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What Dwayne Johnson Learned After Being Booed by 20,000 Wrestling Fans

Season 5 Episode 504
Aired on 11/15/2015 | CC tv-14
Like his father and his grandfather before him, Dwayne Johnson decided to jump in the ring as a professional wrestler when he was in his 20s. In 1996, Dwayne made his WWE debut as "Rocky Maivia" at Madison Square Garden. By the end of his first match, Dwayne says the crowd was cheering him on and chanting his name...but that all soon changed.

While Dwayne was supposed to be acting the part of a good guy, or "baby face" as they're called in the wrestling world, he says the fans turned on him when they saw he wasn't being authentic. "I remember I had great angst every night before I went out, because I was not able to be myself," he says.

During his very first WrestleMania, the biggest show of the year, Dwayne says 20,000 people started chanting "Rocky sucks." "It was a sobering moment, and that was the beginning of the end of my initial run in the WWE. A few weeks later, I tore a tendon in my knee, and I was out for the rest of the summer," he says. "I came to the realization before I went back that it wasn't me, personally, that they didn't like. It was that I wasn't being me."

While recovering from his knee injury, Dwayne got a call from Vince McMahon, the CEO of the WWE. "He said, 'When you come back, we could continue to shove you down people's throats or we could turn you heel because they want to boo you anyway,'" Dwayne says. "I said, 'I think it's a great idea.'"

A few weeks later, Dwayne's wrestling persona "The Rock" was born. "About a month later, I was the hottest heel in the company and things were on fire," he says. "And the greatest lesson about that is be you. ... The most powerful thing you can be is yourself."

Watch as Dwayne shares more about his early days in the WWE.

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