Young Rock premiered on NBC last night (Feb. 16). It’s a fun show with some heart. The jokes are pretty standard network sitcom fare.
I’d hazard a guess that most of you reading this here wrestling blog will be like me and get the biggest kick out of the segments with 10 year old Dewey Johnson. That’s where he hangs out with his mom Ata, his dad Rocky, The Iron Sheik, Randy Savage, Junkyard Dog, the Wild Samoans & Andre the Giant as they work for his grandmother Lia Maivia’s promotion in Hawaii. The actors playing the real life wrestlers not only look the part and impersonate the legends well, they deliver likable performances and have great rapport with Adrian Groulx, the young man playing Dewey.
The stretches that deal with 15 year old Dwayne at high school in Pennsylvania and his 18 year old self starting college in Miami didn’t hook me as much, but they do have a wrestling through line. Johnson says those are places he learned how to apply his father’s advice about “working the gimmick” to his own life.
That’s where the framing device for the show gets a little weird. In 2032, Dwayne Johnson is running for president using the seriously-are-we-not-doing-phrasing-anymore slogan of “Hang on, I’m coming”. He’s being interviewed by Fresh Off The Boat and WandaVision’s Randall Park, who’s playing himself. The flashbacks are launched off the stories future Rock is telling Park as he tries to convince voters he’s the People’s Candidate and not an out of touch Hollywood elite. And it doesn’t really feel like a joke?
That’s probably because I don’t think it is. The 10 time WWE World champ has thought out loud about politics in the past, and recently told USA Today:
“I would consider a presidential run in the future if that’s what the people wanted. Truly I mean that, and I’m not flippant in any way with my answer. That would be up to the people... So I would wait, and I would listen. I would have my finger on the pulse, my ear to the ground.”
And that took some of the fun out of Young Rock for me, this sense that it’s part family sitcom and part a mass focus group test for a potential leader of the free world. Using a network television show to test the waters of a presidential run feels very much like an application of Soul Man’s advice to Dewey about “working the gimmick”.
To an extent, I’m fine with being worked. I love me some Dwayne Johnson, and have even offered some tongue in cheek support for the idea of President Rock. In reality, I’m not so sure another WWE Superstar Commander in Chief is something I want to smell cooking.
If Young Rock is a success (and early returns are promising), we’ll probably all have more time to think about it. We know Johnson will be waiting and listening to whatever conclusions we come to.