The Rock didn’t become one of the WWE’s most bankable stars overnight. While he was born into a wrestling family, Dwayne Johnson still had to work hard to move up the league’s ranks, and in a new Instagram post last night, Hollywood’s highest-paid actor shared a revealing look back at his first match and just how far he’s come in the 25 years since.
On March 10, 1996, Johnson says, he participated in his first ever WWE pro wrestling match in front of a crowd of 15,000 in Corpus Christi, Texas. “Not only had I never wrestled an actual real match before, but I had NEVER wrestled in front of people,” he writes, adding that he was so broke he could only afford a pair of white volleyball knee pads. In the photos that accompany the post, Johnson shared an image of his uncle—also a wrestler, whom he called “King Haku”—posing with legendary wrestler Andre the Giant.
“I asked [my uncle] if I could borrow a pair of his wrestling trunks (he loved purple) and I borrowed a pair of my dads old wrestling boots that his tag team partner, George Wells, used to wear.” Johnson said he remembered not feeling nervous at all beforehand. “I could feel my adrenaline pump hard, but I was eerily calm. “I told myself over and over, just go out there and be sharp and confident with your moves, and block out the noise.”
It turned out to be a good strategy, he says—with one notable exception that cut through his concentration. “The very first thing I heard when I walked thru the curtain as my name was announced to the arena—Dwaaaaaayne Johnsoooon—was ‘YOU FUCKING SUCK’ from a drunk fan. 😂😂😂 True story 👍🏾.”
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Johnson concludes the lengthy caption with gratitude for the journey he’s been on ever since, and “for the tough roads this hard working, fanny pack wearing kid would go down.”
As for his opponent in that first WWE appearance? “The man I’m wrestling is the legendary Brooklyn Brawler,” Johnson says. “He was gracious enough to let me win my first ever match. Which is why it was important to me to lost my very last match. May sound strange, but that’s how you give back to the wrestling business when you leave it. You lose. And you move on down the road.”
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