at No Mercy in October. Around this time, he feuded with Rikishi, and defeated him at Survivor Series. He wrestled a six-man Hell in a Cell match for the WWF Championship at Armageddon, which Kurt Angle won to retain the title. On December 18 on Raw, The Rock won the WWF Tag Team Championship with The Undertaker, defeating Edge and Christian, then losing it back to them the next night at a SmackDown! taping. In 2001, The Rock continued to feud with Angle over the WWF Championship, culminating at No Way Out in February, where he pinned Angle to win the WWF Championship for a sixth time.
He then feuded with the Royal Rumble winner, Steve Austin. The Rock lost the title to Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven after Austin allied with Mr. McMahon, who interfered on his behalf. On the next night's Raw is War, during a steel cage title rematch, Triple H came to the ring with a sledgehammer. It seemed he would help The Rock, due to the rivalry between Austin and Triple H (and an argument with McMahon earlier in the night), but he attacked him instead, allying with McMahon and Austin. Austin and Triple H formed a tag team called The Power Trip, while The Rock was indefinitely suspended.
The Rock returned to the WWF in late July 2001, and had to decide whether to join the WWF or The Alliance during The Invasion, eventually siding with the WWF. At SummerSlam, The Rock defeated Booker T to win the World Heavyweight Championship. He lost the title to Chris Jericho at No Mercy. The next night on Raw, he teamed with Jericho to win the WWF World Tag Team Championship from The Dudley Boyz.
The Rock defeated Jericho on the November 5 episode of Raw for his second World Heavyweight Championship. As part of the WWF's battle against The Alliance, The Rock wrestled in a "winner takes all" ten-man elimination match at Survivor Series. In the end, it came down to a one-on-one with Steve Austin (who had recently joined The Alliance). The Rock seemed to have the upper hand, until Jericho (a member of Team WWF, who was eliminated a few minutes earlier), entered the ring and attacked The Rock. Austin tried to capitalize on this by pinning The Rock, but Kurt Angle, a Team Alliance member, revealed his true allegiance by hitting Austin in the head with a title belt. The Rock then pinned Austin, forcing The Alliance to disband.
The Rock closed out 2001 by losing the World Heavyweight Championship to WWF Champion Chris Jericho at Vengeance, in a title unification match. The Rock unsuccessfully challenged Jericho for both titles, now the Undisputed WWF Championship, at Royal Rumble, ending their feud. The Rock defeated The Undertaker at No Way Out. He then feuded with the New World Order, after challenging Hollywood Hulk Hogan to a match at WrestleMania X8. The match was billed as icon versus icon, with both men representing the top tier of two generations of wrestling; ultimately Rock pinned Hogan at WrestleMania X8. After the nWo turned on Hogan for losing the match, The Rock allied with him and then took a short sabbatical from wrestling.
When he returned, The Rock won his record-breaking seventh WWF Championship (now the WWE Undisputed Championship) at Vengeance, defeating Kurt Angle and The Undertaker in a Triple Threat match. He successfully defended the title at Global Warning against Triple H and Brock Lesnar by pinning Triple H. After the match, Lesnar attacked The Rock, until Triple H saved him. At SummerSlam, after interference from Lesnar's manager, Paul Heyman and the use of a steel chair, Rock lost the WWE Championship to Lesnar along with the record for being the youngest WWE Champion, which Rock had set in 1998. Following the loss, The Rock again took a hiatus from wrestling.
The Rock returned on the January 30, 2003 episode of SmackDown! to publicly criticize Hulk Hogan and make it clear that due to the success of his Hollywood career, WWE was no longer a priority. This reestablished him as a heel. The Rock defeated Hogan again at No Way Out and drafted himself to the Raw brand where he had various feuds, including one with The Hurricane. He also performed "Rock concerts", segments in which he played the guitar and mocked the show's host city.
