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WRITTEN PODCAST RECAP: Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard: The Rock 97/98 – Polynesian attire and bad haircuts, Die Rocky Die, from People’s Champ to Corporate Champ (Ep. 71)

Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard-Episode 71

Recap by: Denny Walker Crum

Air Date: 10/27/17

DIRECT LINK TO LISTEN/DOWNLOAD

Newsworthy Items:

-Rock and Mark Henry were trained at the same time, Vince thought Henry was going to be the bigger star

-Rock’s daughter has expressed interest in wrestling

-Rock didn’t initially want to turn heel and join the Nation

-Jim Ross came up with the idea for Rock to refer to himself in the third person when he saw a Deion Sanders interview

-Someone found the belt Austin threw in the river and tried to sell it back to the WWF

-Bossman messed up a spot at Survivor Series ’98

What Happened When…The Rock electrified the millions and millions of his fans?

(Questions are asked by Conrad unless otherwise noted. Answers are from Bruce. Anything in parenthesis is my own thoughts or commentary.)

The show opens with some banter between Conrad and Bruce. Bruce wants to be called professor now because he did some guest lecture spots at a college for an entertainment/media class.

They plug Sean Mooney’s new podcast. Mooney asked Bruce to be the first guest on his new show.

They move on to a recap of last week’s show on Doink. Conrad corrects a mistake he made saying Doink actually debuted at Survivor Series ’92. He didn’t wrestle but did make an appearance. His wrestling debut was in January of ’93. He asks Bruce to talk us through Doink’s debut at Survivor Series. It was another way to introduce the character. They wanted guys to have a lot of television time before they appeared at major events. This was a way to get some exposure for the character in a different way.

Conrad mentions the rumor and innuendo surrounding British Bulldog and Doink. A story floating around that has also been told by Bret Hart says Bulldog was fired in late ’92 because he refused to job to Doink. He notes the timing doesn’t make sense because Bulldog was fired in late ’92 and Doink didn’t wrestle until ’93. Was Bulldog ever slated to work with Doink? The rumor isn’t true. Bulldog was let go for “other reasons.” Another part of the rumor was that Hart had a problem with Doink and was against Bulldog working with him. That’s also false since Doink worked a lot of house show loops with Bret.

Bruce had mentioned something in the Jeff Jarrett episode about Jarrett and Doink. Conrad asks if there is any follow-up to that. What Bruce alluded to was Jerry Jarrett. When Jerry was working with the WWF, he felt he was being undermined by Patterson and Bruce. Vince put Jerry in charge of a Saturday morning show called Mania. His first attempt at writing Mania was during the time when Lex Luger and Yokozuna were hot. They were running 3 house show loops at a time. A-towns, B-towns, and C-towns. Doink and Jeff had a match in the middle of the card at one of the C-town shows. Jerry took it upon himself to take the Mania show and take 3 of the 6 segments to tell the Doink and Jeff story. The Saturday morning shows were supposed to focus on the top storylines. It didn’t look good for Jerry to feature his son for more than half of the show. Vince called Bruce when he saw it because he was unhappy. Bruce reminded Vince he’d said for he and Patterson to let Jerry be in complete control. Vince had to talk to Jerry about it. Vince, Patterson, Jerry, and Bruce were traveling together. They stopped at a rest area. Vince decides this is when he will talk to Jerry about the show. Patterson and Bruce get back to the car as Vince and Jerry are walking back up.Vince leaves to go to the bathroom. Bruce does his Jerry impression saying “Man, I have never been yelled at like that in my life. He told me that show was the worst thing he had ever seen. It’d be a good idea if I didn’t feature Jeff as much.” Bruce goes off on a tangent because he feels like Jerry didn’t get yelled at at all. He didn’t even get a stern talking to.

Anything else Bruce would like to add about about Doink appearances? The original Doink, Matt Bourne, got one last appearance at the Raw 15th-anniversary episode. It was a way to come back and have one last hurrah.

They are going to talk about next week’s poll. This time with all tag-teams. They will be doing some Survivor Series anniversary polls coming up in the near future.

Poll topic number 1 is the Hardy Boyz. They aren’t going cover all of their singles runs if they win. Jeff Hardy deserves an episode himself. They aren’t going to talk about Broken Matt. What are they going to talk about if the Hardys win? When the Hardys first started coming in to do jobs for the WWF, how Jeff lied about his age, how they used to make their own outfits, why they actually got the first contract that they did, who recommended the Hardys to come into their camp, their entire career and the influence that “doot doot doot” Michael Hayes had on their careers.

Poll topic number 2 is Edge and Christian. What might we talk about if Edge and Christian win the poll? Sexton Hardcastle and whatever Christian’s original alias was (Christian Cage), how they came in, how they became the brood and their reaction when they first approached them about joining the WWF.

Poll topic number 3 is a team that Conrad is going to call underrated because they probably aren’t going to win, the Dudley Boyz. What are we going to talk about if they win? Bruce thinks the Dudleys have a good chance to win. They will talk about the first meeting the Dudleys had in the WWF offices, and what Bubba and D-Von claims Bruce made them do after that meeting. Bruce will tell us right now that what they claim is not true, but he is going to give us their version and then what really happened. They will talk about the hard road the Dudleys faced to assert themselves in the WWE.

Poll topic number 4 is the New Age Outlaws. What might we talk about? How Rockabilly was a blessing in disguise for Billy Gunn and how The Real Double J was a blessing in disguise for Road Dogg, how they came together, who’s idea it was to put them together, how they rose through the ranks, their contributions to the business, how they joined DX and the invasion into WCW with those guys.

Finally, we are covering The Rock on Something to Wrestle. They aren’t going to go over his whole career on this episode. Just the first two years. They will probably have about a half dozen episodes on the Great One.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was born May 2, 1972. His father is Rocky Johnson who is a former tag-team champion with Tony Atlas. What interaction has Bruce had with Rocky Johnson? Johnson was pivotal in Bruce’s wrestling career. He was on the first posters Bruce put up when he was 10 years old and hanging posters for shows in Houston. He was also a sparring partner for George Foreman.

Rock’s grandfather was “High Chief” Peter Maivia. Did Bruce ever run into High Maivia in the business? As a kid in Houston, but only as a kid. His reputation followed him as a legit badass. Bruce compared him to Haku before Haku. His tattoos were done the old-fashioned way with a hammer, needles, and ink. He was a legit high chief in Samoa.

Rock’s grandmother was one of the few female wrestling promoters. She took over the promotion when Peter passed away. Everyone who worked for her spoke highly of her. Did Bruce ever meet her? Yes. She is another legit badass. She personified “class” all the way. Rock’s grandmother and mom were two of the sweetest women you can meet.

It has been joked about that the Samoan wrestling dynasty is all just one family. There is one Samoan wrestler who isn’t in the family and that is Samoa Joe. They are the Anoa’i family. It includes pretty much everybody. Wild Samoans, Roman Reigns, Rikishi, Yokozuna, Rosie and Jamal, and the list goes on. They are cousins with the Maivias. How they started is Afa and Sika came over from the islands and settled in San Francisco.

