Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a former WWE superstar turned Hollywood actor, recently opened up about a pivotal moment in his career when he contemplated leaving professional wrestling for a career in mixed martial arts (MMA).
During an appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, Johnson reflected on the challenges he faced in WWE in 1997 and the allure of the burgeoning MMA scene. At the time, Johnson was earning $150,000 per year while wrestling an exhausting 235 days a year.
This schedule equated to a grueling life on the road and numerous matches. The Rock acknowledged that he was disheartened by the negative crowd reactions and the pressure to conform to WWE's expectations, including being told to smile when it didn't align with his authentic persona.
Johnson's interest in MMA grew as he learned about fighters in organizations like PRIDE earning substantial paychecks, ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. This financial contrast with his WWE earnings prompted him to consider a career switch.
MMA Ambitions Considered
Intrigued by the possibilities, Johnson began exploring the MMA world, seeking advice from fellow wrestlers like Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr, who had experience in both wrestling and MMA. He contemplated making the leap to PRIDE to secure what he saw as "real money" without the need to put on a forced smile.
However, fate intervened when Johnson received a call from WWE chairman Vince McMahon. During their conversation, Johnson refrained from sharing his MMA aspirations with McMahon. Instead, McMahon proposed a new direction for his character, suggesting a heel turn and an alliance with the Nation of Domination faction.
McMahon wanted to gauge the audience's response to this change after Johnson had faced fan backlash as a babyface. Johnson negotiated for two minutes of microphone time to express himself authentically, ultimately receiving one minute.
In just a month, "The Great One" delivered a promo that ignited his transformation into one of WWE's heels, a pivotal moment that solidified his legendary status in professional wrestling. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's candid revelations on "The Joe Rogan Experience" shed light on the crossroads he faced in his career, where a decision to pursue MMA could have altered the course of his iconic journey.
His eventual success in both WWE and Hollywood attests to the resilience and adaptability of this entertainment powerhouse.