Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and no one can deny that, but everything started for him in the WWE. It’s hard to think how life would have turned out for him if he hadn’t gone on to be as successful in the ring as he was. A WWE Hall of Famer decided to share an interesting story about The Rock, which could have altered the course of history in wrestling and on the big screen.
JJ Dillon had a long and fantastic career in the wrestling business, where he won a number of championships and did a lot of work behind the scenes for numerous promotions. He is most well known, though, for his time as the manager of the famous Four Horsemen stable in the NWA and WCW.
Over time, Dillon became a front office executive for WWE where he was involved in some huge years until leaving in the middle of the “Attitude Era” in 1997.
Dillon was a recent guest on David Penzer’s Sitting Ringside podcast where he discussed a number of huge events during his almost 10 years in WWF/WWE. He spoke of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Sgt. Slaughter, but his most telling tale was about the man who went on to become known as The Rock.
JJ Dillon shared a story about being in WWF/WWE when the company hired Dwayne Johnson, who was originally known as Rocky Maivia. His debut came in 1996 and Dillon said that before he was there for too long, the former “Blue Chipper” actually wanted out, as transcribed by Wrestling Inc.
“I was a part of the decision process that ended up hiring [The Rock] and Mark Henry. I remember one night I think we were at The Garden, The Rock pulled me aside and said, ‘I know I can speak openly and honest with you, can you make some phone calls to get me out of here [WWE]. From all my time in college and in Florida and my time in the business, I always had money in my pocket. [Right now] I don’t have two dollars in my pocket, I feel vulnerable.'”
At the time, no one really knew what they had with Dwayne Johnson, or what he would become, but Dillon knew how to spot talent. Instead of just letting the young superstar leave, he had to do whatever he could to get him to stay.
“In this particular moment you can’t begin to imagine what is laying in front of you regarding your success and financial rewards, because you don’t have two dollars in your pocket. Because it hasn’t happened yet, you can’t let this moment change you. I told him, ‘this is the lowest of lows you’ll experience.’ I said, ‘give me five minutes. put this [thought process] on hold.’ Five minutes later I come back, and I tell him to open up his hand. I put $200, $300, $500, whatever it was in his hand and told him to wrap his hand around it. ‘Now put that hand in your pocket, how does that feel to have money again?’ This moment right there changed his whole mental outlook and helped him.”
From that time, Johnson would go on to win the Intercontinental Championship, join the Nation of Domination, and the rest is wrestling history. While there may have been more to what kept him a part of the company, Dillon believes he played a role in it.
Some professional wrestling superstars have long careers that bring about great moments and numerous championships, but there aren’t many like The Rock. Dwayne Johnson will always be one of the greatest to ever step foot inside a WWE ring and a huge Hollywood star unlike many that anyone has ever seen. If JJ Dillon’s story holds any truth, things may have been very different if a young “Rocky Maivia” didn’t stick it out.