The Rock initially struggled to connect with WWE fans after he debuted as the babyface Rocky Maivia character in 1996. He became a villainous member of The Nation of Domination faction in 1997 before he cemented his status as a fan favorite in 1998 and 1999.
Speaking on Steve Austin’s "Broken Skull Sessions" show, The Godfather said Vince McMahon approached him and Ron Simmons in 1997 to discuss The Rock. McMahon told the two men that he could see The Rock becoming a megastar.
“He says, ‘Do you know who Dwayne Johnson is?’" The Godfather recalled. "I did not know who he was. Ron did. Ron was like, ‘Yeah, I know, man.’ He said, ‘Well, we brought him in as Rocky Maivia.’ I think his name was [Rocky Maivia]? He says, ‘And the people s*** on him.’ He says, ‘This time, I’m gonna put him in The Nation. When I get people to hate this kid, when I turn him, he’s gonna be one of the biggest things wrestling ever saw.’ That’s what Vince told us.”
The Rock joined forces with D’Lo Brown, The Godfather (also known as Kama), Mark Henry, and Ron Simmons (also known as Faarooq) in The Nation of Domination. Midway through his 14-month run with The Nation, The Rock replaced Faarooq as the group’s leader.
Vince McMahon was right about The Rock’s success
As Vince McMahon predicted, The Rock did indeed go on to become one of the top stars the wrestling business has ever seen.
The former Nation of Domination member is an eight-time WWE Champion, five-time WrestleMania main-eventer, and one of the biggest box-office attractions in the entertainment industry.
The Rock said in 2020 that he would be willing to return to WWE to face his cousin, Roman Reigns. Paul Heyman, Reigns’ on-screen special counsel, recently teased a possible match between the two men by claiming that Reigns is better than The Rock. Fans will have to wait and see whether this dream match becomes a reality.
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