FLASHBACK: Rocky Maivia - From The Playpen To The Ring
In this "Vault" feature from The Wrestler Extra, 1998, we see The Rock's path to burgeoning superstardom
FROM THE VAULT: The following article was first published in the Winter 1998 edition of The Wrestler Extra, entitled “Wrestling True Life Stories—Vol. 2.”
ROCKY MAIVIA: SMACKED DOWN AND FIGHTING BACK
TAMPA, FLORIDA. 1995.
The Phantom reached into his pants pocket and clutched the seven sweat-soaked dollar bills that threatened to burn a hole in that same pocket. Not that seven miserable bucks could burn much of a hole; seven clams could get you a standing-room-only spot in the most downtrodden arena to watch the most mediocre wrestling card ever presented.
But it was far from a six-figure pro football contract, The Phantom rued. And this was what this 24-year-old had on his person—a pittance and a ticket back to a life he thought he had left in 1990, the year in which he left his home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to enroll at the University of Miami in Florida.
I left home six years ago, and now I've come back.
Duane [sic] Johnson, as The Phantom was better known, was returning to the family nest with a sheepskin from Football U—a degree in exercise physiology and criminology. His heart beheld thrilling images of life in the trenches of Miami's venerable Orange Bowl garnered from a largely successful career as a defensive end on the Hurricanes' football team. His resume also included a year with Calgary of the Canadian Football League.
Now I have seven dollars to my name.
He was heading back to live with Mom and Dad, back to another sports microcosm, wrestling, into which he had been born. But now Johnson was heading to the mats himself to de-phantomize himself and become somebody. The environment into which he now walked was rich with wrestling tradition: Johnson's father, Rocky, was a successful wrestler in the 1970s and '80s. Peter Maivia, Duane's grandfather, had been a wrestling legend. Although both men had been stars during their tenures, neither had undertaken the daunting challenge Duane had accepted: to be both a pro wrestler and a pro football player.
Duane Johnson did not ask himself if he could be the Deion Sanders of the squared circle; he only wondered how long it would take.
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