After failing to win number one contendership for the World Heavyweight Championship, The Rock turned his attention to Steve Austin who, to The Rock's chagrin, had been chosen as "Superstar of the Decade". This led to a match at WrestleMania XIX, which called back to their previous two WrestleMania encounters, both of which Austin had won. The Rock won after delivering three consecutive Rock Bottoms, ending their long-running feud in what turned out to be Austin's final match. The next night, Raw was billed as "The Rock Appreciation Night", in honour of his victory over Austin. That night, he was attacked by a debuting Bill Goldberg. At Backlash, Goldberg defeated The Rock, who then took another hiatus from WWE.
The Rock then occasionally returned to WWE in non-wrestling roles, gradually turning face again by engaging in one night feuds against heels such as Chris Jericho and Christian. The Rock aided Mick Foley in his feud against Evolution, leading to a reunion of The Rock 'n' Sock Connection. They faced Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista in a handicap match at WrestleMania XX, losing when Orton pinned Foley after the RKO.
The Rock appeared in WWE sporadically following Wrestlemania 21. He stood up for Eugene, made a cameo in his hometown of Miami and helped Mick Foley turn back La Résistance. In 2004, he hosted a pie-eating contest, as part of the WWE Diva Search and ended the segment by giving Jonathan Coachman a spinebuster and a People's Elbow. On March 12, 2007, The Rock appeared on WWE TV after a near three-year absence, via a pre-taped promo shown on the TitanTron during Raw. He correctly predicted Bobby Lashley would defeat Umaga at WrestleMania 23 in Donald Trump and Vince McMahon's "Battle of the Billionaires" match.
On March 29, 2008, The Rock inducted his father, Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather, Peter Maivia, into the WWE Hall of Fame. During his induction speech, he roasted WWE wrestlers John Cena, Santino Marella, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. On October 2, 2009, the ten-year anniversary of SmackDown, The Rock cut a promo via pre-recorded video.
On the February 14, 2011 episode of Raw, The Rock was revealed as the host of WrestleMania XXVII, appearing live on Raw for the first time in almost seven years. During a lengthy promo, he addressed the fans, Michael Cole, The Miz and John Cena, calling Cena a "big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles". After numerous appearances via satellite, The Rock appeared live on the Raw before WrestleMania XXVII to confront Cena, with whom he had been feuding with through Twitter. He made fun of Cena's clothing, calling him a "homeless Power Ranger" and "Vanilla Ice". After he and Cena exchanged insults, The Miz and Alex Riley appeared and attacked The Rock. He fended off Miz and Riley, then Cena blindsided him with the Attitude Adjustment.
On April 3, at WrestleMania XXVII, The Rock opened the show by cutting a promo. After appearing in numerous backstage segments, The Rock came to ringside to restart the main event between Cena and The Miz as a No Disqualification match, after it had ended in a draw. As revenge for the Attitude Adjustment Cena had given him on Raw, The Rock hit Cena with the Rock Bottom, allowing The Miz to pin him and retain the WWE Championship. He then hit The Miz with the People's Elbow. The next night on Raw, Cena challenged The Rock to a match at WrestleMania XXVIII on April 1, 2012. The Rock accepted the challenge. They then worked together to fend off an attack by The Corre, which at the time consisted of Wade Barrett, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, and Ezekiel Jackson. The Rock appeared live on Raw in his hometown of Miami on May 2, to celebrate his 39th birthday.
On September 16, WWE announced The Rock would wrestle in a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series tag team match, teaming with Cena at Survivor Series on November 20. On the October 24 episode of Raw, Cena instead asked for The Rock to be his partner in a standard tag team match against Awesome Truth (The Miz and R-Truth). The next week, The Rock granted Cena's request. On the November 14 episode of Raw, The Rock appeared live, delivering Rock Bottoms to both members of Awesome Truth and Mick Foley. Foley had been hosting a "This Is Your Life"-style segment for Cena. At Survivor Series, despite their rivalry, The Rock and Cena defeated Awesome Truth when The Rock pinned The Miz after the People's Elbow. After the match, The Rock gave Cena a Rock Bottom.
