The second season of the WWE-produced Ruthless Aggression series will debut this weekend, premiering with the first episode immediately following the Survivor Series on Sunday.
The first episode, “Hollywood Rock,” gives WWE’s portrayal of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s run with the company in 2001 and 2002 before transitioning full-time into acting. There is no new interview or insight from Johnson, which hurts the episode—and while one possible solution would be to have Vince McMahon share his feelings on The Rock’s run, viewers never get that, either. But for fans of The Rock, there is still plenty to enjoy, even if WWE did try to play up the narrative that the fans were booing Johnson more significantly than ever before.
Once Scorpion King premiered in movie theaters, Johnson’s time in WWE was inevitably going to be limited, but he still had that incredibly powerful magnetism and connection with the audience. Considering it is almost two decades old, it was fun to rewatch Rock beat The Undertaker and Kurt Angle in July 2002 to win the undisputed championship, then see him do the honors for Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. There were also details of his rematch against Hulk Hogan at No Way Out in 2003. That did not meet the high standard set at WrestleMania 18, which makes sense considering the roles were reversed with the red-and-yellow Hogan as the babyface and Rock as the heel.
Kevin Owens adds some solid insight to this era in the doc, which also doubles as a reminder of his passion for pro wrestling. Adam Cole also appears throughout the first two episodes of Ruthless Aggression, which will be a surprise for wrestling fans considering he is now employed by AEW.
The second episode, “Innovations,” delivers plenty of highlights. It goes into the creation of a number of new additions to the WWE landscape during that era, including the Hell in a Cell chamber and the Money in the Bank ladder match. There were also the new ideas that had far less success, like the Punjabi Prison match (which was criticized upon its arrival in 2006, yet still made a return—unsurprisingly, a much-criticized one—in 2017) and the poorly received Concrete Crypt match.
Former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz plays an important role in the first two episodes of the new season of Ruthless Aggression, and his creativity is highlighted in “Innovations” while discussing the ways the company committed to reinventing itself. There is also time spent looking at Eric Bischoff’s “Raw Roulette” segments, the first TLC match on Raw and some fascinating footage of Chris Jericho, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam and Booker T all recognizing the potential for creativity presented by the Hell in a Cell cage while examining it for the first time before Survivor Series in 2002.
Others short-lived creations, like Taboo Tuesday and Byte This!, are also detailed, allowing for some interesting commentary from Christian, who also is no longer with WWE. With Raw currently in a spot where it is lacking new features, this episode acted as a reminder that a different approach could be a breath of fresh air.
Another highlight of the episode details Edge’s apprehension about taking place in the first Money in the Bank ladder match, afraid of becoming someone solely known for ladder matches. He won that match at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 and then eventually cashed in on John Cena, creating what remains a seminal moment in WWE programming. The episode also reflected fondly on Shelton Benjamin’s surprise Intercontinental title win against Chris Jericho on Taboo Tuesday in 2004. Benjamin remains with WWE, but in a very reduced capacity for someone with his skill and history in the company.
All five episodes of Ruthless Aggression will be available Nov. 22 on Peacock.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.