Funny and Nostalgic, NBC’s ‘Young Rock’ Kicks Ass

Young Rock is my favorite new TV show. It is funny and nostalgic all at once.

As a child of the 80’s I lived through the time in history when professional wrestling went from an oddity to a part of mainstream Americana.

Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, is a third generation professional wrestler. He is the son of wrestler Rocky Johnson who wrestled in the WWF (now WWE) from 1982-1985 – just as professional wrestling was starting to become a huge ratings draw. Along with Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson was part of the first black Tag Team Champions in the wrestling company’s history. In fact, they were the first black champions of any type in the WWF.

Young Rock is a television comedy wherein Dwayne Johnson, playing himself, is running for president in 2032. While being interviewed as a presidential candidate, The Rock offers up nostalgic tales of his childhood growing up as the son of a wrestler at the epicenter of wrestling going mainstream.

The Rock is one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time, and his wit and charm show through in this series. Surprisingly the creatives were able to find three young actors to play Johnson growing up who also capture that playful confidence. Adrian Groulx plays the future Rock at age 10. Bradley Constant plays the 15-year-old Johnson. Uli Latukefu plays Johnson from ages 18-20.

The thing that makes the series so wonderful for those of us who like to reminisce about the early days of Wrestlemania is that somehow, someway the casting directors have found actors to realistically play the bigger than life wrestlers from the era.

Joseph Lee Anderson is a dead-on ringer for The Rock’s father Rocky Johnson. Brett Azar is perfect as the Iron Sheik, one of the greatest wrestling heels (villains) in the history of televised wrestling. The casting directors even found 6-foot 7-inch former professional football player Matthew Willig to play wrestling icon Andre the Giant.

The jury is still out on Kevin Makely as Macho Man Randy Savage, Jade Drane as Roddy Piper, Adam Ray as Vince McMahon, and Matthew Farrellyas Ric Flair. If what I’ve seen so far is any indication, I’m expecting them to do well. Makely, of course, will have the hardest time winning my admiration as that he is tasked with playing my favorite wrestler of all time. I’m rooting that he succeeds.

Naturally, we can’t forget about Nate Jackson as the Junkyard Dog and Fasitua Amosa and John Tui as the Wild Samoans. All three actors do a nice job. The key with all of these performers is that they don’t give us caricatures. They give us three dimensional characters.

Seeing these wonderful genuine tributes to the wrestlers of the 80’s reminds me of the time my father took me to see Andre the Giant and the Junkyard Dog tag team against Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy – another two literal giants of the wrestling industry. It was one of the last times I ever saw my father.

From the first episode on, Young Rock is a hoot. I find myself really looking forward to watching it each week. In a way it’s a similar sense of anticipation I had waiting to see who would win or lose on Monday Night Raw.

Young Rock is produced by Johnson, Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang, Dany Garcia, Jennifer Carreras, Hiram Garcia, and Brian Gewirtz. It airs Tuesdays on NBC. So, if you are like me, you watch it the next day on Hulu.

Things from the 80’s are cool again. Young Rock captures the essence of the era from the prospective of professional wrestling. It’s fun and entertaining, without taking itself too serious. Truly, Young Rock is the best new show on the air.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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