From the original and historic “WrestleMania”, Vince McMahon’s vision was that the “Granddaddy Of Them All” was going to be a spectacle that reached far and beyond professional wrestling. Matter of fact, I would say that one of Vince’s biggest joys was booking sports figures and entertainers that he, himself, was a HUGE Mark for.
Man, just look at the list—Vince’s name is ALL OVER IT! From Muhammad Ali, to Aretha Franklin, Liberace, Ray Charles, Burt Reynolds, all the way to “Iron” Mike Tyson. These were celebrities that Vince, himself, was a fan of.
However, I don’t think Pete Rose was the brainchild of Vince. For starters, even though Vince would have NO DOUBT been a fan of “Charlie Hustle’s” rough, gambling edge, Vince was just really not a sports guy outside of Boxing or MMA.
Truthfully, and as oddly as this may sound, I believe there was a good chance that Vince didn’t even know who PETE ROSE WAS!!!
And, NO, I’m not kidding!
Not really knowing the specifics of how the all-time MLB hits leader came to an agreement, one would have to believe that it was Pete himself who contacted the WWF looking for a pay day.
At that time in the Fed, Bruce Prichard and Pat Patterson were leading creative, and the fact is that they might have even known LESS about baseball than Vince! If anyone from the office would have suggested that, it would have been JJ Dillon, who did indeed enjoy professional sports outside of “fake fighting”.
So, why the theory of Rose reaching out? It was simple—he was BROKE at the time.
You must remember that during Pete’s days, baseball players didn’t make the money they did today—NOT EVEN CLOSE. The top salaries at the time were in the hundred thousands, not hundred MILLIONS.
Throughout his 24-year career as a player/manager, Pete made a million dollars only two of those years. From 1963-1976, 13 years of the PRIME of his career, Rose never made $200k a year—NEVER. Matter of fact, the first seven years of his career he was under $100k.
So this was not a rich guy by any stretch. Add that to his appetite for gambling and you get the picture.
Now, of course I have some factual evidence to back my theory—I was there. And, again, being a HUGE baseball mark myself, I nudged my way into the Rose situation because I was positive that no one in management, outside of JJ, had ANY IDEA of the royalty they were working with.
Now—the Kane “incident”.
I don’t remember exactly, but I do believe that the idea came from Bruce Prichard. There’s no doubt that Bruce knew that Pete was in dire, financial straits and I’m sure Pete showed his hand. And, if Pete needed money—VINCE HAD MONEY.
Now, THIS I REMEMBER!
I remember Bruce telling me the idea, and I can remember walking into Pete’s green room the night of Mania. No, this had not been pitched to him prior—it was being pitched on the SPOT.
So here’s how the conversation went:
Bruce: “Pete, we have this idea. We have this monster that goes by the name of Kane. We want him to pick you up and hit you with his trademark move—the “Pile Driver”.
Pete: “Sure… HOW MUCH?”
Bruce: “We can discuss that.”
And, they did.
Here’s a quote from the man himself from January 2022:
“Well, it’s strictly a retired baseball player getting a gig, and that gig paid $50,000 to do WrestleMania, and let me tell you something about WrestleMania. I say this constantly. I have never met a wrestler there that wasn’t a good guy.”
So there you have it. And, how RD even has this on the list? Tell me and we’ll BOTH KNOW!