Conrad noted that Uso is Samoan for brother. So instead of people saying “brother” like Hulk Hogan, you would hear Samoan families say “uce” or “uso” a lot. (I did a show with Rikishi once. I took the Stinkface from him. I drove him around at the end of the night to get food and back to his hotel. He was calling me “uce” all night. It was pretty cool.)

The rumor and innuendo is that Peter Maivia disapproved of his daughter marrying Rocky Johnson because he was a wrestler. We even heard Helen Hart say she didn’t want her boys going into wrestling and she didn’t want her girls to marry wrestlers. Is that also the case as Bruce knows it? Yeah, that sounds like the norm. Bruce isn’t going to say he doesn’t want his daughter to marry a wrestler because that is exactly what she’ll do. He sarcastically tells her to please marry a wrestler.

The most amazing thing about the family is that all of them are really good wrestlers. What is it about this family? They are all natural athletes. Look at Yokozuna when he first came in. He was 350lbs and moved like a 180lb person. They have a gene that has been carried on and passed down. Bruce remembers when Roman was playing football. They followed his career from high school. The Usos were also badasses on the football field. They are a family of stud athletes.

As a wrestling kid, the Rock moved around quite a bit. He lived in New Zealand for a bit, then to Hawaii, then to Pennsylvania. He wrestles, plays football, and does track. He gets a lot of offers and ultimately decides to play football at the University of Miami. He was on Miami’s 1991 National Championship team. He got hurt and was replaced by Warren Sapp. He tries his hand in the Canadian Football League and actually played for the Canadian Stampeders on their practice team. Did Bruce ever talk to the Rock about his football career? He loved playing football and his dream was to play in the NFL. He loved wrestling too. Bruce thinks that Rock being close to his mother, who wasn’t crazy about the wrestling business, is a reason he migrated toward football.

There’s a fun story before we move on from the Rock and football. Allegedly he chased a mascot into the stands. Miami had a bad reputation at the time. There was a breakout with an opposing team and fans and Rock decided to have a little bit of fun. Conrad encourages us to throw it into our “Google machines” to check it out.

After football doesn’t work out, he comes home and asks his dad to train him. According to the rumor and innuendo, Rock’s dad wasn’t in favor of training him at first. What does Bruce remember hearing about Rock’s early days of training? He did ask his dad. Pat Patterson and Rock’s dad have been friends for many years. Pat was always looking for new talent and hears about Rock training with his dad. He knows Rock has the pedigree because of his lineage. Pat went and saw his size, athletic ability, and look and encouraged him to keep training. Pat told Rock when he feels he is ready, they would try to find some work for him.

The rumor is that Rock used his relationship with Pat to get a couple of tryout matches. He gets a win over the Brooklyn Brawler and loses to Owen Hart and Chris Candido. He shows the decision makers in the company enough to get an opportunity to train with the USWA. Who would have been in those decision-making spots? It was Bruce as a favor to Pat. Pat kept telling Bruce about “Dewey”. They called Dwayne “Dewey”. They brought him out for a tryout match.He was very green but had a presence in the ring. They were starting their developmental and figured they would give him a shot there.

Did Bruce think Rock had “it”? Rock had “it” just walking in the building. He had a presence about him but hadn’t put it all together yet. He walked in and was confident. He made heads turn. He is a big, good lookin’ bastard. Bruce would tell his brother (Dr. Tom Prichard) “You trained The Rock.” His brother would reply “No, Rock didn’t need to be trained. He just needed to be told what to do with what he had.”

He is packaged as Flex Kavana. It was something Lawler and Rock came up with. They made him a babyface so he could sell pictures. Rock liked the name Flex Kavana because it sounded exotic.

Rock wins the tag team titles a couple of times in the USWA and has a few matches with Jerry Lawler. Was the WWF keeping tabs on his progress in the USWA? Bruce got the tapes from the USWA every week.

He signed a WWF contract in the summer of 1996. He was trained by Tom Prichard in the warehouse of the WWF’s television studio. What did Tom think rookie Rock’s strengths and weaknesses were? Considering he was training guys like Mark Henry and Brakus, he was relieved to have a more athletic guy in there to train who also had a background in the business.

Would a guy like Rock who was in the developmental territory and had just signed with the WWF have had a meeting with Vince at this point? No. He didn’t meet Vince until he came up for TV. He had known Vince since he was a kid, so that was more of a reacquainting period. Vince was looking at Mark Henry as his star in the warehouse.

When does Bruce think the decision is made that Rock was ready? Who makes the call? Cornette had a lot to do with it. Cornette looked at Rock and said (in Bruce’s Cornette voice) “Goddamn, he looks like a Greek God. He’s third generation. He’s a babyface. He could be a champion.” Vince was actually a little hesitant at first.

Everyone would call Rock “Dewey” and Rock hated that name. He would always correct them and ask them to call him Dwayne. The more he did that, the more Patterson called him Dewey.

Some of the character drawings for the Rocky Maivia character are out there. How would Bruce describe the attire? Polynesian. Streamers hanging from his body. They were thinking about what to name him and figured you could tell the story of Rock’s lineage right in his name by taking his dad’s first name and his grandfather’s last name.

Who combines the names? It’s something they came up with in Vince’s dining room.

When you explain all this and show the sketches to Dwayne, who is involved and laying all of this out to him? It was probably Vince and Bruce. They asked Rock for his input too, but at that point, he was just happy to have a job. Conrad gets Bruce to do his Vince impression here.

It was a tough sell to get Dwayne to go with the Rocky Maivia gimmick. Dwayne wanted to be his own man. He didn’t want to ride the coattails of his family. He is proud of his heritage, but he wanted to make his own way.

Do you know how Rock’s dad felt about it? Bruce doesn’t. Rock and his dad had an on-and-off relationship for many years. Bruce isn’t sure if it was on at that point. Over the years he knows that Rocky Johnson was extremely proud that his son became who he is.

Rocky Maivia debuts at Survivor Series ’96. His team is Jake Roberts, Marc Mero, and “The Stalker” Barry Windham taking on Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Goldust, and Crush. This was a time where Vince was trying to get away from the Survivor Series tag team matches. It was a way to introduce him. Lawler was in there because he worked with Rock in USWA and Triple H was in there because he was a proven good worker. So they had guys in there to help Rock look good in his first match.

Jake Roberts was a big fan of Rock from the beginning. Jake was working with them in the office at the time. Jake had a lot of early influence on the Rock.

This debut makes The Rock the first third-generation star in WWE history. The finish of the match was a shoulder breaker type maneuver. Does Bruce remember how that comes to be? He believes that was Jake’s idea. It was safe and something Rocky could do with everybody.

Conrad wanted to point out that this is The Rock’s debut at a major WWF show and Triple H is on the other side of the ring. How ironic is that?

Bruce mentions that Rock’s debut was also in Madison Square Garden and that crowd just s**t all over him. Conrad points out that Shawn Michaels was the babyface that night in his match against Sid, but Sid got the hero’s welcome. They cheered every heelish thing that Sid did. They were loving Stone Cold, who was a heel at the time. That crowd was loving the bad guys, and Rock was Mr. Whitemeat Babyface.

