Jim Ross has recalled how he signed The Rock to the largest rookie contract WWE had ever offered, describing the process as a “no brainer.”
After his football career fell by the wayside, Dwayne Johnson decided it was time to follow the family business and become a professional wrestler. After all, his father Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia, had both enjoyed success in the ring.
This led to the would-be third generation star being brought to the attention of the WWF, and more specifically Pat Patterson and Jim Ross.
Speaking on a recent episode of his Grilling JR podcast, available via AdFreeShows, Jim Ross recalled making sure he secured the man who would become The Rock to his first ever wrestling contract.
Ross explained that Johnson ticked so many of the boxes required that he had to make sure that he didn’t let him slip away. This meant offering the young star the biggest rookie contract that the company had ever put together up to that point.
“Oh yeah, it was a no-brainer. Just a matter of getting it done and getting the contract signed. I paid Rock the highest rookie contract we’d ever done, six figures plus. Most of those guys weren’t making that kind of money. You pay what the market will bear, and the issue is that we didn’t want to take any chances of being silly with the money in as much as with an insulting offer. We weren’t going to pay a blue-chip guy field hand wages. So that’s kind of where that started.
I was around Rock a lot in the scouting, talking, and evaluating. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose him. One good thing that happened was that Rock didn’t have any money, so he was just looking for some cash to put some food on the table and take care of his family. He had not made any money of any degree at that point in time. It was not a mystery that we were going to sign Rock. Nobody knew how good he was going to be, but he checks so many boxes that it’s going to be hard for him to miss,”
After briefly appearing in the USWA as Flex Kavana, Johnson made his debut at the 1996 Survivor Series where he was the sole survivor for his team. Despite a heavy push as a babyface, the fans quickly rejected the young star, serenading him with chants of “Die Rocky Die!”
This eventually led The Rock to turn heel and join the newly created Nation of Domination. Over the next year, the star’s popularity began to rise as he outgrew The Nation becoming World Champion at the 1998 Survivor Series.
A year later with Stone Cold Steve Austin out of action due to a series neck injury The Rock established himself as the biggest star in the company, and shortly after, one of the biggest stars in history.
Although the Hollywood star hasn’t wrestled in a number of years, he has been continually linked with a huge showdown at WrestleMania 39 against Roman Reigns.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.