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The Rock misses Memphis Wrestling

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Smelling what the Waffle House is cooking: Thanks to his WWE developmental contract, the Rock ate meals fit for the King while struggling to learn the ring ropes in Memphis.

Smell-ah-la-la-la…what the Waffle House…is…cooking: His WWE developmental contract enabled the young Rock to enjoy meals fit for the King (Lawler) while learning the ring ropes in Memphis in 1996.

Oh, sure, Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) continues his climb toward A-list celebrity status with today’s release of Disney’s RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN. But you can tell he longs for the days of working with the likes of PG-13, Reggie B. Fine, the Moondogs and yours truly before hundreds—and hundreds—of Memphis rasslin’ fans at the Big One Expo flea-market building in Memphis.


From an interview with USA Today:


Long before he was asking fans at a packed Madison Square Garden if they could “smell what The Rock is cookin’,” Johnson was living a life similar to Mickey Rourke’s has-been athlete in The Wrestler. Johnson moved to Nashville and made $40 a day wrestling in tiny circuits before as few as 25 people in vacant barns, used-car lots, anywhere you could fit a ring. He lived off grits and eggs at the Waffle House and put 1,500 miles a week on his Isuzu Rodeo driving from event to event.


“I wasn’t making any money,” he says. “But I loved it.” He corrects himself. “Well, I loved most of it. The entertainment part. But I saw these guys addicted to drugs, struggling to make a living, working well past their prime. I decided I wasn’t going to be that guy.”


Rock, er, uh, Johnson, failed to mention that WWE was supplementing his $40 payoffs with money off a developmental contract he’d signed with the Former Fed, based on his father’s (wrestler Rocky Johnson) past affiliation with the company and Dwayne’s obvious natural athletic ability. Jim Cornette reportedly took one look at the rookie, working as “Flex Kavana” in Memphis, and told everyone who’d listen that Dwayne be the next big thing in the business.


Johnson (or “DJ,” as he referred to himself in a brief clip on WWE Monday Night RAW two weeks ago) also failed to mention that if Jerry Lawler and I hadn’t run him out of Memphis in a loser-leaves-town match, he might be still be wrestling in barns today. Heck, he’d be working at a Waffle House in Frayser if it weren’t for the King and I’s dubious plot to force him out of Memphis and into WWE stardom. Bet he often wonders how winning the USWA Unified World title from Lawler on that fateful Saturday morning would have affected his career. (He would probably be bigger than Christian Bale and Brad Pitt combined right now.) But it was not to be-the King and I were two steps ahead on that fateful Saturday morning. Yeah, yeah, I’m well aware that I crow about this moment more than Chris Jericho brags about beating the Rock and Stone Cold in the same night to win the Undisputed championship.





  1. TinyElvis
    March 13th, 2009 at 23:59 | #1

    I agree with Dave. Promoters definitely need time to promote such a huge match-up.

  2. Calcifer
    February 15th, 2011 at 23:30 | #2

    The most impressive part of all of that is the fact that he may be the only person to ever adhere to a loser leaves town match and not come back.

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