Exclusive: How the Great Don Muroco Almost Put the Kibosh on “The Rock”

Vince Russo

the rockGrowing up, I loved Don “The Rock” Muraco – LOVED HIM. To this very day, Fuji Vice, Fuji Bandito, and Fuji General still stand up as some of the finest pieces of American cinema that I have ever witnessed. To me, “The Rock” was indeed a rock star during that era of professional wrestling. And, even though he had a stellar seven year run in the WWF from 1981-1988, I think it’s fair to say that the “Heinous Hawaiian” never got his just-due. Just a two-time Intercontinental Champion with that talent? Come on! If Muraco was performing in today’s landscape, who knows how many times he would have been WWE Champion?

So, it wasn’t rocket science for me to make the connection between Don Muraco and a much younger Rocky Maivia who was just starting to take small strides towards his monumental run in the WWE. Every time I would look at Rocky, my first thought was that he should start referring to himself as “The Rock”. Why? Because, it was WHO he was. It was the way he carried himself. It was the feeling that something was different about him . . . something special.

For months, I held onto the thought of Rocky referring to himself as “The Rock” because I didn’t want to show any disrespect to Don Muraco whatsoever. In my mind, it was Muraco that would forever be “The Rock”, and to put that moniker on somebody else just wouldn’t have been right. But, I became tortured by this, because every time I saw Rocky Maivia, that’s all I could think about. Finally, after much deliberation, I decided to pull the trigger.

One night, before Rocky was to go out to the ring and cut a promo – don’t remember where, don’t remember when…I’m awful at that – I pulled him aside in the back and told him to go out there and refer to himself as “The Rock”…AND start talking about himself in the third person. You know…“The Rock says this, the Rock say that.” Rocky seemed intrigued by the idea, and never hesitated for a second. So, he went out and did it.

I can probably count three times out of the 23 years that I’ve been in this business where I actually saw magic happen right in front of my eyes . . . maybe even just two.

The first time was no doubt when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin put on a pair of headsets, and for the first time, just had at it. The second time was when Rocky Maivia went out in front of the people, and literally transformed into “The Rock”. Standing back stage, after watching that performance, right then I knew that not only was this going to be something very special, but that “The Rock” was going to one day supersede the wrestling ring and go onto bigger and better things. He was just that good!

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