Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wasn’t born a wrestling star. He had to become one, and Tuesday’s Young Rock heartwarmingly showed fans how his road to stardom in the ring began.
It started with a call from Pat Patterson in 1996, who wanted Dwayne to fight in a dark match in Corpus Christi, Texas, per Vince McMahon’s request. Dwayne, of course, said yes to his first match, but he didn’t have any gear. So he had to borrow his uncle King Tonga’s trunks (which were too big) and his father Rocky’s boots (which were too small).
His first opponent turned out to be Steve Lombardi, aka the Brooklyn Brawler, and he was scripted to win the match. And win Dwayne did, but first, he had to get the crowd to root for him to win. It was a feat that proved rather challenging, but Dwayne sold it with his facial expressions and noises, and eventually, the crowd had his back. Dwayne, in turn, fed off the energy and realized that the ring was the place for him.
An impressed Vince allowed Dwayne to fight again in Austin but then decided that the up-and-comer needed more experience and sent him to Memphis to train. It was the very city he’d lived in as a teenager, and to save money, Dwayne moved in with his good friend, Downtown Bruno. Just before his first match, Dwayne got to meet a number of rising WWF (now WWE) stars, including a young Stone Cold Steve Austin (before he adopted his icy moniker), Triple H and the Undertaker.
The Sheik, who had become a “heel” manager, was also there for moral support and to do play-by-play for Rocky, Ata and Grandma Lia over the phone. Dwayne made fast friends with everyone but Hunter Hearst Helmsley, aka Triple H. The two are friends now, but back then, Dwayne explained, they planted the seeds for a classic rivalry.
Dwayne recalled all of this for Randall while recovering from food poisoning, and the next day, he was back on the presidential campaign trail, fully recovered and ready to fight the good fight.
What did you think of Dwayne’s ring debut? Drop your thoughts in the comments.