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If the Mount Rushmore of the WWE were ever built, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s face would undoubtedly be there next to the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. For years, he was the reason people crowded the seats and tuned into Raw and Smackdown.
Some wrestling fans expressed sadness, and other frustration when he left the company in 2004 in the pursuit of becoming a Hollywood superstar (a mission he was very much successful in, to say the least). At that time, there was only one question: why? Why leave the company you helped built, and who gave you the launching pad to become a global phenomenon?
For the first time, we have the answer from the man himself.
During one of his many Q&A sessions, a feature The Rock launched while sheltering in his massive home gym, Johnson explained his decision to leave the WWE in 2004 and why he came back eight years later.
The decision, he says, was in part due to the fact that his contract expired after WrestleMania 20 in 2004, where he wrestled alongside Mick Foley against the trio of Dave Bautista, Randy Orton, and Ric Flair.
“It was a career that was beyond my wildest, wildest dreams,” he says in the video. “I wanted to complete my word that I would deliver everything I could for them.”
But that wasn’t his only reason. He also felt like he could do more for the company that gave him so much, but only if he went away for a while. “If I could leave and become successful outside the world of professional wrestling … and then I could come back, this time as a global entity. This time I could bring a greater value to the company of the WWE.”
He would only do that, he said, if he became the world’s biggest star. “I wanted this to be a global success,” he says. “I wanted global influence in a very very real and powerful way.”
It’s safe to say he accomplished that. After leaving the WWE in 2004, The Rock became a box office sensation. He returned to the promotion in 2011 to start a highly publicized feud with fellow wrestler-turned-movie-star John Cena, which culminated in two “Once in a Lifetime” matches at WrestleMania.
At the last of the pair of matches, he was pinned by Cena for the WWE Championship. Most people would prefer to bow out with a win, but not The Rock.
“My wrestling career ended the only way I was willing — flat on my back, getting beat 1, 2, 3, looking up at the stars and being grateful for my blessings,” he says. “I went out the right way.”
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The risk was two fold/ I retired on top as pro wrestling’s #1 draw. And coming from the world of wrestling, the odds were stacked against me of having a Hollywood career that had any kind of long term, substantial global influence and value. After a bewildering 7 year career as a wrestler, I kept my hand shake bond – finished out my contractual obligations and quietly retired. But I knew in heart and in my gut what my WHY was. Once we identify OUR WHY, then our actions have powerful purpose. Almost 10yrs later in 2012, I returned to the industry that’s in my blood. I returned to the @wwe to give back. To bring value and impact the bottom line. Proud to say when I returned we, as a team – set all time box office and PPV records that will never be broken. And in 2014, I wrestled my very last match at WrestleMania in New York at a sold out Met Life Stadium. My wrestling career ended the only way I was willing — flat on my back, getting beat 1, 2, 3, looking up at the stars and being grateful for my blessings. I went out the right way. The respectful way. I retired from wrestling in 2013. Grateful to the bone. And on my shield????