The Rock is an iconic figure in pop culture now, but he wasn’t always The People’s Champion. He entered WWE as a grinning babyface, but the fans were looking for something much different.
Dwayne Johnson did another Instagram Live Q&A. He was asked about his highs and lows in the business. One of those lows came when he realized that despite winning the Intercontinental Title, his first character in WWE just wasn’t working. In fact, Rocky Maivia represented everything that was wrong with professional wrestling at the time.
“So it was my very first night in the company, Survivor Series. I win the whole thing at Madison Square Garden. I got 22,000 people chanting, ‘Rocky. Rocky.’ I was on a high, it was like a dream because I could not believe what was happening. I was so grateful. It was so humbling. And a few months later, the company decides they were gonna make me Intercontinental Champion. That’s how much I was getting over, ascending in the world of professional wrestling.”
“Had a phenomenal match with one of my best friends in the professional wrestling business, still today, Triple H, and again, I was on a high. Now what’s interesting what was going on in that time, in the world of pro wrestling, is it started to shift, and no longer did fans want tradition. They wanted to buck tradition. They didn’t like cookie-cutter. They didn’t want stale. And they wanted anti-authority. Anti-authority came in the form of Stone Cold Steve Austin.”
“I represented everything, at that time, that was wrong with pro wrestling, and the fans turned on me. They started chanting, ‘Rocky sucks,’ at every arena that I went to. Now imagine, at every arena that I went to they chanted, ‘Rocky sucks,’ and it was hard for me, as you can imagine psychologically, but also hard as a company. The company’s scrambling like, ‘what do we do?’ They’ve never seen anything like this before. Vince McMahon said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this,’ a visceral reaction that is so anti what we want.”
The Rock was able to get over, but with a much different character in WWE. If the fans hadn’t rejected Rocky Maivia initially then the world might not know Dwayne Johnson in the way they do today.
Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the quote