One of the most magical things about the WWE is that the least-popular superstars can work their way up from being nobodies to mega-celebrities all in the span of a wrestling career. That's not to say Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was necessarily a "nobody" when he had his WWE debut match, but even The Undertaker admitted he didn't think Johnson would last long after seeing that first in-ring performance. That guy's used to things being dead on arrival, amirite?
Undertaker (real name Mark Calaway) spoke with Gary Vaynerchuk about career highlights recently, and got on the topic of being there for the start of The Rock's career. The wrestler was asked to name a wrestler that he'd seen make the most impressive rise through the industry, going from a lower-tier name to an icon, and Undertaker took no time at all to come up with his answer, which was obviously Dwayne Johnson, whose first ring name was a combination of his father and grandfather's names. In the 'Taker's words:
He came into Madison Square Garden, and they’d given him the name of Rocky Maivia. Oh my gosh, it was awful. I mean, they handcuffed him right out of the get go, right? I remember watching him, and the Garden [fans], they’re merciless if they don’t like what you’re doing. And man, they just lit him up.
Not only was the match at Madison Square Garden, it was also during Survivor Series, which started off as the biggest WWE pay-per-view event of the year behind WrestleMania. Dwayne Johnson was pushed out of the frying pan and into the fire for his debut match, and according to The Undertaker, really got lit up by the crowd during the match for his performance.
The moment didn't seem to negatively impact Dwayne Johnson all that much in the long run, likely because he came from an established line of professional wrestlers. He knew the business, and as Undertaker mentioned during the interview, he had that special something that quickly boosted him up through the ranks of the WWE in a short amount of time. The Undertaker continued:
I had no clue to how charismatic he was. I was like, ‘Such a shame, he’s not gonna be here long.’ And it didn’t take long. Once he got to The Nation of Domination, it had completely flipped. By the time he was at the end of his run with them, I was like, ‘He’s not gonna be here long.’ You could just tell that he was destined [to move on to better things].
Later becoming The Rock, and asking countless numbers of fans if they could smell what he was cooking, Johnson ended up spending about 8 years in the WWE before his first retirement, but has returned for short stints when his movie schedule would allow. That might sound like a long time for a wrestling career, but consider that The Undertaker has been active in the WWE since 1987 for the most part, so the Rock's reign is merely a drop in the pot. Obviously, The Rock was destined to take his talents elsewhere, especially considering the tremendous legacy he left behind after such a short time.
Of course, The Undertaker's career is nothing to snuff at either, and just goes to show that even established veterans may struggle to predict just how well a colleague's career may pan out. Today's goofy-looking WWE superstar may be leading the next major movie franchise of the future, and even the superstars of the day may not have a clue.
Those looking for more interviews and content on The Undertaker can check out Undertaker: The Last Ride right now on the WWE Network. Continue to stick with CinemaBlend for more on what's happening in the world of television and movies.