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WWE News: Major heat on Duane "The Rock" Johnson for conduct on and off camera this weekend

Mar 31, 2008 - 5:17:08 PM
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By Wade Keller, Torch editor

Duane Johnson, known in WWE of course as "The Rock," did not leave a positive impression on some wrestlers and other personnel at the Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday night.

Multiple sources indicate to us that he did not hob-nob much with old friends before or after the Hall of Fame speech. He showed up in time for the speech, delivered an overly-long speech that offended many in WWE, and then left before the ceremony ended and did not watch the Ric Flair induction ceremony.

A friend of Rock's says he warned WWE he had a tight schedule and wouldn't be able to stay long before or after.

RockArt_130WK_4.jpg
The Rock [artist Grant Gould (c) PWTorch]
Our sources say he came across as "aloof" and "totally Hollywood," as if he were "above WWE now," including toward his ex-colleagues. This surprisingly included one-time good pal Steve Austin, who was said to be displeased and taken aback by what he saw and heard.

"This wasn't a roast," says one wrestler in attendance. "This was supposed to be a tribute to his dad and grandfather. Instead, he did an hour plus of comedy, running way long, then did a short tribute to his dad and grandfather, then left. It was rude of him."

The ceremony ran way over the planned length in great part due to Rock's speech. Ric Flair also ran long, but everyone was more forgiving of that since it was his night.

Afterward, many backstage shared in their disappointment and even disgust with how he acted. The feeling was, even if he has heat with some higher-ups in WWE for some reason, he had no reason to treat old friends like discards from a past life whom he couldn't make time for.

Several people expressed in front of the Hall of Fame crowd derision toward him afterward, including Triple H mocking how particular he was about being called Duane Johnson, not The Rock. Dusty Rhodes took a dig at him that did make it to the USA Network telecast. Dusty also said Cena will never leave wrestling to go make movies in Hollywood, something that is often used - rather unfairly - against Johnson. (Although Johnson did say he would never totally leave WWE, and he pretty much has, although WWE has given him plenty of reasons to want to distance himself from the company.)

The Rock did not attend WrestleMania, either.

Keller Analysis: I loved Rock's performance at the Hall of Fame banquet. I also didn't know when I watched it that it was greatly edited down, that he had gone way over on time, or that he hadn't checked with the all of the targets of his humor first before chopping them down. WWE was charitable in featuring him as prominently and positively as they did given how upset so many were with him. Then again, Johnson and WWE basically used each other for each other's benefit. WWE got the rub of Rock returning and seemingly being part of WWE and on good terms. Rock got the chance to give his father and the rest of his family a night to remember. Apparently, from the sounds of it, Rock also used it as a chance to "get even" with a few people he had issues with with some harsh jokes mixed in with the ribbing that made the air of John Cena's movie and his pal Chris Jericho's hair. It's well-known that Triple H and The Rock haven't gotten along, but the reaction to his "attitude" seems to go beyond that.

UPDATED: I watched an interview Rock did with Josh Matthews on WWE.com. Rock said all the right things about pro wrestling helping launch him to his acting career, but he did seem rushed while doing his schtich of picking on Matthews for having "a face for radio" and not wanting to hear what he thought of his Hall of Fame speech. The sense I got is Rock didn't feel at home around a number of people and felt like it was almost a previous world that he was revisiting, and outside of a few people in his comfort zone, he really didn't make a good impression. If he was rushed due to other commitments, it is unfair to judge him too harshly if he warned WWE ahead of time he couldn't stay the entire night. That said, it does seem "self-important" to not have time to stay for the rest of the night given the magnitude of who was being inducted at the end. If he was given a time limit and did go way past it, that also seems like legitimate grounds for people to be genuinely upset with him because this wasn't his night. All of that said, given the rivalry between Triple H and Rock over the years, and pettiness on both sides (I'd argue more so from Triple H's side), there were probably people looking for ways to knock him down and nitpick his conduct. It sounds like he gave them plenty of fodder to point out or exploit.


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