Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a pop culture juggernaut. The Baywatch star was named the top international movie star for 2015, and shows no sign of being dethroned anytime soon. As wrestling fans know, however, The Rock’s popularity wasn’t immediate by any stretch of the imagination.
Just days before his return to the WrestleMania main stage in 2016, the former WWE champ took to Instagram to remind us all that his very first ‘Mania appearance was basically a pro wrestling dumpster fire:
ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA.. 1997, I was 25yrs old, the youngest Intercontinental Champion in WWE history and performing in #WrestleMania13. It would become one of the most defining moments of my life. Not because it was my first WrestleMania I had the privilege to be a part of, but because I was boo'd out of the building. Literally boo's from 20,000 people that screamed "Get the f*ck outta here". And when you're supposed to be a good guy or "babyface" in wrestling speak – getting boo'd is the worst thing that can ever happen. They boo'd me because I wasn't being real. I was told by the company how to act, how to respond to fans and the worst part of all.. I was told what to say and what not to say. Not long after this match, I lost the title and was eventually sent home for months to recuperate from an injury – it didn't really matter anyway because I wasn't drawing the company any money nor did the fans care I was gone. A week before I was scheduled to return to the WWE, I got a call from Vince who said "How do feel about turning heel?" (which means becoming a bad guy). I said "Great, but I have one request… give me 2 minutes on the microphone on live TV and let me be myself. Be real and authentic. I gotta be me". Vince said "You got it". The following week I cut a promo that was from the heart. Real and authentic. 6 months later I was the hottest heel in the company. Even though I hated being boo'd out of the building at WrestleMania13, I learned one of the greatest life lessons that still serves me today. Be real. Be authentic. Be me. Truly my honor to perform this Sunday at #WrestleMania32 for the WWE Universe.. as me. #TheRock #DwayneJohnson #BigBrownBaldTattooedPuppyLover #SlightlyElectrifyingAndOneHandsomeSumbitch