Earlier this week, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson raised a lot of eyebrows when he posted a rant aimed at certain “candy ass” members of the Fast 8 cast. Since then, TMZ has reported that Vin Diesel is the “chicken sh*t” in The Rock’s crosshairs, and that shooting has been almost impossible due to all the manly tension. This little brouhaha has taken a lot of folks by surprise, but wrestling fans who followed The Rock’s career before he became the aggressively-upbeat mega-star he is today aren’t nearly as shocked.
Rock was never as into behind-the-scene politics as some wrestlers, but he’s had his share of beef and drama throughout his career. Here’s a few times things got just a little too real for The Rock…
A Good Chunk of the WWE Roster
In 1996, Dwayne Johnson debuted in WWF as the obnoxiously clean-cut “blue chipper” Rocky Maivia, and was immediately rejected by the fans. His backstage welcome was equally unfriendly. Johnson was pegged as egotistical and entitled, and made enemies quickly, and the resentment only got worse when he became The Rock and started getting over with the fans. A significant chunk of the locker room even tried to convince Vince McMahon to cancel Rock’s first big main event against Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV.
“There were so many dudes in the locker room who were trying to squash that [WrestleMania XV] main event. There was like a long ass line that formed to Vince McMahon’s office. ‘Rock has no business being in the main event’, ‘He’s a young kid’, ‘He’s a rookie’, but Vince wanted that main event.”
It got worse. According to Mark Henry, he once had to save The Rock from eating food somebody had, uh, fouled. If you’ve ever wondered where Rock got that sh*t-eating grin, well, there you go.
As we’ve detailed extensively, The Rock and Triple H have been rivals right from the beginning. The two came up at the same time, but took different routes to the top – Rock sailed to fame and fortune with his near-supernatural charisma, while Hunter played the Machiavellian political game. It was your classic Mozart/Salieri rivalry, and you know how ugly that can get.
Triple H was one of those guys pushing to have Rock booted from the ‘Mania XV main event, and would later try to undermine Rocky in the ring and cast him as a Hollywood snob that “turned his back on wrestling” when his acting career took off. WWE has always tried to portray the Rock/Triple H thing as a friendly professional rivalry, but rumors and evidence point to something more heated.
Another major strike against Triple H may have been his friendship with Shawn Michaels, who The Rock really doesn’t like. While Rock and Hunter have had a long-simmering rivalry, Rock/HBK is more of a Cold War situation. Rock dislikes Shawn so much he straight up refuses to have anything to do with him.
The bad blood is said to have started before The Rock’s career even began, when he was a teenager growing up in Hawaii. Michaels came through town and reportedly said something derogatory about Rock’s promoter grandmother, Lia Maivia, and, needless to say, you do not insult The Rock’s grandma. Later on, Michaels’ nemesis Bret Hart would take Rock under his wing, embroiling him in that whole mess.
Rock, usually not one to turn down matches, shot down any talk of a feud with Michaels, and was surprisingly forthright when WWE.com asked him about the possibility…
“I was never ever interested in working with [Shawn Michaels] to be honest with you. I’ve known him for a long time. He came in and worked for my family in Hawaii when I was like 13. It was just one of those things.”
Yes, even the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection had their unfortunate differences. The hard feelings stem from Rock and Foley’s 1999 Royal Rumble “I Quit” match. During the match, Rock pummels Foley with 11 vicious unprotected chair shots to the head (he was only supposed to hit five, but got carried away), leaving the hardcore legend with a deep gash in his scalp and a dislocated jaw. To add family trauma to injury, Foley’s wife and kids were at ringside to witness the whole thing (their reactions were memorably captured by the documentary Beyond the Mat).
After the massacre, there was naturally a great deal of concern for Foley backstage – or at least there was from most people. According to Foley, Rock didn’t come to check on Foley and never apologized for going too far with the chair shots. Foley didn’t talk to The Rock for some time, and continued to hold onto his resentment even after the two were teamed up on TV. Rock and Foley wouldn’t become real-life friends until they finally hashed out their issues in the early 2000s.
A Good Chunk of the WWE Roster (Again)
By the time The Rock left for Hollywood in 2003, he had proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt, and had earned the respect of most of the boys in the locker room. When he returned to WWE in 2011, things had changed. An anti-Rock resentment had taken hold (perhaps stoked by Rock’s old buddy Triple H) and a lot of guys were surprisingly brazen about criticizing The Great One.
Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, and John Cena all took their shots at Rock in interviews. Most of them zeroed in on the fact that Rock was a part-timer taking the spotlight and opportunities away from the wrestlers doing the day-to-day heavy lifting, which isn’t an entirely baseless complaint. Fortunately, the animosity seemed to die down after a couple years – the fat checks everybody got for the WrestleManias Rock was involved with probably helped smooth things over.
As mentioned, John Cena was part of the chorus slamming Rock during the early PG era. In a 2008 interview, Cena had this to say about Rock’s acting career and passion for the wrestling business …
“He wants to be an actor and there’s nothing wrong with that. Associating with Sports Entertainment doesn’t do much for his acting career. I get it. Just don’t f*ck me around and tell me that you love this. That’s the only thing that gets me really pissed off.”
Apparently The Rock took legit offense to this quote, and when he returned to WWE, the company decided to play up the two men’s differences, rather than mend fences. This made for a more heated, unpredictable feud, but according to Rock, things almost got a little too heated.
“I’d say ‘John, here’s what I’m going to say tonight — Go f*ck yourself.’ He’d say, ‘Well, here’s going to be my response — F*ck you too.’ I mean, it was like that. It was palpable backstage. It worked out very well [despite] all that edge and attitude and bite that we had, and nearly coming to blows backstage and one night in the ring — literally we were nose-to-nose, it was any second.”
As we here at With Spandex and many others have pointed out, this whole Vin Diesel thing certainly feels like a wrestling angle, and unlike the rest of this stuff on this list, nobody involved has confirmed any details. But hey, as we’ve shown, The Rock isn’t above a little workplace melodrama. Either way, it seems like whatever was going on has been buried, or at least put on the back burner until WrestleMania season. Diesel vs. Rock in an Iron Circle match – make it happen, WWE.
There you are, a brief history of the not-so-friendly side of The Rock. Who would you back in these various beefs? Kick up a commentary feud, below.