What was the reaction backstage? Bruce remembers thinking the New York crowd is brutal. They started to rationalize why he is getting booed. He thought they would love him in middle America. (They do the same thing with Roman now. Maybe they just didn’t like the gimmick and it needs to be changed. Stop rationalizing opposite reactions and consider just for a second that how he is being presented isn’t working, just like Rocky Maivia didn’t work.) The fans were sick of the audience being told who to cheer.

Conrad mentions the similarities to Rocky Maivia and Roman Reigns being rejected. (I wrote my commentary above before I heard that part. I’m glad Conrad is bringing it up though. I asked Bruce about this when I met him in Detroit a few weeks ago. Bruce said he would keep shoving Roman down their throats. But he thinks the current Shield story arc is going to make the fans who reject him cheer for him. I disagree. But let’s see what Bruce has to say to Conrad here.) Bruce says there are similarities. And that hurts Roman to a point. If you let the audience choose them and it happens organically, it works so much better. They can over-hype and oversell to the point that the fans will reject the talent no matter what they do. He thinks they crossed that line with Rocky Maivia. Conrad feels like Vince would have learned from this situation and called an audible. It feels like Vince hasn’t done that with Roman just yet. Bruce says there are times like John Cena. Vince made the declaration that Cena would not be a heel and eventually the fans will love him. Eventually, they did. Vince is just stubborn. (I hate the Cena/Reigns comparisons. Fans start out initially booing Cena, but he can cut a promo that has the entire arena cheering by the end of that. Roman hasn’t shown that yet. I like Roman. I think he has all of the talent in the world, but I feel like he’s miscast in his current role and he is too different from Cena to make that comparison.)

Conrad notices that when Rock gets the victory in his debut match, he celebrates with his back to the hard camera almost the whole time. Is that not something someone smartened him up about? At that time, they took a lot of things for granted. They assume guys know.

What was the feedback from the boys in the match or some of the agents? Everybody thought he had “it.” He was going to be a huge star, they just had to fine tune the presentation and the personality. The traditional babyface model isn’t what the audience wanted anymore. They were cheering Steve Austin and Sid hitting an old man with a camera.

Just a few months after his debut, Rocky defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley for the Intercontinental Title on Tuesday Raw (Yes, Tuesday Raw). Why was the decision made to put the championship on him just a few month into his run? Youth and pedigree. He was going to be the youngest champion. They felt he had a little momentum and figured putting the championship on him would get the crowd behind him even more.

Conrad notes that it is a little interesting that Rocky beats Triple H here. He brings up something Bret said in his book. Bret wrote (I’m paraphrasing) that he was in the locker room hearing Shawn complain about Steve Austin. It was good for Bret to know he wasn’t the only one Shawn feared. Poor Rocky Maivia was also being buried by Shawn and Hunter for supposedly not wanting to job, not selling, and stealing their spots. Bret said Rocky was a good kid. He tried to be polite and respectful, but couldn’t get Shawn and Hunter to like him at all. Conrad notes the date Bret said this happened was just a few days before Rocky won the Intercontinental Title from Hunter.

Does Bruce recall any sort of politicking going on from Hunter and Shawn to not put Rocky over or to keep the belt on Hunter? Not particularly in that instance. The one way to tell if somebody was going to be a big star or was getting over is if the top guy starts b**ching about him. The top guys start noticing and are nervous.

WrestleMania 13 was Rocky’s first WrestleMania. He defeated the Sultan, who would later become Rikishi, to retain the Intercontinental Title. Tony Atlas was shown in the front row. After the match, Rocky’s dad came into the ring to fight off both the Sheik and Bob Backlund. Atlas wasn’t involved.

What are Bruce’s memories of Rock’s first WrestleMania moment? Why was Tony Atlas in the front row if he wasn’t going to do anything? Just to get legends on the show. They wanted to show the relationship between Atlas and Rock’s dad. The spot at the end was specifically for Rock’s dad to get in the ring to stand side-by-side with his son. Bruce was disappointed Rock’s dad didn’t wear a suit for this moment.

How did Rock feel about having his dad involved? Who’s idea was it? Rock didn’t really have a choice in it. It was something they came up with because they felt it would be a nice moment for him. It was WrestleMania, so they liked to bring back legends for special moments. Rock didn’t have a problem with it when they pitched it to him.

A couple of weeks after WrestleMania, Rock would defeat Bret by DQ to retain the Intercontinental Title. Bret also wrote about this in his book. Bret was slated by the booking committee to challenge Rocky for the belt. Hunter insisted that Bret beat Rocky. Bret didn’t see any need to beat Rocky. It wouldn’t get any heat for his new heel turn and would only undermine a real talent. Bret insisted on a DQ instead, which infuriated Hunter.

Does Bruce recall Hunter being dead set on derailing Rock or was this a way to get the second tier belt onto Bret to get him out of the World Title picture for Shawn? No. Not at all. They had no desire to put the belt on Bret. Conrad interrupts and says he’s not asking if Bruce had the desire, but why did Hunter? He thinks it’s jealousy and a professional rivalry with Rock. When someone says that (not sure what “that” he’s referring to) they are trying to stir people up in the locker room. There is a lot of professional rivalry. (I feel like Bruce is going out of his way to not say Triple H tried to bury Rock’s career before it got started here. Their professional rivalry goes way back. And we know it has grown into a healthy respect now. But let’s just be honest about what it was back then, Bruce.)

Conrad wants to mention another quote from Bret’s book about when Rock first developed hard feelings for HBK. Allegedly, Shawn was very disrespectful to Rock’s grandmother who was working as the event coordinator of a wrestling show. It almost lead to a physical confrontation between Shawn and Rock. This happened well before Rock was in wrestling. Bruce never heard about the incident.

There is a legend out there that Vince likes for guys to stir up personal rivalries. That is one of the reasons the Kliq had Vince’s ear. Was Vince for that or did he have a problem with it? If guys aren’t ribbing each other and jockeying for position, there isn’t any competition. That’s healthy. Bruce thinks when guys are stirring and competing, it makes for real animosity. What happened earlier in Rock’s career with him and Hunter added to what became a great rivalry between the two because there was real animosity.

Conrad mentions an In Your House Show in April of ’97. He says around this time Rocky had gotten married. He asks Bruce if he had a kid at this point. He did not. He was married to Dany Garcia for 10 years. He still maintains a close relationship with her. Dany was his college sweetheart. They got married when Rock could afford to get married. She continued to manage his career and finances even after the divorce. She is also the President or Vice President of Rock’s production company, 7 Bucks Productions. Her brother is Rock’s full-time manager. She is extremely intelligent and a great financial advisor. She was actually Bruce’s advisor for many years.

Rock and Dany had a daughter who has recently expressed interest in getting into the wrestling business. What would Bruce say is the likelihood of Rock’s daughter getting into the business? If she wanted to, Bruce thinks she could. He doesn’t see Rock endorsing that idea and definitely doesn’t see Dany endorsing it.

Rocky loses the Intercontinental Title in April to Owen Hart. Owen and Rocky were pretty good friends. Does Bruce have any memories of their friendship or this match in particular? They were good friends because Owen was cheap. Rock had gone through some hard times when he first got in the business. He and Owen bonded and had great matches.

