Early in his career, the wrestling legend turned Hollywood star made an appearance for independent Canadian promotion Border City Wrestling (BCW) as he teamed with D’Lo Brown to take on now-TNA Wrestling president Scott D’Amore and Larry Destiny.
Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, D’Amore recalled the drama surrounded the match, which took place just two days before The Rock defended the Intercontinental Championship against Farooq at In Your House 22: Over The Edge 1998.
‘On a bum knee after getting hurt six days earlier, [he] still showed up at Border City Wrestling when there was no reason he had to, and by just showing up, he had done more than can be expected of him,’ he recalled.
‘Instead, he showed up and wrestled hurt, even though it was a day or two before a big pay per view – like, Vince McMahon had told him to stay home! And he actually kind of like half carney-ed his way into still being able to come to the show.
‘He wasn’t dishonest, but he wasn’t, full disclosure, saying “I’m going up there, and I’m gonna wrestle on on a show”. But he did that!’
D’Amore – who was able to bring The Rock to IMPACT Wrestling during the pandemic to honour WWE alum Ken Shamrock – explained how Dwayne’s commitment was testament to his love of wrestling, having grown up around the business.
‘He knew we had advertised and he knew we had a sold out crowd, which to us was the biggest thing in the world,’ he explained. ‘But let’s be clear, that sellout crowd I think was 1,100 people!’
He pointed out that at the time, no one would have ‘gone after’ The Rock for missing the booking given his stature in WWE at the time, but he was determined to at least show his face.
D’Amore added: ‘It was funny, because he didn’t plan on wrestling. But he had said, “Hey, I’m coming,” because it was just so important. Remember, in 1998, you can’t shoot a promo on your phone and say, “Hey, Border City Wrestling fans, I’m so sorry.”‘
He pointed out that the former world champion ‘went above and beyond’ even by just showing up, and he flew in Mark Henry himself ‘to have as backup’ for the match, but once he arrived at the venue and starting meeting fans, he got the buzz.
D’Amore remembered: ‘He grabbed me in the locker room and was like, “Well, what would you think if The Rock went out and wrestled?” I was thinking like, “What, why?” And then he’s like, “Well, I’m feeling it, you know?”
‘Which I’m so grateful for now all these years later, but but part of me sits there and looks at it and goes, “Oh my God, why are we taking this chance?” ‘
For the wrestler, manager and promoter, there was a lot at stake for D’Amore too as he chased his own ambitions of reaching WWE and making his own career on a grand stage.
‘You got to think in 1998, I’m still a year away from having my WWF tryout. And my plan is to try be a wrestler full time for a living and become a superstar,’ he said.
‘And all I’m thinking of if he gets hurt worse, I’m done. Like, I’m in so much trouble! But he was great. And we played it safe!’
Thankfully, everyone got through the match and The Rock was able to make his WWE commitment days later, and D’Amore admitted the night has become almost a folk story with fans desperate to claim they were there.
‘Those 1100 people that were there that night will never forget it. And I often joke with D’Lo – because D’Lo was was a huge part of making that happen,’ he said.
‘We’ were joking the other day, that if every person that has told us they were there that night that The Rock wrestled in LaSalle… then there would have been 30,000 plus there, not 1,100!’
TNA Wrestling Hard To Kill airs on January 13, 2024. For more information, head to IMPACTWrestling.com.
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