The primary protagonist of the series, Rocky begins as a part-time boxer, part-time mob enforcer and debt collector. Despite his violent occupations, however, Rocky is ultimately well meaning and doesn't want to hurt people, he just happens to be good at it. When world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed plans to have a major match on the bicentennial, (America's 200th birthday) and his opponent pulls out due to an injury, Creed decides to give a local fighter a shot at the title, and picks Rocky. This begins a long roller coaster ride for Rocky, as he goes from the gutter to local, then national hero and back again.
All There in the Manual: Rocky's official fight record is 82 fights. 57 Wins (54 via knockout), 24 Losses and 1 Draw.
Adorkable: Talks to his pets, awkwardly courts his best friend's sister, tells his coach about her like a lovesick teenager, and starts dancing and posing after running up a flight of stairs. And that's just the first movie!
Captain Ersatz: Half Rocky Marciano, half Joe Frazier, and inspired by a Chuck Wepner fight.
Determinator: As seen in the numerous examples below, this is practically the core of his entire style — he might not be the strongest offensively, but he can take infinitely more punishment than seems humanly possible, which lets him ride out fights up to the double digit rounds that most of his opponents have never needed to go into.
By the final film, Rocky himself (as well as his coach, former bud of Apollo) realize this and utilize it to its fullest to capitalize on what he has left, since at his more advanced age, his raw determination is really all he's got.
Fighting Dirty: Against Tommy, and when Spider Rico pushes him into Unstoppable Rage at the start of the first movie. Most seem to forget that Rocky isn't just a trained champion boxer... he was a former enforcer and knows how to throw down in a street fight.
Should be noted that when he fought Spider Rico, he was still an enforcer who broke thumbs for a living.
Friend to All Living Things: By the time of Rocky Balboa he's become this, feeding the birds, keeping numerous pets, and adopting a new dog.
Heroic BSOD: Has gone through a few of these, most notably in Rocky III,where he suffered from the triple whammy of Mickey's revelation that the ten title defenses Rocky is so proud of were all handpicked opponents while Mickey carefully steered Rocky away from anybody that could actually be dangerous, his crushing loss to Clubber Lang, and Mickey's death. This sends Rocky into a tailspin of depression and questioning not just whather he'll ever be capable of beating Clubber, but whether he was ever any good and his worth as a fighter in the first place.
The Mentor: First to Tommy Gunn and later to Marie's son Steps.
The Mourning After: Rocky cuts short any potential romance with Marie because his reverence for Adrian. Sylvester Stallone later admitted he was tempted to avert this trope until his wife talked him out of it.
Nice Guy: In spite of spending most of his adult life beating people up for a living, Rocky is incredibly sweet and kind to everyone. It's especially evident in Rocky Balboa where he puts up with having his picture taken with Robert's boss despite overhearing him berate him earlier, gives former rival Spider Rico free meals at his restaurant, and responds kindly to every single person who says "Hey, Rock!" or "Hi Champ!" on the street.
Rags to Riches: Takes this trope on a roller coaster ride. In I, it's rags. He does better for a while in part II, but quickly goes through the money from fighting Apollo and doesn't catch on doing other things. After winning the rematch with Apollo, he's solidly rich through III and IV. V sees him going back to rags, and by the 6th movie he seems to have found a happy medium, making a decent living as a successful restaurateur.
Gradual Grinder: He'll be in the fight for the long haul. You better be able to handle it.
Genius Bruiser: During the fight with Clubber Lang, Rocky uncovers his weakness (i.e. he burns out quick) and gets him to throw everything at him in the first round by taunting him excessively. It works rather well to his advantage and is the shortest fight in all the films, closing out in about three rounds.
Made of Iron: How else do you describe a guy who goes for 15 rounds with a World Champion and still comes out strong?
Drago said it best:
"He's not human. He's like a piece of iron."
Mighty Glacier: What he logically becomes to an extent by the time of his final fight. There's no way he can out-hit or even bother outmaneuvering Dixon at his age, so he trains to outlast and deal as much damage as he can with any hit he gets in.
Unskilled, but Strong: He has a cast iron jaw and a real talent for the sport, but for most of his history, that was all he had going for him. He couldn't even defend himself and allowed himself to be punched in the head repeatedly. Then first Mickie and later Apollo trained him and converted all of that raw talent into true skill and ability, transforming him into The Ace.
