On a recent edition of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Dwayne “The Rock” revealed that he considered making the jump to PRIDE FC in 1997 before turning heel in WWE.
The Rock was out of action in June of 1997 due to a knee injury, and he considered joining the MMA company at the time.
The Rock eventually ended up turning heel upon his WWE TV return in August 1997, joining the Nation of Domination.
You can check out some highlights from the podcast below:
On nearly going to PRIDE in 1997: “97, I was still going to LA and working out. We were crossing all the MMA guys. PRIDE just opened up in Japan. I started seeing all these MMA guys going over to PRIDE. At that time, I was making $150,000 dollars wrestling 235 days a year. Do the math on that and how much you’re making per match. We start hearing, ‘these guys in PRIDE are making $250,000, $350,000, $500,000.’ I thought then, ‘F**k, I don’t think I’m going to make it in WWE. People are booing me out of the arenas. I can’t be myself. They’re telling me to f**king smile, I don’t want to f**king smile. That’s not who I am.’ I start talking to Ken Shamrock, I start talking with Mark Kerr, ‘tell me about PRIDE.’ I have this idea in my head ‘maybe I should train in MMA, go to PRIDE, and make real money and I don’t have to smile.’ I’m going to get f**ked up, knock one of my lungs loose [laughs], but I find the right coach and train. I have this whole thing in my head. I’m talking to my wife at the time, ‘I think this is the way to go. I can make real money while these fans are booing me for $150 grand.’
“I get a call from Vince [McMahon], ‘How is your knee?’ ‘It’s healing up.’ I don’t tell him about this idea and that I’ve been talking to Shamrock and Kerr. He says, ‘I want to try to bring you back this one time. I want to turn you heel and we have a faction called Nation of Domination, I want to have you join them and we’ll see how it works out.’ I said, ‘Okay,’ but I still have this MMA idea in my head because I want to make money and be myself. I get to the arena that night, I went to Vince and said, ‘When I go out there, can I have two minutes on the microphone?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, it’s live, all our time is allocated for.’ ‘I just need two minutes.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I just want to be real and tell the fans how I feel and I needed to recalibrate things.’ He said, ‘Fine, a minute, you got it.’”
On his promo where he turned heel: “That was the most freeing thing for me in my career. You know how you have these defining moments? In that one little moment, I was ripping all this open. Now you can boo me, watch how I respond. F**k the smiling, I’ll smile when I want to smile. Watch how I respond, watch my words and actions. The fans felt something that night and within a month, I became the hottest heel in WWE.”
On if he had any background in striking: “A little bit. Very little. My dad [Rocky Johnson] was a great amateur boxer. He sparred with Foreman [George Foreman] a few times. Sparred with Ali [Muhammad Ali], that was a little bit more of a show. Great amateur, Golden Gloves in Canada, he was a badass. He was teaching me how to hit at a young age, heavy bags and speed bags. I felt like I’ve always been very coachable at whatever it is that I did, whether it was football or wrestling. I felt like, ‘If there’s a shot at this, I can go to PRIDE and make money.’ I had this thought of PRIDE because it felt like those guys were making money, they’re putting on big shows, there are 20 or 30,000 people at these shows and they look incredible. When you’re talking to guys and they’re in it and saying, ‘You can do it.’ Shamrock was very smart, which I appreciated. He was like, ‘You might want to stick with this first. There’s a real shot here. Stick with this.’”
Kurt Angle was being coached by Dave Schultz when the latter was murdered by John du Pont.
The murder at Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania shocked the entire nation, and Angle recalled the incident on a recent edition of the “True Geordie” podcast. He said,
“What’s crazy is I would train at Foxcatcher probably seven months a year. Because it was in Pennsylvania. It was right down the road from me, three or four-hour drive, so I would go there, and I would bounce back and forth from my hometown to Philadelphia, PA, where Foxcatcher was.
I called Dave [Schultz] the day that he got killed. I called him right around the time he got shot. I left him a message on his answering machine, and I told him that I’m coming out the next day to train with him. I go to practice that night after I made that call. I went to practice in Pittsburgh down at Duquesne University; it’s a college in the city of Pittsburgh, and I wrestled, I trained, and afterward, I looked up at the TV and I see on CNN, ‘Dave Schultz shot and murdered.’”
Du Pont suffered from mental health problems and murdered Schultz on January 26, 1996.
The story of du Pont and Schultz was dramatized in the 2008 film Foxcatcher starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo.
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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the renowned professional wrestler turned actor, recently revealed on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast that he had considered making a career jump to PRIDE FC in 1997. At the time, The Rock was out of action due to a knee injury and saw an opportunity in the emerging MMA company.
In the podcast, The Rock shared his thought process behind considering the move to PRIDE FC. He mentioned that he was making $150,000 per year wrestling 235 days, which led him to question his future in WWE. Seeing MMA fighters making significantly more money in PRIDE FC, he began exploring the possibility of training in MMA and joining the promotion.
The Rock even had conversations with MMA fighters Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr to learn more about PRIDE FC and gauge his chances of success in the sport. He contemplated the idea of making real money while being true to himself, as he felt restricted in WWE, where he was told to smile and conform to a certain image.
However, before The Rock could make a decision, he received a call from Vince McMahon, the chairman of WWE. McMahon asked about The Rock’s knee injury and expressed his desire to bring him back to WWE as a heel (villainous character). McMahon proposed The Rock joining the Nation of Domination faction upon his return.
This unexpected opportunity made The Rock reconsider his MMA plans. He approached McMahon before his return and requested two minutes on the microphone to express his real feelings to the fans. McMahon agreed, and during that promo, The Rock unleashed his true personality and attitude, breaking free from the smiling persona he had been portraying. This moment turned out to be a defining one in his career.
The Rock described how liberating it was for him to be able to respond to the fans’ boos and show his true self. The fans reacted strongly to this change, and within a month, The Rock became the hottest heel in WWE.
Regarding his background in striking, The Rock revealed that his father, Rocky Johnson, was a great amateur boxer who had sparred with legends like George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Although The Rock had some basic training from his father, he acknowledged that he would have needed more extensive preparation to compete in MMA.
Ultimately, The Rock decided to stick with WWE and embrace the opportunity to turn heel. This choice proved to be a turning point in his career, leading him to become one of the most iconic figures in professional wrestling history.
In a separate story, former professional wrestler Kurt Angle shared a personal anecdote related to the tragic murder of Dave Schultz, who was coaching Angle at Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. Du Pont, the owner of Foxcatcher Farm, suffered from mental health issues and killed Schultz on January 26, 1996. Angle recalled calling Schultz the day he was killed and finding out about the incident while watching the news.
The story of du Pont and Schultz was later depicted in the 2008 film “Foxcatcher,” starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo.
In conclusion, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s revelation about considering a move to PRIDE FC in 1997 sheds light on the challenges and decisions he faced during his wrestling career. It showcases the inner turmoil he experienced and how a pivotal moment in WWE changed the trajectory of his career. Additionally, Kurt Angle’s recollection of the tragic murder at Foxcatcher Farm serves as a reminder of the dark side of professional wrestling and the impact it can have on individuals involved in the industry.