It feels like Vince lost some confidence in Rocky at this point. There were lots of boos, Die Rocky Die, Rocky sucks chants, etc. The business is becoming edgier as they get closer to the Attitude Era. Why does Vince decide that now is the time to pull the plug? Vince didn’t lose confidence. It was a perfect storm. Vince was ready to take the belt off of him and Rocky got hurt around the same time. He was out with the knee injury and that was the catalyst for the heel turn. The turn was something that they didn’t really want to do. When Rocky was ready to come back from his injury, Russo came in and said he didn’t know what to do with Rocky. The fans hate him. Vince wanted to bring him back as a babyface and put him in the picture. Bruce pointed out to Vince the crowd reactions and they should bring him back as a heel. Bruce suggested putting him in the Nation. Russo objected by saying Rocky wasn’t black. Bruce said he was a black Samoan. He would fit in with the Nation perfectly because the crowd reaction to him gave him a reason to be bitter.

They went back and forth about the turn. Russo called and pitched the idea to Rocky. Rocky hated it at first and didn’t want to do it. Jim Ross had seen an interview with Deion Sanders on ESPN where he was referring to himself in the third person. Bruce and Ross got Rocky on the phone and suggested Rocky refer to himself in the third person and call himself The Rock.

Conrad backtracks to before the heel turn and mentions some losses Rocky took before his knee injury. Any memories of Rocky going down with the knee injury? It was unfortunate and a horrible coincidence. But in Bruce’s opinion, it was the best thing to ever happen to him.

Conrad talks about how Rock joined the Nation in the storylines by helping Farooq win a match. It wasn’t the most electrifying turn. But it was done very deliberately. Who’s idea was the execution of the heel turn? It made sense. It was a surprise to see him come back to television. Was there ever any other ideas pitched for his heel turn or was joining the Nation the only option discussed? The only option for Bruce was the Nation. It fit. It let Rock be himself.

Conrad mentions prior to the heel turn, Rocky had stopped wearing the Polynesian entrance attire. Why was that decision made? It was a natural progression to where he just stopped wearing it. It wasn’t a conscious decision.

The week after the heel turn, he does an in-ring promo with the Nation and Ross. Before Rock gets in the ring, there are already “Rocky sucks” chants. Was Rock nervous to do the heel promo? Or was he already very comfortable in this role? Bruce thinks there was so much anticipation. There was so much built up from him busting his ass and going out to hear the negative crowd reaction. The promo was real and heartfelt.

Conrad goes over some various match results here. It eventually leads us to Survivor Series 1997. Did Bruce ever have a conversation with Rock about the Montreal Screwjob? Yes. The guys didn’t understand it or everything that happened prior to that. Rock is from a traditional wrestling family, so he wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t know what to do or how to take it. Rocky was friends with Bret. He felt there could have been other ways to handle it at first. Once he talked to Vince and got Vince’s explanation, Rocky understood.

They mentioned this in the Vince Russo episode of Something to Wrestle, but Conrad wants to reiterate that Russo was not the person who came up with Rock referring to himself in the third person. Bruce says that is correct, the idea belongs to Jim Ross.

The night after Survivor Series, Austin was doing an in-ring interview. Rock interrupts Austin, claims that he is the best damn Intercontinental champ there ever was and challenges Austin. This feels like the seeds to a great feud and what we would know as the greatest trilogy in WrestleMania history. Austin says he has a few challenges for Rock. To get a decent haircut, and since he’s a piece of crap to flush himself down the toilet. Rock would later steal the Intercontinental Title. Conrad says this was the genesis of the greatest feud in the history of wrestling. Bruce agrees. He says people claim that he never gives Russo credit for anything, but he gives Russo credit for this. This rivalry defined the Attitude Era.

Who’s idea was it to put them together? Russo or McMahon. Two guys who could cut promos. Rock was on his way up. Steve was red hot. When they got together, it was magic.

Conrad says their first confrontation was magic. You could feel the chemistry here. Who wanted to see this continue? How did Rock and Austin feel about working together at this point? Once it got together, both of them loved it. Austin was in the top position and here came Rock, nipping at his heels. They both wanted to be the top guy as a shoot. Both men are selfish in their own ways, but both men are also two of the most giving guys in the ring because they had someone they loved working with. They tore the house down whether they were cutting a promo or working in the ring.

At In Your House: Degeneration X, Austin defeated Rock to retain the Intercontinental Title and regain possession of the belt. Austin drove a truck to ringside for the very first time. What are Bruce’s memories of this show? The Austin character was taking shape. They got into the vehicle business at this point, Austin driving things to the ring and Rock showing up in Lincoln Towncars. When you look at the build of these two characters, it’s the perfect example of how to build two of the greatest characters of all-time simultaneously. They worked and built off of each other.

Austin wrestled the whole match with the vest on. They only went 5 and a half minutes. Why was this match so short? Bruce doesn’t remember. It wasn’t so much about the match, but everything going on around it. Nobody is sitting there with a stopwatch except for “some goof in California” (Bruce REALLY hates Meltzer) counting the minutes of the matches. People want the build up and presentation. As long as they are entertaining for the entire time, that’s all they cared about.

The night after that show on Raw, we see what looks like the Mr. McMahon character for the first time on television. Vince is talking about all of the things Austin had done recently, including how Austin had beaten up a ref the night before. The crowd starts to chant for Austin, Vince asks the crowd for their attention. Vince is demanding Austin defend the championship against Rock. Austin comes out and tells Vince he doesn’t care who he is. Vince says he is the proud owner of the World Wrestling Federation and he is Austin’s boss. Austin says he doesn’t give a damn. Vince tells Austin if he doesn’t defend the belt, he won’t like the consequences. Austin asks the crowd for a “Hell yeah” if they want to see Vince get his ass kicked. Vince says he’s been meaning to talk to Austin about his language. Austin curses more. This is the first verbal confrontation since Austin stunned Vince at the Garden.

After seeing this and the reaction to it, did everyone know that they had something between Austin and Vince? Yes. You can anticipate a crowd reaction, but to actually get out there, feel it, react off one another and the audience reacts the way you anticipate, you have gold.

Later in the show, Vince is at ringside. Austin tells him he isn’t going to wrestle because he whipped Rock’s ass the night before. Vince tells Austin he will strip him if he doesn’t wrestle. Austin says he will knock Vince’s teeth out if he does that. Austin declares he’s been Intercontinental Champion and Tag Team Champion, but now he only cares about being World Champion. He says he will forfeit the belt to Rock. Austin hands the belt to Rock, but then stuns him and leaves with the belt. Austin tells Vince he has plans for the belt next week.

Why was the decision made to just hand the belt to Rock here? This was during a time of Russo. A lot of things were done to take up time on television and to create different stories without having to have a lot of matches. Some of these things didn’t make sense, but it made for entertaining television.

The next week on Raw, Austin would throw the Intercontinental Title off a bridge. This would look similar to the same bridge Rock would throw an Austin dummy off of years later. What can Bruce tell us about these bridge gimmicks? The bridge idea was something Cornette came up with after seeing something similar in Memphis. It was an Austin-esque thing to do. It was something different. And it gets you to where you want to get without having a match.

