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The Rock Comments on Dealing with Highs (Nation of Domination) and Lows (“Rocky Sucks”) During Early WWE Career

The Rock is doing a fantastic job of interacting with his fans during this ongoing health crisis. Whether he’s talking about his Rock days in WWE or just Dwayne Johnson telling stories of his acting career, he regularly does chats with fans on Instagram Live as a way to promote his Tequila product, but also provide some laughs for the fans. Rock is a great storyteller and often times he talks about his WWE career to his 183 million followers on Instagram. That is not a typo. He has over 183 million followers on Instagram.

Here are some highlights from a recent Instagram video where Rock answered a question about career highs and lows in WWE. Big thanks to WrestlingInc for the transcript.

The Rock told a story about his low period in WWE when the fans turned on him.

“My low started within about six months of my coming into the WWE. I came in like a bat out of hell. I mean I came in like a runaway train rolling down that track. I was this young rookie, babyface, fresh out of the University of Miami. I was brash, talking s–t. I got to the WWE and had a huge initial match. My very first match in the company was in the mecca, Madison Square Garden. It was sold out. It was one of the company’s big PPVs called Survivor Series, and the company had decided I was going win the entire thing. And in order for that to happen, not only did they have to have an incredible amount of investment and confidence in you but also the locker room has to buy into it too. All of my fellow wrestlers had to buy into it from The Undertaker to Triple H to Stone Cold Steve Austin, everybody was in the locker room in that time. The ones who I mentioned certainly did get behind it, some others didn’t but that’s OK. Eventually I persevered through that.”

What Rock’s talking about there is Survivor Series 1996, which was his WWE TV (or PPV in this case) debut. When he says “win the entire thing” what he really meant is winning the 5 on 5 elimination tag team match that he was a part of and he did win that. Read my Survivor Series 1996 review right here.

The Rock spoke about when he won the Intercontinental Title for the first time on the February 13, 1997 episode of Raw.

“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.”

The Rock explained how the fans reaction to him changed and they turned on him.

“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 IC Title run continued into WrestleMania 13 (read my review here) where Rock had a match that wasn’t very good and the crowd hated it too.

“It all culminated at WrestleMania. It was my very first WrestleMania as Intercontinental Champion. I wrestled The Sultan, who’s also Rikishi, he’s my family, my ainga, and 15,000 people in Chicago were chanting ‘Rocky Sucks.’ And this is WrestleMania, and I remember Rikishi telling me, ‘don’t listen to them,’ but you can’t help it. You’re listening to them. That was the culmination that the company felt like we can’t do anything anymore with Rocky, me, Rocky Maivia. They took the belt off me. They gave it to somebody else, Owen Hart I think it was, my dear friend. Rest in peace. And I got hurt and was sent home for the summer.”

“That was my low because I’m at home, I have no money and I’m thinking my wrestling career is just like my football career. It’s all just gonna end before it actually begins. I’m thinking Jesus Christ like do I go to law school because I wanted to work for the CIA. Well, I can’t afford law school, and my study habits were the s–ts. Do I even consider UFC? I went well, I prefer not to get punched in the face. Do I go to Japan to wrestle in Japan? I don’t know even if I could do that. I’d need a fresh start.”

The Rock spoke about his mentality and how he realized he had to approach things in a different way.

“So I had a lot to reconcile, but the main thing I needed to reconcile was the fans booing me. But I realized over that summer, they weren’t booing. They didn’t hate me for me. They didn’t actually hate me. They hated that I actually wasn’t being myself because I would go out as a babyface and they would be like ‘Rocky sucks,’ and I was told by the company, ‘you gotta smile because you’re happy to be there.’ So I would go out and fans would chant, ‘Rocky sucks,’ and I would be, hey, yeah, thank you. ‘Die Rocky die.’ Hey, yeah. I wouldn’t respond, and they hated that. Of course they did. That was my career low.”

It’s pretty cool to hear Rock talk about his turnaround when he joined The Nation of Domination group.

“I come back to WWE. Vince McMahon says ‘hey, I’m gonna bring you back.’ It was August 1997 I’ll never forget it, ‘I’m gonna put you in a militant group called The Nation of Domination.’ These guys wound up being my brothers, great friends, and it was a black militant group. Vince said because you’re half black and half Samoan, I want you to join the group. I said, ‘I’ll join the group that’s fine, but here’s the thing, I don’t want it to be a black and a white thing. I want it to be a respect thing because I want to earn the respect of everybody. I just don’t want to say it’s because of the color of my skin.’ I said there’s something bigger here. There’s a bigger idea here that would help lift The Nation. Yes, we can be proud of who we are and our culture, but it’s also important that I go out there and say it’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s a me kicking your ass thing. Vince said, ‘sure, you go out and say it.'”

“I went out, and I said it, ‘Rocky Maivia is a lot of things but sucks isn’t one of them.’ And this is on live TV on Monday Night RAW. I said, ‘It’s not a black thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s a me whopping your ass thing,’ something to that effect, and I just kept there dropped the mic. Fans were kind of booing, chanting Rocky sucks, but they were feeling something. They could feel a difference because I was just being me.”

Rock’s memory is great because it was August 18, 1997 and he remembered some of the words too. Rock was only 25 years old at the time of this promo and obviously Vince McMahon believed in him. Rock did a great job. Watch it below.

https://youtu.be/4Hhs3r2Axb8?t=196

The Rock also spoke about how strong the reaction got to him after that, so that showed that joining The Nation of Domination was a big turnaround for him.

“The next PPV I had was in Chicago, the place that booed me out of the building. The Nation of Domination, our music hits, and The Nation of Domination was this badass music. It had a thumping drive to it. ‘We are The Nation of Domination.’ We would walk out, and I’m walking out. And in this syncopated beat start to hear 15,000 people: ‘Rocky sucks. Rocky sucks. Rocky sucks.’ I mean hard, blowing the roof of the place.”

“I get in the middle of the ring. I pause. I want to see what happens to this crowd. ‘Rocky sucks.’ It got stronger, and all I did, I kind of turned around. I look this way. It got so strong. That place was f–king vibrating, that arena. I knew in that moment that I was in rarefied air, and that rarefied air in professional wrestling is me doing absolutely nothing and having the crowd right there in the palm of my hand. Did nothing. ‘Rocky sucks.’ Looked at them. ‘Rocky sucks.’ And all I did was go, ‘no, no, no.’ When I went home that night, back at the hotel, I realized that I had something special, and I was so elated. It was like a weight was lifted off my body. It was almost like a resurrection like a religious experience when you catch the holy ghost because then I realized ah, now with the people, we can dance. Now with the people, we’re gonna have a real relationship.”

That was a cool story by Rock talking about what it felt like when he first got that connection with the crowd.

Check out the Instagram video below.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAKy_mXF-mv/?utm_source=ig_embed