Thanks in large part to WWE mega-stars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock, the company reached insane levels of popularity at the end of the 1990s. Two of the greatest superstars sports entertainment has ever seen peaking at the same time hadn’t happened before or since. But unlike Hulk Hogan before them, and John Cena after, their tenure at the top of the card didn’t possess quite the same staying power.
Austin and The Rock dominated professional wrestling from 1998-2002, give or take, whereas Cena has been the face that runs the place for more than a decade. Still, it goes without saying that the current product may never reach the ratings that the Attitude Era routinely boasted. But when you reach the levels of success that Austin and The Rock achieved, it’s difficult to blame them for answering when other opportunities came knocking on their doors.
Both The Rock and “Stone Cold” dipped their toes in the Hollywood water as their full-time wrestling careers were coming to an end. But just as they were testing new ventures, the UFC began gaining their own wave of popularity. Formed in 1993 as an alternative to the scripted world of professional wrestling, the UFC didn’t quite hit their stride until the mid 2000s. But when it started to take off, it showed no signs of slowing down, reaching a point today where the company’s owners are weighing offers north of $4 billion to sell.
When The Rock initially left the WWE, it was to pursue an acting career. And while that’s exactly what he did initially, the critics weren’t too kind to The Great One. He wasn’t always the highest-grossing actor like he is today and it almost forced him to considering entering a ring of a completely different variety. The Rock was a guest on the second-ever episode of the UFC: Unfiltered podcast where he revealed that he nearly took up a career in UFC (Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the transcription).
“There was a time there where I thought, man, I achieved everything I wanted to achieve in WWE, my movie career is floundering a little bit, what do I do? I was relatively still young, I think I was 34. I thought, oh well maybe UFC. Maybe I should do something like that.”
He ultimately decided against it, instead opting to continue to forge ahead on the silver screen and make occasional appearances in WWE. The Inquisitr noted recently that it was The Rock’s idea for he and Goldberg to feud in Goldberg’s first program in WWE. It was designed to be a three-match angle, culminating at WrestleMania XX, but The Rock’s movie career finally took off to the point where he could be taken seriously. The UFC idea never came to pass as he simply no longer had the time.
“In my head, I felt like it was at least a two-year process for me to even get in the [Octagon], let alone the UFC. I wasn’t quite too sure what to do or what kind of people to put around me at the time, so the idea kind of fizzled out and I continued to stay on the path of movie making.”
That process that Rock alluded to has prompted many to question whether another former WWE superstar would ever really make it to his first fight in UFC. But after a year and a half of training, CM Punk is finally ready to take the challenge, committing to UFC 203. If you recall, Punk wasn’t exactly thrilled about being put in a feud with The Rock in 2013. Punk knew that Rock would depart the WWE again shortly afterwards, and he knew he’d be dropping his WWE Championship to him as well. However, The Rock doesn’t appear to hold any type of grudge, recently tweeting that he is “fired up about CM Punk’s debut in the octagon.”
[Image via WWE]