The People’s Rookie – The Rock’s first WrestleMania

This story is taken from WWF WrestleMania: The Official Insider’s History (buy it on Amazon)

IMAG3430In 1997, The Rock was known as Rocky Maivia – a clean cut, physically impressive wrestler with an unparalleled pedigree. Rocky’s father, Rocky Johnson, was one of the sport’s first African –American superstars; his grandfather, Peter Maivia, was a Samoan High Chief and a legendary IMAG3432wrestler in his own rights some two decades earlier. Rocky had grown up in the business, and that certainly helped facilitate his meteoric rise through the ranks. At this point he was just two years removed from his football days at the University of Miami and less than one year removed from wrestling’s minor leagues. Already, though he was the Intercontinental champion.

IMAG3429Rocky’s character was not close to fully developed which at least partially explains why his match against Sultan ended with an assist from Rocky Johnson. The Rock, as everyone knows, is something of a misanthrope. He almost always stands alone. He needs help from no one. But after this match, when Rocky Maivia was ambushed by multiple competitors, including the Sultan and Iron Sheik, Rocky’s dad was quick to come to his aid. As his shirt was ripped from his back, it was obvious that Rocky Johnson was still in great shape. And in an odd but captivating mirror effect, Rocky Johnson and Rocky Maivia began throwing those familiar large right hands – big, overhand punches that wiped out the entire ring.

In the end, as 18,000 fans at the Rosemont Horizon cheered, father and son stood alone in the IMAG3431ring, embracing. Knowing The Rock’s understanding of family and history, it’s safe to assume that this was a pretty special moment for him and his father. In any sort of high-level athletic endeavor, it’s rare for a father and son to have an opportunity to share the stage. Rocky Maivia’s character would undergo huge changes in the coming year; but the memory of his first WrestleMania would linger.

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