There’s rumor and innuendo as to what Austin actually threw over the bridge. Some have said it was a Tag Team Title. Did someone try to return this? What is the scoop? Bruce believes it was an old, broken Tag Team belt. They didn’t repair the belts at the time. Someone did actually find it and tried to sell it back to them. They told the guy he had a hell of a souvenir. Bruce doesn’t remember what the guy was asking for the belt. Bruce also doesn’t remember what bridge they shot the segment at.

Around January of ’98, Mark Henry joins the Nation. Rock starts referring to himself as the People’s Champion. He is also doing the People’s Elbow at this point, but isn’t calling it that yet. Where does the People’s Champion and Elbow come from? People’s Champion was just something Rock came out and deemed himself. The people used to chant that he sucked, but he became their champion. The People’s Elbow was created on the road at some point. It started as a rib. It was in a match with either Hunter or Taker (Don’t tell JBL I called him Taker) and they dared him to do it. It got a pop. So Rock continued to do it. It was ridiculous and over the top, but that is what was getting over at the time.

Bruce says he’s going to jump ahead on that note. He brings up when Rock and Austin would do the singing in-ring segments. That was something Austin and Rock did on house shows. Austin would come out and sing a song. Rock would interrupt him. And they would have a sing-off. They would try to trip each other up with songs. They decided to do it at a TV taping. The crowd ate it up. So much of what they did was impromptu and trying to trip each other up that just turned into entertaining television.

Talking about the People’s Champion, is that something Rock does on his own? Or is it something he would have to run by the people in the back? Russo helped Rock a lot with his verbiage. Bruce isn’t sure if that is something Russo came up with for Rock or not. But there are two different versions of Rock. In the early days, Rock was very law abiding. He would like to get things approved. As he got more over and confident, he would try different things. As he got older, he would get riskier.

Does Bruce remember there being a moment where Vince bought into The Rock as being a top guy? The turning point was when Rock was in the Nation. The Nation was designed to get Ron Simmons over. The Nation would cut promos, at some point Rock would get the microphone. After a few week of that, the crowd would go nuts before Rock would even say a word. Vince would say (in Bruce’s Vince impression) “DAMN! WE GOT SOMETHING HERE!”.

They move on to the Royal Rumble ’98. Rock had a match with Ken Shamrock on the card that ended in a DQ. Later on the card, Rock entered the Royal Rumble match 4th and lasted until the final 2, where he was eliminated by Austin. When it gets to the last 2 in the Rumble, it feels like the company is saying these are the 2 guys we need to keep an eye on. Does Bruce remember it that way? It just kind of happened. Realistically, they were looking at Austin being the guy and moving on. The reason it happened that way is because of the history between Rock and Steve. They initially looked at them being in the final 2 as a blow off. They had no idea what the end result would eventually be. They were doing a lot of booking on the fly at that point. You would get those magic moments and look back and realize you created something in hindsight.

Conrad recaps various matches Rock was working over the next few weeks after the Rumble. One of them was Steve Blackman defeating The Rock in a non-title match. This prompts the question-who booked this s**t? That’s Vince Russo (sounded like he was joking). Blackman was getting over at that time. It isn’t about winning or losing. It is about how you play the game and cut the promo afterward.

A week before WrestleMania XIV, Rock would lose to Austin on Raw. This was their first singles match against each other on Raw. Rock was the Intercontinental Champion and losing to Austin who was on his way to his first World Championship just a week later. Does Bruce remember anything about this match? Bruce remembered the decision being made because it wouldn’t hurt Rock to lose. Who would’ve thought what would happen later? Royal Rumble was looked at as a blow off and this was also looked at as a blow off with Rock on TV. But it was just the beginning.

This brings us to WrestleMania XIV where Rock most famously does his sit down interview with Gennifer Flowers. They’ve talked about her before, but Bruce is asked to refresh us on who she is. Gennifer Flowers was an alleged mistress of President Clinton. This was a time when the Clinton scandal was at its peak. They got her for WrestleMania. What better way to use The Rock?

How was Flowers to deal with? Did she have any demands? No. She was wonderful to deal with. She came with a manager and that was it. The fewer people you have in your entourage, the more Bruce likes you. She got it and had fun with it. She was receptive to whatever they asked her to do.

At this time Flowers was making her rounds in the media and trying to monetize her story with President Clinton. What was the asking price for her appearance here? It wasn’t much at all. She was like a $5,000 celebrity or something like that.

What was Rock’s reaction when he is told about his segment with Flowers? Was he happy about it or against it? This was an opportunity to be positioned with her and get some exposure on the entertainment news channels, which always intrigued Rock.

Did Vince have any interactions with Flowers? (Bruce answered in the same cadence as Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations…” soundbite.) Vince did not have any interactions with that guest at WrestleMania.

Rock would defeat Shamrock by DQ to retain the Intercontinental Title. Shamrock made Rock tap out to the Ankle Lock but held onto the hold too long. Farooq started to come out to help Rock, but stopped halfway down the aisle and smiled. The decision was reversed and the title was returned to Rock. This feels like some stop-and-start booking with Shamrock. The fans are ready for him to be Intercontinental Champion. Conrad has often wondered and has asked several times, but will ask again, why wasn’t Shamrock moved up on the card at this point? Bruce joked that it was because they hated him.

This is around the time The Rock character really starts to evolve. He is wearing the silk shirts that he would refer to as “The Rock’s $500 shirt” and sunglasses during his promos. Where does some of this style come from? Someone in wardrobe, creative, or Rock himself just trying things? It was Rock trying new things. He would go out and buy these shirts on his own and then hang them up where Richie Posner was so he wouldn’t wear the same one twice. These shirts legitimately cost between 3 and 4 hundred dollars. Later on, you’ll notice that Jerry Lawler starts wearing some nice, silk shirts. Rock gave Lawler all of those shirts. Lawler was very happy because he has a reputation for being cheap.

The night after WrestleMania, Rock and Farooq lose a tag match. Rock and Farooq begin to argue until the rest of the Nation attacked Farooq and kicked him out of his own group. Who’s decision was it to kick Farooq out of the group and give this leadership position to The Rock? The audience’s decision. The reaction from the audience when Rock took the mic, you could feel the energy shift. You could feel the diminishing role for Farooq. Sometimes Farooq would give Rock a shoot sideways look.

Not long after Rock becomes the leader, the group drops the word “domination” from their name. It is simply referred to as The Nation. How did that decision come about? Bruce believes that it just happened organically.

Were there any ribs Owen Hart played on The Rock since they were good buds? Owen used to do the call to the front desk prank on Rock. Owen did this prank to a lot of people. He would call the room and tell him he forgot to sign for his room incidentals with a credit card. Rock would claim he did but Owen would pretend it was misplaced or they didn’t have it. Rock would go back down and the guy at the desk would have no idea what Rock was talking about. Rock would get back to his room and get another call from Owen pretending to be at the desk and saying he would kick Rock out of his room if he didn’t come sign the papers. Rock goes down all pissed off wondering who’s calling him and confronts the desk person again while Owen is laughing his ass off in the lobby.

