Everybody’s heard of a “Can’t Miss” prospect. A young talent who you just know will be a superstar for years to come.
Allow me to introduce a “Can’t Hit” prospect: Rocky Maivia, known today as The Rock.
Today The Rock may be the “Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment,” but there was once a time when his electricity couldn’t power a 10 watt lightbulb. After watching the first 4 months of his WWF career, I was calling for him to get out of the business forever. And I was in the majority!
Duane Johnson was introduced to WWF fans in mid 1996. He was billed as the WWF’s first Third Generation superstar. He was the son of WWF Tag Team Champ Rocky Johnson, and grandson of WWWF legend High Chief Peter Maivia.
Not that anyone watching today had ANY idea who they were.
Vince pushed Johnson. Jim Ross called him “The Blue Chipper”. He was given a run with the Intercontinental belt. Jim Ross called him “The Blue Chipper”. He was put over established superstars. Jim Ross called him “The Blue Chipper”. Jim Ross called him “The Blue Chipper”. Jim Ross called him “The Blue Chipper”.
To give you an accurate account of how the Maivia character was promoted, I’d need to copy and paste that line about 100 more times, but you catch the drift.
And yes, it was THAT annoying.
Vince had decided that Johnson, with his youthful good looks, could usher in the era of the true babyface. “You can’t smile enough” was what Johnson was told. He was going to be the stereotypical hand shaking, baby kissing friend of the fans.
Not only that, but he also gave the world’s worst interviews. Listen to this clip of Maivia prior to an Intercontinental title defense if you don’t believe me (or if you’re having problems sleeping).
No Finally. No Smelling. No Poontang Pie. No Fan Interest.
The biggest problem, though, was that Rocky was just way too green for the push he was getting. He had no idea how to throw a punch, and could only perform the most elementary of moves. Arm drags and arm bars all led up to his devastating finisher: a SHOULDER BREAKER!
Finally, the fans got so sick of it that they reacted very violently to it all. They booed Maivia with a vengeance. They chanted “Rocky Sucks!” at the top of their lungs. They brought signs and banners that pleaded “DIE ROCKY DIE!”
They weren’t doing this because of the character; they were chanting it because Rocky truly DID suck. He was terrible in the ring, terrible on the stick, and looked like a total dweeb.
Vince finally wised up, and sent Maivia back for more training.
Whoever was responsible for the turnaround in his character during this period, be it Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, or Johnson himself, deserve all the accolades in the world. They turned a total loss into one of the biggest winners this business has ever known.