Jim Ross Recalls Signing The Rock To The Highest Paying Rookie Contract In WWE History

Jim Ross was not going to let The Rock slip through WWE's fingers.

In celebration of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's 50th Birthday, the newest episode of Grilling Jr was dedicated to Johnson's first two years with the WWE (1996-1997). During the show, Jim Ross recounted his signing of Johnson, saying that he knew the third-generation wrestler was destined for mega-stardom.

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“Oh yeah, it was a no-brainer. Just a matter of getting it done and getting the contract signed. I paid Rock the highest rookie contract we’d ever done, six figures plus. Most of those guys weren’t making that kind of money. You pay what the market will bear, and the issue is that we didn’t want to take any chances of being silly with the money in as much as with an insulting offer. We weren’t going to pay a blue-chip guy field hand wages. So that’s kind of where that started.

I was around Rock a lot in the scouting, talking, and evaluating. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose him. One good thing that happened was that Rock didn’t have any money, so he was just looking for some cash to put some food on the table and take care of his family. He had not made any money of any degree at that point in time. It was not a mystery that we were going to sign Rock. Nobody knew how good he was going to be, but he checks so many boxes that it’s going to be hard for him to miss,” Jim Ross said.

Johnson debuted ahead of Survivor Series 1996 and made his in-ring debut at the event. A few months later he would win the Intercontinental Championship for the first time, but it only contributed to the growing hostility and resentment directed toward him by the audience.

In August 1997, Rocky would join the Nation of Domination and gradually begin his transformation into The Rock. From there, he would go on to have one of the most iconic careers in the history of the wrestling industry, parlaying it into a career in Hollywood that has seen him become one of the biggest stars in the world.

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