Nearly two decades ago, Dwayne Johnson -- who we now know and love as "The Rock" -- was in his first WrestleMania as "Rocky Maivia." At 24 years old, he had a clean-cut look and smiled often, which frankly, sounds adorable to me but didn't work so well for the crowd.
Apparently, wrestling fans could not stand young Rocky. As he explained to Oprah recently in an episode of “Oprah's Master Class,”
That night, 20,000 fans started chanting, 'Rocky sucks.' That was a sobering moment. And that was the beginning of the end of my initial run in the WWE.
Soon after that humiliating match, Johnson suffered a knee injury, which forced him to sit out the rest of the summer. During that time off from wrestling, he had a revelation, saying,
It wasn't me personally that they didn't like. It's that I wasn't being me. I wasn't being real. I wasn't being authentic. Who is this guy in wrestling who's smiling when he's getting beat?
By the time he was ready to go back in the ring in August of 1997, Johnson had completely overhauled his persona, becoming a wrestling super-villain.
He had a minute to speak with the fans before the match, and amid boos and shouts, he said,
I may be a lot of things, but sucks isn't one of them.
Johnson says of that pivotal event,
In that moment, The Rock was born. A month later, I was the hottest heel in the company.
There you have it, kids -- the story of how "Rocky" became "The Rock" and eventually dominated loud, action-packed movies with laughably bad dialogue.
You can watch Johnson return to WrestleMania this Saturday.