Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has sat down to speak about his time inside the squared circle and what gave him the biggest rush during the early stages of his career.
When Rocky Maivia stepped onto the Survivor Series stage in 1996, he was a grinning, hyped-up ball of potential who sadly fell short of what had been forecast for him thanks to his colourful look and his, at times, inane smile.
Fans soon turned on Maivia despite WWF’s best attempts to push him hard and it was only once he turned heel, joined The Nation of Domination, usurped Faarooq as leader and was allowed to speak at length that fans began to see the true star beneath the surface.
The electricity which sizzled from him on the microphone was second to none and certainly nothing the devotees had witnessed in the last several years with business down and men like Mabel dominating television and pay-per-view time.
Now, The Rock has spoken on Instagram Live’s One Glass With Glazer – hosted by NFL insider Jay Glazer – about the days before he hit the big time, Vince McMahon and his true feelings behind the grinning Rocky Maivia.
When asked about which moment gave him the biggest sense of pride and pleasure in professional wrestling, Johnson had a surprising reply:
“Well, there’s a few. That’s really hard. I’ve been a lucky son of a bitch to have a career, the multiple careers, that I’ve been lucky to have. I’ve been really fortunate, brother. The moment I was able to speak my mind and be authentic in the WWE. So what I mean by that is when I first started in the WWE, I was this good guy babyface, fresh out of University of Miami. You know, I was told by Vince McMahon, who was a very close friend of mine still today, is a mentor in the world of business, he would tell me, ‘You gotta go out there, you gotta smile, you just gotta… you just gotta smile!”
Having revealed that the grinning rookie was all Vince McMahon’s idea, The Rock gave his thoughts on the gimmick and what he was told by his boss which in turn garnered him unrivaled hate from the audience:
“This was my rookie year, so you can imagine. Smile! So, I said OK, and again, you’re pissing vinegar… you’re ready to get out there and bang, man. And he said, ‘I want you to be… you’re grateful that you’re here, so you gotta smile.’ And then I would go out and I would hear these fans, they just knew that I wasn’t being authentic. You know, and they would be like… ‘You f***ing suck!’ And I would smile, ‘Hey, thank you, man! I know I do, right?’ I gotta smile.”
The decision to pair The Rock with The Nation of Domination in August of 1997 came as a huge relief to the talent who believed he had much more to give. Told that he was switching heel, Johnson orated that he immediately asked McMahon for television time in order to exhibit one of his greatest gifts of talking:
“So, finally when the decision was made to become a bad guy, to become a heel, I asked Vince, ‘If [you] can just give me two minutes on the microphone, on a live RAW, I just want to speak my mind. There was a faction at that time, called The Nation of Domination, led by [WWE Hall of Famer] Ron Simmons, who was one of the greatest Florida State football players of all-time. And Vince McMahon said, ‘OK, you got two minutes.’ I said, ‘Alright.’ I grabbed the microphone on live TV, which that’s a lot, man, because at that time there was just two hours of RAW live, that’s it.
Pass me the ball, that was it. Just give me one shot. If I suck, and by the way, I had to tell him that. I said, ‘Listen, I understand that we only have two hours of live television.’ And this show is kicking ass, our ratings were great at that time. And I said, ‘Just give me two minutes, one minute, and if I suck you’ll never give me the microphone again.’ He said, ‘OK.'”
As it would turn out, those couple of minutes afford to The Rock were one of the best decisions Vince McMahon ever made. As soon as he spoke with the shackles off, it was evident there was something unexplored which had to be spotlighted:
“I grabbed that microphone and I said, you know, this is the very first night I turned bad, and I said, ‘I may be a lot of things, but sucks isn’t one of them.’ And I said, ‘Me joining The Nation is not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s a respect thing, and I’m gonna earn it every night by kicking that ass.’ You know, and I start talking a little s**t, but it was in that moment, that you could feel the crowd of 15,000 or 20,000 people go, ‘That’s real. What he just said, he just spoke from the heart.’ And that led to the birth, if you will, of The Rock. So that’s a very long answer and I appreciate you asking that.”
The Rock would go on to greater fame in the then World Wrestling Federation, switching from heel to face and back again at the 1998 Survivor Series, being corporate WWF Champion and then finally transitioning into the beloved Great One to oppose Vince McMahon and The McMahon-Helmsley Era in 2000.
His first high profile acting job in The Mummy Returns – he had appeared on television beforehand – lead to his own Scorpion King spin-off movie and over the years he has built a backlog of great movies which have seen ‘The Braham Bull’ become the highest paid actor and one of the most respected luminaries in Hollywood.
Credit for the interview: One Shot With Glazer
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.