Owen joins the Nation by attacking Shamrock during a tag team match. How did Owen feel about joining the Nation? Owen was actually cool with it. He thought it was new and fun. Nobody had to sell him on the idea.

Conrad goes over random match results for a bit until he gets to a Rock as Intercontinental Champion vs Hunter who was the European Champion. The match went to a DQ. This started the feud between The Nation and DX, which pretty much turned DX babyface. What made sense about a DX vs Nation feud. They were opposites. DX was anti-authority. The Nation was a solidified group that was all about structure. This pairing with Hunter is where Rock really came into his own. Russo would write these segments where Rock and Hunter would go back and forward. Rock was a professional and stick to the script. Hunter would go out and since they were live, he would go off script. Rock would try to bring it back to what was written. Rock would get to the back and be pissed off about that. Bruce would tell Rock that Vince was chewing Hunter out. If Rock could take the ass chewing, they were live. What could they do about it? If you can hang and make a comeback, then make a comeback. The next time they were live and Hunter went off script, Rock went off script. They would go back and forward and there was genuine animosity. Neither knew what the other would say. They were trying to one-up each other for real.

Conrad continues down the timeline with more match results. He gets to King of the Ring ’98 where Rock would defeat Dan Severn. How did Rock like working with Severn? Nobody liked working with Severn. Dan is a great guy, but he has his own way of working. He is a shooter and could be a little tough to work with sometimes.

Rock would lose in the finals of the KOTR to Ken Shamrock. In one night, Rock wrestled 2 UFC Hall of Famers.

Conrad brings up the infamous segment where DX impersonated The Nation. Did DX practice this or was ad-libbed? The guy who stole the show in Bruce’s opinion was Road Dogg as D-Lo Brown. Bruce thought it was a great parody and everyone was hilarious.

Conrad brought up Jason Sensation as Owen Hart. What did Owen think about the impression? He loved it. Jason’s best impression was Owen.

Conrad brings up that X-Pac as in blackface here. It doesn’t age well. He says Bruce has said it before, but X-Pac received some permission from Mark Henry. Who booked it? How did X-Pac feel about it? How did Henry feel about it? Did anyone say it was a bad idea? Nobody objected to it. Russo booked it. Bruce thinks everyone did a great job with it. He thought it was hilarious. It was a parody that went over the top. It wasn’t anything that was supposed to be taken seriously. It was a different time.

(I need to add my own commentary on the subject. I love this show. And when I met Bruce, he was a really nice guy. Very personable. But, this should have never been allowed to happen the way it did. They could have done the exact same segment with X-Pac not in blackface and it would have been better because it wouldn’t have been so disrespectful to such a large portion of their audience. The blackface added nothing to the segment, and I feel like it actually hurt the segment a lot. It doesn’t matter that he got permission from Henry to do it. Just because it didn’t bother Henry, doesn’t mean it didn’t bother a lot of people. Look into awful things in history like Amos and Andy and why blackface is horribly wrong. I feel like Conrad wanted to push back on the subject, but decided to move on.)

Conrad wants to talk about Hunter’s impersonation of Rock. How did Rock feel about it? Bruce feels he laughed on the outside to let everyone know he was cool with it. But there may have been some things that hit a little too close to home. You can’t have thin skin and this created interest in seeing them in the ring together.

Bruce says this rivalry is another example of one they thought they would move on from but lived on forever. There is still talk of Hunter and Rock having another match at WrestleMania.

Conrad goes over more random match results until we get to the August 24, 1998 Raw. Chyna would call Rock out. Rock and then the entire Nation would come out. Rock showed Chyna DX was locked in their locker room. Chyna goes after Rock, but the rest of The Nation restrains her. Rock goes in like he is going to kiss her, but stops and tells Mark Henry to kiss her. Shawn Michaels hits the ring with a chair and clears The Nation out. What does Bruce remember about this angle? Bruce watched this recently. It is another one that wouldn’t play well in 2017. They were really rough on Chyna and pulling her hair. It was not PC. It made Bruce feel really uncomfortable thinking about some of the things they did back then. It was controversial at the time. It was nice to get a surprise in by having Shawn come back. They used a forklift to block the door, he just felt like it was a creative way to do that. Bruce says the forklift spot is the same spot they used when he got his face kicked in by Brock Lesnar. Conrad said they will talk about that another time.

This gets us to SummerSlam 98. Hunter defeated Rock in a Ladder Match that was given four and a half stars by Meltzer. This was the last time Rock would be Intercontinental Champion. Even though Hunter won the match, Rock is the one who came out as the superstar, right? Yes. The reason this match was so good is because it was different. They built towards a logical story. Rock came out with the people in the palm of his hand. They knew Rock knew how to work a crowd. They recommend going to watch the match. It is one of the best ladder matches ever.

Is this the match that made Rock in Vince’s eyes? Bruce isn’t sure this is the match, but it definitely let Vince know he could depend on Rock. Vince knew he could put Hunter or Rock in any position and they would deliver. It was a coming of age moment for both men.

On a Raw a few weeks later, Kane and Undertaker came down to interrupt a D-Lo vs X-Pac match. They attacked both guys. Rock came out to help D-Lo. Instead of helping Rock, D-Lo just ran. Rock got left lying by Kane and Undertaker. It was planting seeds to Rock turning babyface.

When did they know The Nation had run its course and it was time for everyone involved to go their separate ways? When the singles stars in the group became larger than the group. They needed the group to get over. Then the individuals outgrew the group.

Over the next few weeks, Rock was getting a good babyface reaction with his catchphrases. He got a good pop when he defeated Kane on a Raw. It was clear that he was becoming a babyface in the eyes of the fans. Is it starting to happen organically? Or was the office planting the seeds all along? They were planting the seeds. But Austin was the guy. They were thinking who the next guy would be. Rock was younger and starting to get a good reaction. Even as a heel, the fans were still reacting to Rock in a babyface role. They figured they should go with it and make Rock babyface. Vince can be fickle sometimes though. Sometimes he rushes things, but sometimes he likes to drag things out. Rock was a product of both of those sides of Vince.

Rock would get a pin over Undertaker clean in the middle with the Rock Bottom on a Raw. This is a big deal because it was at a time when Undertaker wasn’t routinely losing matches. Bruce said you could smell what was cookin’. Rock was red hot. Undertaker had no problem putting him over because it was the right thing to do.

Around this time, Rock starts to use the People’s Elbow as a finish. Mick Foley has gone on record calling it one of the dumbest moves in wrestling history. Conrad notes that is saying something coming from a guy who used to put a sock in people’s mouths. Did Bruce or anyone else feel the People’s Elbow as a finish? Did anyone request Rock use the Rock Bottom as the finish because they didn’t want to lay there for the Elbow? Yes, Bruce thought it was absolutely silly. He hated it. He liked it as a nice spot in the middle of the match. That’s why Rock set it up the way he did with the moves beforehand. But it wasn’t a good move for a finish. The crowd popped for it though.

They move on to a Raw that had Rock and Austin on a team to take on Kane and Undertaker. Conrad feels like this was the official stamp that he was a top guy and a full babyface. Does Bruce agree? It was also a test to see how the crowd would react. This is the first time Rock is on the same side as Austin. Do they pick one over the other? It was an indication they were both red hot.

