The Rock’s first WWE opponent looks back on their first match, discusses the gift that Rock gave him

By Jason Powell, Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

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On being The Rock’s first opponent: “Then the magic phone rings, it was Howard Finkel. He said ‘Steve, Vince told me to give you a call. We want you to wrestle a new guy who has never been in the ring and never wrestled, ever. He is going to wrestle you in Corpus Christi, Texas, that man’s name is Dwayne Johnson.’ I’m The Rock’s first match ever in front of 15,000 people. When I talk to Rock he says, ‘Well, you had my right dad’s first match in WWF too.’ I met Rock. I was driving with Rock and I said, ‘How many matches did you have?’ He goes ‘Steve, this is my first match.’ I said ‘Your first match in WWF?’ He says ‘No, my first match ever in my life in front of an audience.’ We went to the dressing room and we talked about the match. I told him let’s do this, let’s do that. First of all, he said to me, we were walking with Michael Hayes down the hallway and he goes ‘How’s The Brooklyn Brawler gonna beat me?’ I turned to him and I said ‘Vince did not bring you all the way here to lose. You are going over.’ And then Rock says ‘Going over? That is unheard of for a person’s first match and in front of 15,000 people?’

“I said to myself, this is going to be fun as hell for me. This is going to be so fun and so easy it’s ridiculous because he had a great look. People would say that’s 90 percent. I say it’s 10 percent. I’ve wrestled football players, I’ve wrestled bodybuilders. I’ve wrestled guys that look like they could win Mr. Olympia but they got two left feet. I knew he had agility, because I’ve seen him work out in the ring. So he walks into the ring in Corpus Christi. First of all, he goes to Bruce Prichard, he says give me some music, Bruce Prichard gives them some really crappy music. And he goes, that’s the last time I’ll for music.

“He just gives generic like, hey! People are going ‘Get out here. We don’t want to see you!’ and he’s taking it to heart. I loved it. Not because they booed him, but because I know psychology. The psychology is, the more they boo you, the more they’re going to cheer you. So I went to ring and I took him to the ropes. I said just listen to me, believe in me. Self-belief is the secret to success and that is the bottom line.

“I went to throw him in he gave me a backdrop and then people booed him again. And he says “These people hate me.” He’s whispering to me “These people hate me.” I said “Watch the magic, watch what happens.” Then he did a bunch of high spots where he jumped to the second rope. He did a flying press and then he tried to showboat and he did a kip up, it was like showboating but he was showing me his athleticism. They were booing the hell out of him. I kicked him in the stomach and I beat the hell out of him to the point where people thought he could never win.

“Then I flipped him over and I put them in a reverse chin lock, which means he’s on his butt. I’m on my knees. I got him in a headlock. Then he takes his hand and he puts it straight out, he starts shaking his hand and he starts raising it. Now this is the psychology of the business that no one realizes. He stood up, he looked up at me and goes, ‘What do we do now?’ And then he says ‘This is where my dad taught me, it’s not about the wrestling. It’s about what the people think.’ I said ‘If people believe in you, they are going to let you know.’ We’re both standing up, I still got his head. I said, ‘Now here’s your comeback, make it a good one.’ Then he gives me two elbows in his stomach. He throws me around like a rag doll and beats the hell out of me. He gives me a sunset flip, one, two three. 15,000 people stand up out of their seats yelling. That was the creation of Dwayne Johnson. After that, he got a contract. Then he became The Rock and then he got the confidence.”

On the gift he received from The Rock: “I just talked to him on the phone about a week ago. I told him ‘You believed in yourself.’ The guy is like, he’s not opening doors. He’s kicking doors open. This man has got self-belief. He’s got confidence. He realizes that you don’t get an opportunity, you make an opportunity. He sent me a giant picture that’s about the size of a 46-inch TV set. And it’s got him hip-tossing me in the first match we ever had. At the top of the picture he’s got $7 in glass and in gold on the bottom it says, ‘Steve, I had $7 to my name when I had this match, I can never thank you enough.’ I mean, to me, it’s just hanging on my wall at home. I love it. Even though he is worth, millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars, that meant more than the money.”

On losing a lot: “You know what the funny thing about it was I enhanced talent, I didn’t lose. I chose to do that. I could have fought the other way and chose to be a big star and my longevity would have never been 32 years. But they realized my talent was I can hide their weaknesses, and I can accentuate their strengths.”

On being called a jobber: “They see it now. They used to say the word jobber. I don’t care, because my comeback used to be ‘Everybody’s a jobber and your boss is your jobbee.’ A job just means you have a job. They call it enhancement talent and they are starting to get it, then they call it an architect. Then they call it ring general and they even called me a ring general in The Rock’s show [Young Rock]. [They said] ‘Rock, he’s a ring general, listen to everything he says.’ I said I’m not a ring general. I’m the most humble guy that you know because all I want to do is make everybody look great. I did fail at times, I wrestled bodybuilders that had come out of Mr. Olympia who looked like they could do it, but they had two left feet and they just couldn’t do it. They moved like robots.”


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