The Truth About The Undertaker And The Rock’s Relationship

Just five years ago, nobody in their right mind would have expected to see The Undertaker palling around with The New Day in an interactive Netflix mini-movie. However, that’s what happened on October 5, when “Escape The Undertaker” dropped on the streaming service. So far, reviews on sites such as IMDb have not been too encouraging, but the very fact that the man known in real life as Mark Calaway was part of such a project has led to discussions on whether he could follow in the footsteps of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has since gone from the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment to one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. But if we ever do see the Deadman and the “People’s Champ” on the same movie set, one has to wonder how close they are on a personal level.

Taking a deep dive into The Undertaker’s relationships with his pro wrestling colleagues has traditionally been a challenging endeavor. For much of his career, ‘Taker was fiercely protective of his character, sticking to kayfabe outside the ring even when it was no longer rare to see babyfaces and heels hanging out together. That changed in recent years, as the Deadman slowly let his guard down and began telling backstage stories and commenting on his dealings with other wrestlers. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we know about The Undertaker and The Rock’s relationship.

The Undertaker hated The Rock's first WWE gimmick

When Dwayne Johnson entered the WWE in 1996, he was known as Rocky Maivia — a combination of the names of two wrestling greats, namely his father, Rocky Johnson, and his maternal grandfather, “High Chief” Peter Maivia. Booked as a bland, perpetually smiling babyface, the so-called “Blue Chipper” earned scorn from fans almost from the get-go because of the perception that he was a green kid who was only hired because of nepotism. Not helping matters was how the future Rock was allegedly unpopular with several more tenured wrestlers — we’ll get back to them later. As for The Undertaker? Well, let’s just say he wasn’t too impressed with how WWE was building up the third-generation Superstar as a rookie.

In an interview with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (via WWE’s official YouTube channel), The Undertaker recalled that he felt The Rock’s first WWE ring name was “awful” and that the company was hindering his potential by giving him a substandard gimmick. “I remember watching him, and the [Madison Square Garden], they’re merciless if they don’t like what you’re doing,” he added. “And man, they just lit him up.”

Due to this gimmick, it seemed inconceivable to many — The Undertaker included — that The Rock actually had out-of-this-world charisma and hidden promo skills. As such, the Deadman was of the belief that the youngster wasn’t going to last long in WWE, which was, to him, such a “shame.”

The Rock credits Undertaker for believing in him early on

Fortunately, WWE had the common sense to realize that the Rocky Maivia gimmick wasn’t working out, so they turned him heel and allowed him to cut arrogant promos on wrestlers and fans alike as he shortened his ring name to The Rock. He was having the last laugh on all those fans who jeered “Rocky sucks” and “die, Rocky, die,” and it was showing in the form of memorably electrifying promos and improved in-ring work. Eventually, WWE decided it was time to give The Rock a championship push, but that’s where his earlier detractors re-entered the conversation and allegedly tried to bully him out of that push via locker room politics. 

As quoted by Metro, The Rock revealed on the WWE Network’s “Meeting The Undertaker” series that the Deadman was among the veteran wrestlers who believed in him and didn’t feel threatened by the presence of a young up-and-comer in the world championship picture. “‘Undertaker was one of those guys who was always so steady, telling me ‘Don’t worry about it, kid. You just got out, you keep doing your thing, you have a hell of a future,'” The Rock said.

Neither The Rock nor The Undertaker has opened up about the specifics of the purported backstage bullying, but Bret Hart claimed on a 2020 episode of his “Confessions of the Hitman” podcast (via TheSportster) that The Kliq — the backstage faction led by Shawn Michaels and Triple H — was largely behind the attempts to make the would-be “People’s Champ” look bad in his early years in WWE.

They feuded numerous times on TV, but who had the upper hand?

As evidenced when The Undertaker felt bad for The Rock having a go-nowhere gimmick as a rookie and later gave him words of encouragement ahead of his first world title run, both men had a lot of respect for each other from the very start. More often than not, that’s one of the ingredients for a great pro wrestling feud — if you don’t get along in real life, you likely won’t have that chemistry needed to put on fantastic matches and cut convincing back-and-forth promos.

The Rock and The Undertaker first crossed storyline paths in the spring of 1999, back when ‘Taker’s Ministry of Darkness faction merged with Shane McMahon’s own villainous stable, The Corporation. Thanks to the expanded group’s timely interference, Undertaker defeated The Rock for the WWE Championship at that year’s King of the Ring pay-per-view. But that was far from the only time the two future legends would feud on television, as documented by Bleacher Report, which ranked The Rock’s overall rivalry with ‘Taker as the seventh greatest of his career.

All in all, the Deadman and the People’s Champ had a total of four major feuds, with The Rock coming out on top of three of them. Their last rivalry culminated at the Vengeance pay-per-view on July 21, 2002, where The Rock defeated The Undertaker and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship.

Their mutual respect has survived through the years

In the dog-eat-dog world of professional wrestling, it’s not uncommon for longtime friends in the business to fall out in epic fashion — just ask former best buddies CM Punk and Colt Cabana, who became estranged during the recent AEW signee’s court battle against WWE (via TheSportster). That doesn’t apply to The Rock and The Undertaker, who don’t seem to have had a nasty word to say about the other in real life. But how chummy are they with each other?

For one, The Undertaker has always been tightest with the Bone Street Krew, a backstage faction that included WWE mid-carders such as The Godfather, Savio Vega, and Henry and Phineas Godwinn (aka Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight), and a number of individuals who are no longer with us, including former WWE Champion Yokozuna and ‘Taker’s longtime manager, Paul Bearer. The Rock’s inner circle, on the other hand, mostly consists of his fellow main-event talents, including, but not limited to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And of course, you’ve got the Anoa’i wrestling family (Roman Reigns, The Usos, etc.), which considers the Hollywood star an honorary relative (via

While there is some overlap between both friend groups, particularly in the case of Yokozuna (real name Rodney Anoa’i), it’s a stretch to say The Rock and The Undertaker are BFFs. What they are, though, are two legends who mutually respect each other at the very least, and have done so since The Rock’s inauspicious WWE debut.

The Undertaker will support The Rock if he runs for president

Since the lead-up to his retirement from pro wrestling in 2020, The Undertaker has become far more comfortable breaking character and sharing his honest opinions about his contemporaries in the business. Although Undertaker’s supposedly conservative political leanings have made him a divisive figure among many fans in recent years, he didn’t hesitate to put over The Rock — a self-proclaimed “political independent and centrist” who supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 election — as a potential presidential candidate, should the latter choose to run for office.

“He’s so charming, he’s so witty, I think he can be the uniter that people are looking for,” Undertaker told TMZ Sports in February 2021. “I know that he has the charisma. Maybe all it would take would be one eyebrow, and he’d look at the left, raise the eyebrow. Look at the right, raise an eyebrow and hit ’em with the People’s Elbow.”

After reaffirming his support for a theoretical Dwayne Johnson presidential campaign, The Undertaker observed that Americans might have a hard time deciding what to call The Rock in the event he becomes POTUS. “I think people would still call him Rock, I don’t know,” he quipped. “I would hope I would have that clout that I can get away with calling him Rock, or Jabroni.”

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