Leading up to Wrestlemania, The Rock and Cena had several verbal confrontations on Raw. On the March 12 episode, The Rock hosted his first "Rock Concert" segment since 2004, mocking Cena in his songs. He opined that, having beaten Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin at previous Wrestlemanias, beating Cena would make him the greatest wrestler of all time. At WrestleMania XXVIII, The Rock faced Cena in a main event hyped for a year and billed with the tagline "Once in a Lifetime". When an overconfident Cena attempted the People's Elbow on The Rock, he countered with a Rock Bottom for the pin. The next night on Raw, The Rock praised Cena for putting up a good fight, calling their match "an honor". He then vowed to once again become WWE Champion.
On July 23 at Raw 1000, the Rock announced that he would face the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble. During the show, he encountered WWE Champion CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and John Cena, all of whom expressed a desire to face him. He later saved Cena from an assault by Big Show, only to be laid out by CM Punk. On the January 7, 2013 episode of Raw, The Rock returned to WWE to confront his Rumble opponent, the reigning champion CM Punk. He also made his first SmackDown appearance in ten years on the January 9 episode, attacking Team Rhodes Scholars with a Rock Bottom to Damien Sandow and a People's Elbow to Cody Rhodes. The Rock closed out the 20th anniversary episode of Raw on January 14 with one of his famous "Rock concerts", leading to a brawl with CM Punk. The next week on Raw, The Rock was attacked by The Shield. Vince McMahon then asserted that if The Shield attacked The Rock in his title match with CM Punk, Punk would be stripped of the WWE Championship. At the Royal Rumble, Punk defeated The Rock after The Shield interfered. McMahon was about to strip Punk of the championship; however, at The Rock's request, he instead restarted the match. This culminated in The Rock defeating Punk to win his eighth WWE Championship, a win which marked The Rock's first WWE Championship reign in over ten years. Punk received a title rematch with The Rock at Elimination Chamber, with the added stipulation that if The Rock was disqualified or counted out, he would lose the title, but Rock pinned Punk to retain the championship. The following night on Raw, The Rock unveiled the new WWE Championship during his championship celebration, with an entirely new center plate and his signature Brahma Bull logo on the side plates. The Rock then resumed his rivalry with John Cena, who defeated him at WrestleMania 29 in a rematch to win the WWE Championship.
Despite being advertised for the Raw after WrestleMania, where it was stated by then SmackDown General Manager Booker T that The Rock was still entitled a re-match for the WWE Championship, The Rock did not appear due to a legitimate injury sustained during WrestleMania, in which his abdominal and adductor tendons tore from his pelvis. He made an appearance at WrestleMania XXX alongside "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan in the opening segment. On the October 6 episode of Raw, the Rock made a surprise appearance to confront Rusev and Lana; this resulted in the Rock clearing Rusev from the ring.
The Rock appeared at the 2015 Royal Rumble event during the main event match, when he helped Roman Reigns fend off Big Show and Kane, and was booed for doing so. The Rock endorsed Reigns' eventual victory, but the crowd still booed Reigns. The Rock appeared at WrestleMania 31, alongside Ronda Rousey getting into an in-ring altercation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (The Authority). Rock and Rousey prevailed after he attacked Triple H and she overpowered McMahon. On June 27, 2015, The Rock appeared at a live event in Boston where he confronted Bo Dallas, giving him a Rock Bottom in the process.
On January 25, 2016, The Rock returned on Raw to promote WrestleMania 32. He was later interrupted by The New Day and called for his family, which led to The Usos coming out and aiding The Rock. At WrestleMania 32, The Rock announced that WWE had broken the all time WrestleMania attendance record before being interrupted by The Wyatt Family. The Rock defeated Wyatt Family member Erick Rowan in an impromptu match, giving him a Rock Bottom and pinning him in 6 seconds and setting the record for the fastest win in WrestleMania history. The Rock was then aided by the returning John Cena to fend off the remaining members of The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman).