Back when The Rock was laying the smackdown in WWE, The People’s Champ was extremely close to forming a NASCAR team with Hermie Sadler until Vince McMahon put a stop to it.
Hermie Sadler was a bonafide NASCAR star and on his new Leaning Right And Turning Left podcast with Virginia Senator Bill Stanley, he opened up about getting extremely close to forming a new NASCAR team with The Rock, whom Hermie befriended after the Rock and he formed a friendship after Hermie loaned Rock Caddilacs from his car dealership in return for some commercial spots and promotional work (these commercials can be heard on this episode of the podcast).
“Rocky and I became friends, (I called him Rocky)” Hermie recalled. “My wife and I went down stayed in his home in south Florida and we became friends, no question. Through the course of this relationship of him doing commercials and things and us providing cars, over the course of time he started to follow my racing career, he became interested and we started having conversations through that period about how cool it would be to form a partnership and own a NASCAR team together.”
Hermie decided to get the ball rolling on the idea.
“I had started to drive a little bit for a friend of mine in racing named Joe Bessey. Joe Bessey owned a race team, Joe Bessey Motorsports, competing in the NASCAR, at the time, the Winston Cup Series.”
"The People's Dealership Sadler Auto Center!" @BillStanley dug up @HermieSadler's old commercials with @TheRock (which Hermie he wrote himself!) #WWERaw
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— Leaning Right And Turning Left Podcast (@SadlerSenator) May 31, 2022
Sadler remembers that The Rock and Dany Garcia (his wife at the time) came to a race to check it all out.
“They came to Homestead to watch me race in November of 1999. Prior to that, we started having conversations about racing and a partnership so we finally decided one day ‘we want to put together a way to have a partnership for us to co-own a team that Hermie you will drive for and compete in NASCAR’ so I put together things very quickly in a short period of time.”
“I had put that deal together where we would basically gonna use his name and likeness and I had investors and merchandise opportunities put together to trade-off of his name and likeness where he was not obligated for not one dollar out of pocket financially. So we put all these things together.”
Hermie also happened to meet with the WWE team up in Stamford to talk and develop merchandise for the potential new crossover business venture. It all seemed that Hermie could smell what The Rock was cooking and he got the wheels turning even further.
“I had made a deal to purchase Joe Bessey Motorsports, purchase the race team from him and do a lease agreement on the shop in the building that he ran. As far as contracts, Rock and I and Dany had worked through the majority of that. The only piece of paper that had been signed was a letter of intent,” he said.
“So we rolled all the way through the year 2000 putting all this together. We actually had gone as so far to schedule a press conference in December of 2000 out at the Concord Mills Mall in Concord, NC right across the street from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. So I had all my investors, I had the merchandise deals, I had bought the race team, I had hired a crew chief, I had all these things and Rocky and I were talking daily about all of our stuff.”
Hermie mentioned how he and The Rock would be in communication daily on getting the team and deal together, but it suddenly came to a halt.
“I went two days in a row and was unable to reach him, so I started getting concerned. A few days later he got a letter from WWE which was “basically was a cease and desist letter telling me not only was my partnership with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson done, I was no longer allowed to communicate with him.
“I had no way of knowing exactly what Rocky’s deal was with WWE or who owned the rights to what or who could or who could not do what, I was only going only off of what we were doing together and I assumed he had every right to do what we were talking about doing,” he said. “My assumption is that it got to Vince, what we were talking about doing and maybe Rocky hadn’t communicated with him on every aspect of it or maybe any aspect of it, I don’t know.”
It was about a month later when WWE was heading into Hermie’s backyard of Norfolk, VA. Sadler recalled meeting with Vince sans attorney to keep matters friendly in hopes that a business partnership could get rectified as a good deal of people’s livelihoods were at stake.
NEW EPISODE! ?@HermieSadler candidly reveals to us how close both he and @TheRock were to forming their own @NASCAR team in the early 2000’s! It's a must-listen!
TUNE IN NOW (If you smell what we're cooking!)
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— Leaning Right And Turning Left Podcast (@SadlerSenator) May 26, 2022
“For the majority of my life, I made my living at the NASCAR track and I was proud of the fact that after all my years of being a driver, a competitor, an owner, TV personality, all those things, never took anything from anybody, never mistreated anybody, never owed anybody money, but I had made a deal with Joe Bessey to buy this equipment, shop, lease all those things.
“[Vince] felt my pain I guess you might say, on how I was led down the path I was led to. So I went and explained all that to him and he said, ‘I’ll get back to you in a day or two.’ So I took him at his word that maybe he’ll talk to Rocky and Rocky will go have a conversation with him and we’ll get this cleared up and move on.”
There appeared to be one major problem with the whole idea, however, and it was one that wrestling fans are all too familiar with.
“The negative is apparently, it wasn’t Vince’s idea and it wasn’t Vince in charge of it from start to finish and how is going to benefit or profit was from it. So their contention was even though I had a letter of intent signed by Dwayne and Dany on what we were intending to do, his contention was Rocky was not legally able to sign such a document because he didn’t own the rights to the trademarks and things that he was putting up as part of the deal. Vince owned all that,” Sadler said, who was aware of all that.
“I never would or never was questioning whether or not Rock had a huge say in the fact that he owned that character and that personality at that time,” but Hermie believed that Rock kept Vince in the loop about the plan. “Why would I think that Rock was doing all this and keeping Vince in the dark? To your point the fact that I had gone to WWE headquarters and all this stuff,”
“Ultimately, nobody ever got back to me,” Hermie said. “I did see Rocky that night at the building cause he had been told not to speak to me and I was told not to speak to him and all he said to me was ‘I know you’re mad at me and I’m sorry.’
“My choice back in those days was very simple, I could take my losses and mitigate myself out of them which I ultimately did. I fulfilled my obligations to Joe Bessey and to everybody I made my commitments to the tune of a close to a million dollars. I bought the team and then I sold it off over the course of the next 18 months. Car by car, piece by piece and the people that I had hired, the ones that couldn’t get other jobs I paid them until they got other jobs. If a guy was supposed to make $100,000 grand from me and somewhere else for $75,000, I paid them $25,000.”
“I have not spoken to him since,” Hermie said, regarding The Rock, whom he holds no ill will to. “Rocky and I should have gone and sat down with Vince on day one. I’ll say this, I truly believe in my heart, that he was devastated at the position he knew he put me in 20 years ago. He didn’t have a choice. I mean Vince says, ‘This is what you’re doing, you stay away from Hermie, he’s a gangster,’ and I truly believe just based on some of the comments that mutual friends of ours have heard him say.”
One of those people happened to be Hermie’s brother Elliot who interacted with the Rock during a NASCAR race years later.
“‘Sometimes you just gotta take your losses, learn your lessons and move on,’ and that’s what I did,” Hermie said, quoting his dad. “The only thing that disappoints me to this day is I wonder now how good of friends we really were only because I would have, at some point in time, I certainly wouldn’t have waited 20 years and I certainly wouldn’t have waited until I become a multi-millionaire, but I would have at some point in time picked up the phone and called him if the shoe had been on the other foot and say, ‘Just so you know this is what happened and I’m sorry.'”
“I would like an explanation. That’s all and it won’t help, it’s not going to change anything, but that is the reason, just so you know, when we talk about partnerships and friendships and mingling the two together and making decisions, I’m gun shy because I got roasted on that deal not just friendship wise, but financially to a point where it put my family in jeopardy and I had to figure out how to navigate out of that.”
It all just boiled down to Vince McMahon making the decision.
“He was Goliath and I was David and he force-fed me to a position where I could submit or try to fight and I did not have the resources to fight.”
Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone
You can listen to the full episode of Leaning Right and Turning Left below:
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