Played by: Talia Shire (1976-1990)
Paulie's sister, a painfully shy woman who runs a local pet store and that Rocky has had a crush on for years, although she has never responded to his flirting and such. They begin to connect romantically during the build up to Rocky's first fight with Apollo, as Adrian also begins dealing with her own issues and putting her overbearing brother in his place.
Adrian's older brother and Rocky's long time friend, he begins the films as a drunken, overbearing lout who tries to lord over his sister and hopes to use Rocky in order to make connections with Rocky's mob boss. At first he is resentful of Rocky due to Rocky's greater success and popularity, but eventually Rocky always being there for him make him become a true friend.
The Alcoholic: Peaks at the start of the third film, afterward focus on it dies away.
YMMV. Depending on how bad his mood is, he swings between this and Shipper on Deck.
The Resenter: To Rocky, for awhile. Like his alcoholism, it reaches a peak at the start of the third movie and dies away when the two bond after that.
"You're gonna eat lightning and crap thunder!"
Played by: Burgess Meredith (1976-82, 1990) note appears in the fourth and sixth movies in archive footage
The owner of the local boxing gym where Rocky trains during the first movie, he begins the first film unsympathetic, and even antagonistic towards Rocky, angry at Rocky squandering his talent and working for the mob. He has to eat crow later when Rocky is picked as Apollo's opponent, and begs Rocky to let him be Rocky's trainer, because he knows he can turn Rocky into a dangerous opponent instead of no hope challenger. Rocky, remembering all of Mickie's slights, almost turns him down, but accepts in the end, and a deep relationship forms between the two as Mickie becomes mentor, trainer, and even to a degree a father figure for Rocky.
Suddenly Shouting: His normally gravelly low voice often blows up into extremely loud outbursts.
Played by: Carl Weathers (1976-85)
Rocky's opponent in the first two films and friend in the following two films. Creed begins the series as the reigning heavyweight champion, and between his dazzling skills, speed, and power, no one has ever managed to go the distance with him. When an opponent pulls out a fight set for July 4, 1976, Creed, realizing no other top level contender will be free to fight by then, and unwilling to change the date, instead comes up with a gimmick: to give an unheralded local fighter an opportunity to reach the top ala the American Dream by fighting him. He then picked Rocky as his opponent, and the rest was history...In the third film after Rocky loses to Clubber Lang and Mickie dies, Apollo trains Rocky for the rematch with Lang, beginning what fans have called "an epic bromance" with Rocky that lasts through the end of the third film and into the fourth, until Drago kills Apollo in an exhibition bout.
Genius Bruiser: Emphasized more in the novelization and other background materials, but Apollo isn't just a boxer, he also entirely runs, markets, and manages and entire business empire based around himself.
Manipulative Bastard: In the second film. Frustrated by the fan response to his first fight with Rocky, he decides to provoke Rocky into getting back to the ring for a rematch by playing the role of the Heel in the media and angering him. It works.
The antagonist of the third film, he is a brutal jerkass of a fighter shaped by the streets into a fearsome opponent. While Rocky enjoys the high life as champion, Lang cuts a swath through the heavyweight ranks, mercilessly knocking out anyone he faces. Mickie quickly becomes aware of what a dangerous man he is, and desperately wants to avoid a bout between him and Rocky.
Animal Motifs: Numerous. His bizarre haircut, leather jacket, and feather earrings make him look like an animal, he roars when he throws a punch, and during the intro, a tiger's roar is played several times while the camera is on him.
Captain Ersatz: Of a young George Foreman. To an extent the first bout between him and Rocky is an a fictionalization of the bout where Foreman defeated Joe Frazier (one of the inspirations for Rocky Balboa) to become world heavyweight champion. In that bout Foreman knocked out Frazier in two rounds and knocked Frazier down six times during those two rounds. Like the film there was a rematch, unlike the film while Frazier did better and lasted longer, Foreman once again knocked him out.
Crippling Overspecialization: He is focused solely on getting fast knock-outs with hard hooks (he rarely uses any other punch and doesn't throw a single jab). His style seems to be keyed solely on destroying Rocky and once Rocky starts outfighting, Clubber is outclassed and decimated in three rounds. It's very likely that the retired Apollo Creed, who specialized in outfighting and was much better at it than Rocky, and whom Clubber repeatedly insulted, threatened, and even attacked, would have beaten or even humiliated him in the ring. (Which would also correspond to the inspirations for the 3 characters. Rocky primarily borrows from Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier, Creed from Muhammad Ali, and Lang from George Foreman. In real life Frazier won his first bout Ali, then was brutally destroyed by Foreman in two rounds, and Foreman was then outclassed, knocked out, and demolished mentally, physically and psychologically by Ali.)