Conrad wants to address the rumor and innuendo that Austin wasn’t too happy with the popularity of The Rock. Austin was kind of making fun of the eyebrow and Rock’s other silliness. When did Bruce first start hearing stuff like this from Austin? Around the time Rock started getting pops from the audience. It was Austin as the top guy looking over his shoulder and feeling Rock at his heels. Austin wants to protect his position and remain the top guy.

Just a week after teaming with Austin, Rock would lose to Mark Henry with the help of D-Lo at Judgement Day. It feels weird to Conrad that Rock would go from teaming with Austin on Monday to losing to Henry on Sunday. Who booked this s**t? Vince Russo. Bruce encourages everyone (in a joking manner) to bury Russo. Conrad says everyone should send their hate tweets to Russo and ask him why he had Rock lose to Henry 6 days after teaming with Austin.

A few weeks later on Raw, Rock beats the Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock by DQ. Shamrock keeps the title. Earlier on the show, Vince came out and said he has a problem with the people, so he has a problem with The People’s Champ. If Rock didn’t win the championship, he would lose his number 1 contender spot and be out of the Survivor Series tournament. After the match, Vince told him he was out.

Knowing what was coming at Survivor Series, this was really brilliantly done. Did they know what the payoff was going to be or was this still booking on the fly? They knew where they were going.

November 9th, Rock beat Henry. The stipulation was if Rock won, he was back in the tournament. But if he lost, he was fired. Shane McMahon had recently been demoted to a referee came out and made the count for Rock. After the match, Rock beat up Patterson and Brisco after throwing Vince in the ring from his wheelchair. Vince slaps Rock. Rock gives Vince the Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow to a massive pop. At this point with his reaction from fans and his interaction with Vince, it feels like Rock is threatening Austin for “most popular guy in the company.” Bruce agrees. He says it was written so you were behind Rock as he is overcoming all of these odds.

This takes us to Survivor Series ’98. The World Championship was to be decided in a tournament after a match after there was no winner in the Kane vs Undertaker Title Match the previous month. Rock is here and supposed to wrestle Hunter. Hunter is out with a knee injury. Was the knee injury legit? Yes, it was legit. Conrad made a joke that perhaps it was a “Shawn Michaels knee injury” so Hunter would get out of doing a job. Rock is in the ring, Patterson and Brisco come out and announce Bossman as a replacement. Bossman had already been eliminated earlier in the night when he lost to Austin by DQ. Bossman ran to the ring, Rock inside cradled him immediately. The match lasted just a few seconds. Rock advances to the quarterfinals.

Conrad says there is kind of a fun story about Bossman and this PPV. Bruce sighs. Well, Austin has his match. There was a spot when the Corporation all goes out. Bruce is at Gorilla to send everyone out at the right time. Bossman was there. During the match, the ref goes down and Bossman is supposed to attack Austin. The ref goes down. There is no Bossman. Everyone outside of the ring is looking around. Nobody can find Bossman. Right before they went out, Bossman said he needed to go talk to someone about a spot in another match. So when he was supposed to be attacking Austin, he was in the locker room going over spots. Bruce is screaming for him over the headset and is also very loud to where it was heard by a lot of people. This triggers Brisco to get in the ring to attack Austin. Brisco got in and was being careful with the chair shot on Steve. Vince called it “the tink heard around the world.” Then after Brisco tinks him, Bossman comes running out really late.

Rock beats Shamrock to advance to the semifinals when Bossman tried to throw the nightstick into the ring for Shamrock, but Rock caught it and used it against Shamrock.

Rock then beats Undertaker by DQ to advance to the finals when Kane came down and choke-slammed Rock.

This puts Rock in the finals against Mankind. Mankind got to the finals by beating Duane Gill, Al Snow, and Austin in the semifinals. Vince and Shane come out for the main event. Shane turned heel earlier in the show when he was the ref for the Austin vs Mankind match. Shane refused to count for Austin and flipped him off.

During the match, Rock gets the Sharpshooter on Mankind and Vince calls for the bell. This mimics the finish to the previous year’s Survivor Series. After the match, Vince and Shane come into the ring and group hugs Rock, who everyone thought was our new babyface. Mankind, who appeared to be Vince’s chosen one in storyline got on the mic and told Vince he didn’t understand what was going on. Rock hits Mankind from behind with the belt. Austin comes out to stun Rock and Mankind. This was one of the best-done angles in the Russo era because we didn’t really see this coming.

Does Bruce agree that it was a well-done angle? Yes. He gives a lot of credit to Russo for this. Everyone was so sucked into Rock winning. You wanted him to overcome McMahon, and you didn’t see it coming.

When did they layout the storyline? About a month or two. It was the best work Russo ever did.

Where does this storyline rank in his opinion? It would be on the shortlist of best angles ever. This was a way to get to Austin and Rock. It was Rock’s first World Championship. The whole thing was superbly done.

This made Rock the 2nd youngest champion at that time. Just a few days older than his cousin, Yokozuna.

The next night on Raw, Vince and the Corporation comes out. Vince talks about the “damn fools”, referring to the fans. Then introduces someone who isn’t a damn fool, and brings Rock out. Rock cuts a heel promo where he brings up the “Rocky Sucks” chants. He renames the People’s Eyebrow the “Corporate Eyebrow”. In the middle of all this, Austin comes out to a huge pop. Austin showed footage of Shane saying Austin gets a title shot the night after Survivor Series. Vince tries to overrule it. Austin pulls out a legally binding contract and shows Judge Mills Lane on the Titantron who says Austin has a legally binding contract. Conrad brought all of this up to ask how the hell they got Judge Mills Lane? He had a show at the time. It was a way to promote his show. He had some notoriety. It was a way to incorporate a celebrity into the show.

This was obviously the night The Corporation was formed. Shamrock joined them later that night. Austin beat Rock by DQ when Undertaker came in and hit Austin with a shovel. It did an incredible rating.

Who’s idea was The Corporation? It was something Russo and Vince came up with to give Vince a faction. It was a way for Vince to feed guys in there to feud with Austin.

Conrad had always wondered about the December PPV. It was named Rock Bottom. They usually had these PPVs name and promoted months in advance. This show was named after Rock. It had a giant Rock poster promoting it. Did they have this mapped out well in advance? Or was it a happy accident? It was mapped out well in advance. But they could tell creative services the show was going to be Rock Bottom and they didn’t need to know the creative plans. They knew Rock was on his way up. The show would have worked if he was a babyface or a heel.

The Raw right after the Rock Bottom PPV, Rock defeats Triple H to retain the title when Test comes through the crowd and hits Hunter with the Pumphandle Slam to join the Corporation. This was Test’s debut. They showed him a few weeks earlier during Motley Crue’s performance. Who’s idea was this? Who’s idea was the Motley Crue performance? What can Bruce tell us about Test? Motley Crue was doing a farewell tour. They wanted to promote the tour, so they did a performance on Raw. They wanted Test to be their bodyguard and have someone hit the ring and have Test take them out. The name Test came from the guy who would test the microphones. Or it could have meant “test me”. It was a different way to introduce someone.

