Wrestling fans may have JJ Dillon to thank for the most electrifying career in all of sports entertainment.
When The Rock debuted as Rocky Maivia in 1996, WWE was in the midst of trying to come back from one of the lowest financial points in company history. Even though The Rock was destined for greatness and pushed in that manner from day one, there was a point where he had little to no money in his pocket despite being touted on television as a major player for years to come.
Speaking with John Bradshaw Layfield and Gerald Brisco, JJ Dillon, the former Head of WWE Talent Relations, spoke about a turning point in The Rock's career where The Rock was actually looking to leave WWE, something he would never actually do, in an effort to make more money elsewhere.
Because JJ was connected to many of the top names in wrestling, The Rock looked to him in an effort to potentially find a new path outside of WWE. When he got instead was the pick-me-up he needed to keep going and eventually become one of the top names in WWE history.
“Rock, he was going to get the push of his life, but he couldn't see at that point how really big that opportunity was going to be for him," Dillon recalled. He had everything. He was multiracial. He had the size, he had athletic ability. He had everything. And I came up there and he said, ‘Can I talk to you privately?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You have connections everywhere. I'm asking you to help me get out of here and find a place for me to go.’ So I listened to him and I said, ‘There's more to this story than what you're telling me. You need to kind of trust me and open up to me and tell me what's going on in your head, what's really, really troubling you?’”
He continued, “After talking about it a little bit, he reached into his pocket and he had a $10 bill and a couple of singles, and he said, ‘This is all the money I have to my name. I've never been in a situation where everybody talks about this great potential that I have. But for me, I have 12 bucks in my pocket and that's eating away at me.’ I said, ‘Well, I'm glad that you opened up to me and told me because that's something that can be an easy fix. So I don't know where we were, I said go up to the box office and pull $200 and I'll sign for it and I'll work it out. They came to me and gave me $200 in cash. I called The Rock over and I shook his hand and palmed him $200 in cash. I said, ‘Now you’ve got money in your pocket. You can eat, you're okay. This is just a little speed bump in the road. I couldn't do justice to the business by allowing you to just not take full advantage of this opportunity because you are just caught in a position where you don't have any cash in your pocket and we've all been there.”
Dillon concluded, “He gave me a big hug and that was the turning point for him. Just having that money in his pocket so that he could eat and do what he wanted. I just was in the right place at the right time and knew the right thing to do.”
Of course, today, The Rock is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood and has his own production company called Seven Bucks Production which is in honor of another time in his life where he had next to nothing in his pocket.
That was twenty-five years ago, shortly after The Rock debuted at the 1996 WWE Survivor Series. Now, The Rock will hopefully return for this year's Survivor Series if the WWE has their way. Learn more here.
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