By Mike Mooneyham

Sept. 28, 2003

Few professional wrestlers have captivated a nationwide audience as has The Rock this past week.

Unfortunately for the wrestling business, though, the media attention was centered around Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s celebrity as an actor and not a wrestler.

The Rock’s new movie, “The Rundown,” opened Friday night in more than 3,000 theaters across the country. The action-comedy was expected to take in $20 million for its opening weekend. Reviews have been strong across the board, and many critics have hailed Rock as Hollywood’s new superstar.

But it has become very apparent that Hollywood’s gain is professional wrestling’s loss. Statements made last week by The Rock, who is under contract to WWE through next year, clearly indicate that his future role in the wrestling business will be a limited one at best. He has said publicly that he’ll return to wrestling only when he can offer it his undivided attention. He even went so far as to indicate to the Houston Chronicle in an article published Friday that he considered his wrestling career over.

“There’s not much left for me to do in wrestling,” he said.

And he’s right.

Rocky Maivia

Rocky Maivia

The Rock, who parlayed his big-screen debut as a supporting character in “The Mummy Returns” into a starring performance in “The Scorpion King,” has accomplished all he can in wrestling. He needs a new challenge. No one could blame him for leaving the business for the much greener pastures of Tinseltown. The seven-time WWE champion reportedly is picking up a $12 million paycheck for his current movie, and that’s a figure that no one has ever approached in the wrestling business for a single year’s work. And there’s surely more where that came from.

Other pro wrestlers in the past have tried their hand at legitimate acting with varying degrees of success. Hulk Hogan’s film career was a bust, while Roddy Piper impressed many critics with some natural ability. Jerry Lawler (“Man on the Moon”) and Jesse Ventura (“The Predator”) received mixed reviews for their performances. No one, however, has come close to approaching The Rock’s superstar status.

With fame, though, comes a price. As popular as he was in the wrestling business, The Rock has found himself on an entirely different level in Hollywood.

“For me, the hardest thing about fame and this newfound (movie) fame … is anonymity,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s completely gone. No privacy whatsoever.”

– Vince McMahon’s picture graces the cover of the current Forbes magazine which features the 400 richest people of America. McMahon, however, now finds himself on the list of individuals who have dropped off the list.

According to the magazine, the one-time billionaire is now worth a paltry $575 million. He previously was 386th with an estimated fortune of $570,000,000, but has now been muscled out. Number 400 on the list, sitcom mogul Tom Werner, has a fortune of $600,000,000.

McMahon, though, is still smack-dab in the public eye. The WWE owner garnered considerable mainstream publicity last week when he joined forces with the hip-hop world in a major voter outreach campaign.

“Wow. The WWE and hip-hop together – there goes the neighborhood, huh?” he quipped at a news conference Monday as he was joined by the Rev. Run, aka Joseph Simmons, of the rap group Run-DMC.

The unlikely partnership between WWE and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network – called “Smackdown Your Vote!” – wants to get 2 million more 18- to 30-year-olds to register and cast their votes in the 2004 presidential election than did in 2000. Fewer than a third of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2000, the last presidential election year.

The groups will register voters at hip-hop concerts and wrestling events around the country, hold rallies at colleges and high schools and create public service announcements to promote voter registration and voting.

McMahon also was added to the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame Sept. 18 along with Knicks Hall of Famer Dick McGuire and Rangers Hall of Famer Harry Howell, broadcasting great Bob Wolff and basketball Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski. McMahon was inducted by children Shane and Stephanie.

The Garden Walk of Fame salutes more than a century of athletes, entertainers, announcers and coaches who are recognized for extraordinary individual achievement and memorable performances at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” The prestigious membership includes Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Willis Reed, Wilt Chamberlain, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jesse Owens and Billie Jean King.

Former WWE heavyweight champ Triple H, McMahon’s future son-in-law, was among those present at the ceremony.

“It was an honor to be sitting there watching Vince McMahon in the house that he helped build, his father built, his grandfather built, to be able to sit there and to watch him get inducted into that Walk of Fame with some other greats of the sporting world, to be the first of any type of wrestling personality, to be involved in that was such a tremendous honor,” he said on WWE’s Byte This show. “It was such a great thrill to see Vince McMahon being put on a pedestal where he should be because Vince McMahon is such a visionary, Vince McMahon has created this industry and made it what it is today. He pretty much created the pay-per-view industry. With all these things he has done, and to see someone give him props for that and to pat him on the back for it and tell him how great he is, it was nice to see it. It was a nice moment. Steph and Shane were also there to bring him into the hall. It was just quite a moment.”

– The seemingly growing number of Triple H detractors will get a respite for the next two months as the dethroned WWE champ takes time off for his Oct. 25 wedding and a role in an upcoming Wesley Snipes movie.

Triple H will miss at least six of the next eight weeks of TV. He already has begun filming in Vancouver for “Blade: Trinity.”

– Anthony Durante, 36, one half of The Pitbulls tag-team in ECW during the mid-’90s, was found dead along with his girlfriend, Dianna Hulsey, 29, Thursday at a small ranch house the two shared in Misquamicut, R.I. Police found the couple on Thursday afternoon and estimated both had been dead for a day or two.

Police said Friday that the two apparently suffered drug overdoses. An autopsy done Friday showed the victims had needle marks on their bodies. A substance believed to be the painkiller OxyContin was found in the house.

The two recently had moved with their two young children from Pennsylvania. The couple’s 21-month-old boy and 8-month-old girl apparently were alone in the house for several days with the bodies. Police said they found the girl in her crib and feared the children could be dehydrated. The boy, police said, had apparently searched the house for food and was able to find something to eat.

– The always controversial Scott Hall has been busted again. The former wrestling superstar, whose probation prohibits him from drinking alcohol, was jailed Sept. 19 for the third violation of his current probationary status. His last violation of probation occurred for a DUI last December.

– Chris Jericho’s (Irvine) wife, Jessica, gave birth to a son, Ash Edward, on Wednesday.

– Jesse Ventura’s new show debuts Saturday on MSNBC.

– Longtime NWA Baltimore promoter and WCW official Gary Juster is presenting a Lucha Libre show today at the Gwynnett Center in Atlanta. Headlining will be Santo and La Parka vs. Felino and Pentagon, and Brazo de Oro, Porky and Dos Caras vs. Villanos IV and V and Negro Casas.

– Former WCW performer Jimmy Yang has signed a developmental deal with WWE.

– The Road Warriors, Ted DiBiase, Greg Valentine and Buff Bagwell will do a church wrestling show Friday at the Community Pentecostal Church in Oshawa, Ontario.