Curbstomp Battle: The first fight between Rocky and Clubber is one, as Clubber demolishes an overconfident and ill-prepared Rocky in two rounds, although Rocky does manage to get a few good blows. The rematch is also one, this time with Rocky defeating Clubber, although like the first bout Clubber does have his moments and gives both Rocky and the audience some scares.
Evil Counterpart: To Rocky in the first two films. Both are hard hitting southpaw brawlers from the streets and expanded materials give Clubber a criminal past. Clubber just takes it all Up to Eleven and has a Jerkass personality.
Glass Cannon: Kinda. Stamina is more his weakness than an inability to take a punch, but still, he's the only one of Rocky's challengers to suffer an early KO.
Trash Talker: Par excellence. In fact, it was his trash talking that got him a shot at the title, since Mickie made sure the match wouldn't be made and Rocky was about to retire before Clubber's trash talking caused Rocky to lose his cool and make the match.
The Unfought: Would have been this for Rocky had Rocky retired as planned.
A Soviet amateur fighter who, due to being unable to compete as a professional, (Eastern Bloc athletes of the time did not compete in professional leagues, only in the Olympics and other amateur leagues) is being touted as a potentially awesome but unproven boxer. Apollo sees this and is sure he knows better, and challenges Drago to exhibition fight. After Apollo loses and dies from his injuries, Rocky challenges Drago to an unlicensed bout in Russia that will not be recognized as legitimate by boxing authorities.
All There in the Manual: According to Rocky: The Ultimate Guide, Drago's career stalls until the fall of the USSR five years later, and he turns pro, winning one of the World Title belts, its not specified which one, and amassing a record of 31 straight wins by KO. He never unifies the World titles or fights the top contenders of the early 90s due to promotion politics. His only loss in his entire career was against Rocky.
Badass: His punching strength is over two times the average psi for a boxer, and close to three at tops. Rocky seemingly takes his blows way easier than Apollo's or Lang's, despite the fact that Drago's blows should theoretically make his head explode. And Rocky does this for a whole fifteen rounds.
Heel-Face Turn: When he starts fighting Rocky, he becomes arrogant and dominant in the rounds, but when Rocky manages to fight back, he is impressed by his skill and determination. ("He's not human, he's like a piece of iron.") While he did still fight Rocky, he turns against his trainers (and to an extent, his own country) with the following words.
Unskilled, but Strong: Major subversion. Apollo thinks he is this, due to the limited number of Drago bouts that Apollo can view footage from. Apparently Drago's skill and form had improved by leaps and bounds since his last bout that Apollo saw.
Tommy "The Machine" Gunn
Played by: Tommy Morrison (1990)
A poor young man seeking to become a professional fighter, he has left his home in hopes of being trained by the legendary Rocky. At first Rocky refuses, but eventually agrees. Tommy proves a talented student, but eventually becomes frustrated at the slow pace with which Rocky insists on developing his professional career, believing that he's ready to be champion. This provides an opportunity for unethical promoter George Washingtion Duke to first sign Tommy, then turn him against Rocky.
A successful and dominant heavyweight champion from the 2000s, he has everything (money, friends, women, etc) except the respect of the people, who see him constantly winning his fights with such ease that they assume his opponents must be hopeless bums. As a result, the only people who seem a fair match for Dixon are the greats of the past, and when a computer simulation shows Dixon losing by KO to a prime Rocky Balboa, Dixon's management sees it as an interesting chance for an exhibition just as Rocky is looking at getting his boxing license back.
Captain Ersatz: Of Roy Jones Jr and Floyd "Money" Mayweather. (And his penchant for first-round knockouts brings a little bit of Mike Tyson into the character, too.)
Dude, Where's My Respect?: Despite being the current Heavyweight champion and undefeated, he didn't got any respect from the crowd. He did get it after his fight with Balboa.
There's a bit of Truth in Television here. There have been many fighters who didn't get the respect they deserve because the guys around are nowhere near their level. Therefore, it creates the illusion that a dominant champion is fighting nothing but bums. In contrast, Muhammad Ali receives platitudes not just because of his tremendous skills, but because of the high level of the other heavyweights around, nearly all of whom Ali fought and beat.
Punny Name: For those who don't get the joke, the Mason-Dixon line was the result of a compromise in 19th century American Politics on where slavery would be legal. South of the line it was legal, north of the line it was not.