What a way to finish the show. 2 years into the business, Rock is the champion and business has never been hotter. Will we ever see anything like this again? They hadn’t seen anything like this before. They never planned on it happening so soon. He isn’t sure that it could happen again.

It feels like there is something special about Rock since he has success from college football, to pro wrestling, and now to conquering Hollywood as quickly as he has. Can Bruce put a finger on what it is that makes Rock so special? Hunger and desire. He was literally and figuratively hungry. He had the desire to be the best. Nobody works harder than Rock.

Conrad mentions Bruce Mitchell from the Torch being convinced that Rock is going to be the President. Does Bruce think Rock runs for office? Yes, there is a chance. Stranger things have happened. Rock is popular. Rock is someone that people identify with. Bruce isn’t sure Rock wants to take a cut in pay and open his life up to that kind of scrutiny. But, you never know.

There is a rumor out there that Stephanie McMahon is going to run for Congress. Has Bruce heard about this? Would he be surprised? Bruce hasn’t heard it, but wouldn’t be surprised.

They spitball ideas with all of these people from the wrestling world getting into government. Rock, Linda, Ventura, Kane, and now possibly Stephanie. They make jokes about Austin being the ambassador of whoop ass. And X-Pac could make weed legal and feed the people s**t sandwiches.

Bruce thinks it is crazy that he has produced the President of the United States and worked with someone in his cabinet. (We all do)

Time for some Facebook questions.

Any good poontang pie stories? Conrad has to clarify that the question is asking if Rock slept around while he was such a big star. Bruce says he never witnessed anything like that.

Besides HBK, did Rock have heat or not want to work with anyone else? There was heat with Ahmed Johnson. But Ahmed pretty much had heat with everyone. Bruce heard a 2nd or 3rd hand story that Ahmed said he punked Rock out. Bruce doesn’t think the story is true based on what was said. He believes Rock’s version of the story.

Who came up with the idea for Rock to give the Nation gold Rolexes and give Ron Simmons a framed picture of himself? It was Rock’s idea. Bruce remembers the famous picture of Rock with a fanny pack. He doesn’t remember what kind of watch Rock is wearing. It was a big deal to him when he got his Rolexes. He thought it would be funny to give everyone else watches and give Farooq a picture. (If you haven’t watched the Table for 3 on the WWE Network with Simmons, Mark Henry, and Godfather, I recommend watching it. There is a funny part where they each get a package from “DJ”. Henry and Godfather each get watches again, while Simmons gets another picture. Absolutely hilarious.)

Was Pat Patterson a big defender and supporter of Rock? Did he help Rock out backstage? Patterson probably hurt Rock more because he was such hardcore supporter of his. Patterson is the one who discovered and brought Rock to them. It was taken the wrong way sometimes because people thought Patterson was only pushing him because they were friends.

Conrad says he heard a rumor there’s a guy currently in the WWE who keeps being brought up by one agent, but it has been done to the point that everyone is sick of hearing about him. He brings up Bruce saying Heyman had the tendency to do the same thing. A lot of times it works against the person if one guy is pushing for someone hard. Bruce mentions Jim Ross used to do that a lot too. Conrad asks Bruce if he can remember anyone Ross pushed for besides Dr. Death? Bruce says Al Snow.

Did they use throwing the belt in the water as an excuse to change the design for the Intercontinental Title? Yes. They had already redesigned the belt, so that was a way to phase out the old design.

Conrad notes when they changed designs, the old design was a Reggie Parks belt. The new design was made by Joe Marshall, who first made the European Title. Why did they move away from Reggie Parks? Reggie was getting too expensive. They were just sourcing other people. He was taking longer to repair things than before.

Who did Rock usually ride with? Himself. He would drive down the road with the interior light on while being on the phone the entire time. He also used to like to stop at Waffle House, get a dozen eggs still in the shell, and crack and separate his own egg whites. If they knew who he was, sometimes he’d go back and cook his own eggs. He didn’t trust them to only give him egg whites.

How much influence did Vince have on Rock’s persona once Rock got over? When did Rock’s creative freedom set in? Once he went off script with Triple H he got more creative freedom. But Vince really helped mold Rock. Rock was heavily produced. But his talent was able to pull it off.

Did Rock have any issues with portraying a black militant on television? He didn’t want to be and actually wasn’t a black militant. Rock was a black Samoan. He just saw himself. He didn’t see color in Bruce’s opinion.

Did Rock have any apprehension recreating the Montreal Screwjob? No.

Are there any other names they considered for him besides Rocky Maivia or The Rock? There may have been. But once they got to the idea of wanting to play off of his lineage, there really wasn’t many other options.

Did Rock ever consider going to WCW? There was concern on Bruce’s part. There was talk WCW was interested in Rock when he got hot. Rock made it clear that he was WWF all the way and that is where his family was. Bruce always respected the hell out of him for that. He didn’t have a huge guarantee. He wanted to be paid what he drew and what he earned.

Rating: I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. The Rock was my favorite wrestler in the Attitude Era. I loved hearing about his family lineage. The Anoa’i family is one of the most iconic families in wrestling history. Rock’s drive to succeed despite early bumps in the road is admirable. The maturation Rock went through by swimming with the sharks like Austin and Triple H is outstanding. It really was a case of iron sharpening iron. They pushed him as much as he pushed them. We got a classic Owen prank story. We got a hilarious Bossman story. And an in-depth look at how Rock took a rough start and evolved it into one of the most successful 2-year starts to a career ever. When considering his acting career, Rock is absolutely the biggest star the business has ever produced. I think everyone will enjoy this episode. Recommended. 8.5/10

Timestamps

0:55: Show starts
3:42: Last week’s recap
13:30: Next week’s poll
21:01: Rock
27:38: Rumor and innuendo about Rock’s parents
28:48: Anoa’i family athletes
31:17: Rock growing up/football years
35:27: Rock’s wrestling journey begins
41:02: Rock signs with the WWF
45:13: Creating Rocky Maivia
1:04:12: WrestleMania 13
1:09:36: Heat between HBK and Rock
1:16:00: Rock’s heel turn
1:27:51: Genesis of Rock/Austin
1:40:30: The People’s Elbow
1:44:36: What made Vince believe in Rock
2:02:01: Rock’s $500 shirts
2:05:48: Owen ribs Rock
2:08:08: Rock and Triple H go off script
2:12:08: DX impersonates The Nation
2:23:27: Rock starts to turn babyface
2:37:54: Planting the seeds for the Corporate Swerve
2:40:16: Survivor Series 98
2:44:36: Rock becomes the Corporate Champion
2:54:00: Test debuts
2:59:30: POTUS Rock?
3:03:23: Facebook questions

About Denny
Denny Walker Crum has been watching wrestling for as far back as his memory will allow. He is a radio personality at a hip-hop radio station in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. He has done stand-up comedy and starred in several independent, local films. Wrestling has always been his first love. He also performs as a wrestling manager for an Indy promotion based in Toledo. He most famously was body slammed onto thumbtacks and stinkfaced by Rikishi in the same night. Follow Denny on Instagram and Twitter @Dcrum26

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