By Mike Mooneyham
Feb. 1, 2003
There’s little doubt that World Wrestling Entertainment is counting heavily on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s imminent return to generate major business. Unfortunately for WWE, though, The Rock’s stay is likely to be an abbreviated one.
The popular third-generation grappler recently announced plans to star in the MGM remake of “Walking Tall,” an updated version of the 1973 film. Offers have continued to pour in for the talented wrestler-actor, who followed “The Scorpion King” with the Peter Berg-directed “Helldorado” for Universal. A number of studios have been developing vehicles for him, including Universal’s “Spy Hunter,” “Johnny Bravo” at Warner Bros., “Walk Like a Dragon” at Paramount, and “Skip Tracer” and “King Kamehameha” at Sony.
This flurry of Hollywood activity has left Johnson little spare time for wrestling, a fact that has prompted many of his WWE devotees to label him a “sellout” who has forsaken the profession that spawned his mainstream appeal. WWE, of course, will take advantage of this reversal in fan sentiment and bring him back as a heel, pairing him up against Hulk Hogan at the upcoming No Way Out pay-per-view. The current plan is for The Rock to defeat the aging icon due to outside interference from Vince McMahon, setting up a McMahon-Hogan showdown at Wrestlemania.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]WWE officials are still hoping to land Bill Goldberg, as a babyface, for a Wrestlemania main event with The Rock. Goldberg recently showed up on the set of “Helldorado” for a meeting with Johnson, further fueling reports that the two sides could be nearing a deal.
Sources say Johnson plans to leave wrestling following Wrestlemania, especially if plans for his “Walking Tall” role materialize. w Just when you thought it was safe to go back into a WWE locker room …
More than a few eyebrows were raised when “loose cannon” Scott Steiner recently arrived on the WWE scene. Big Papa Pump’s backstage reputation had preceded him, and the WWE locker room was put on high alert. But Steiner has behaved professionally thus far, sources say.
There’s a new sheriff in town, however, with a track record that makes Steiner’s look tame in comparison.
The company’s latest find is 6-10, 330-pound Nathan Jones, whose real-life status as a convicted armed robber is providing plenty of fodder for WWE promos.
According to a recent article in the Queensland (Australia) Courier-Mail, Jones’ credentials look something like this:
– Jones was jailed for eight years for armed robbery in 1989, and initially won fame for ripping cell doors off their hinges and snapping handcuffs. – It once took 10 prison guards to restrain him when he went berserk in a Tasmanian jail, where a political scandal was created after it was revealed gas was often used to subdue him.
– Jones attempted to launch a career as a Hollywood film star in 1995 but encountered problems when his visa was revoked because of his violent past and self-confessed steroid abuse.
– And last, but not least, in 1989 Jones underwent surgery to remove a mammary gland in his left breast which began to produce milk as a result of steroid abuse.
He sounds like a perfect fit for WWE.
Jones, who once boasted biceps larger than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s at his peak, also has served as a bodyguard and has won several strength titles, including the Scotland Highland Games’ Strongest Man in the World competition in 1995.
Jones has worked as a babyface in his initial WWE matches, but his eventual TV role is expected to reflect his infamy. The Aussie (accidentally) injured Matt Hardy at a house show Monday night in Milwaukee in one of his first matches for the company. Hardy, who suffered an MCL sprain, will work a limited schedule for the next several weeks.
– The son of former WCW world champion Lex Luger (Larry Pfohl) was profiled recently in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Brian Pfohl, a 6-8, 230-pound junior at Atlanta’s Pace Academy, is averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds a game.
“I’ve never been a big (wrestling) fan,” Brian told the newspaper. “I used to watch him (Luger) on TV just to give him some feedback.”
Pfolh, one of the top junior prospects in the state, has caught the attention of several colleges, including Connecticut, Stanford, Minnesota, Davidson and Furman.
Luger said he’s glad his son has chosen basketball over wrestling or football.
“I attended all the basketball camps growing up,” Luger said. “I really just enjoy going to the games and watching Brian perform. I’m not one of those pushy parents. I just want him to do good in school. I’ve had more operations than I can remember. It doesn’t bother me at all that Brian doesn’t play football.”
Luger’s daughter, Lauren, is a member of SwimAtlanta and is considered one of the top swimmers in her age group (sixth grade) in the Southeast.
“We don’t have those high-pressure parents,” Brian said. “I’ve always looked up to my dad. Away from the ring, he is a very nice and laid-back guy.”
– Also profiled in the Journal-Constitution was Cody Runnels, the youngest son of “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes (Virgil Runnels). A junior at Lassiter High in Marietta, Runnels is the Cobb County champion in the 189-pound weight class and boasts a 34-0 record this season.
“This is the purest form of one-on-one competition and character building I’ve ever seen,” said Rhodes, who never wrestled as an amateur. “I’ve enjoyed watching Cody as much as anything I’ve done, and that includes being in Madison Square Garden or the main event anywhere else.”
The article also noted that when Cody makes it to a final, he wrestles in a black and gold T-shirt that brother Dustin (Goldust) gave him that says, “I will shatter your dreams,” Goldust’s motto. The youngest Runnels said teenagers ask him about Dustin more than his father.
– No decision has been made on a name for the latest version of The Four Horsemen – Ric Flair, Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton.
Flair will assume a J.J. Dillon-type role in the group, and a fourth active member will be added soon. Rhyno (Terry Gerin), who has been on WWE’s injured list for the past year, is expected to take that spot. The 27-year-old Detroit native is a former WWE hardcore champion and held the ECW world and TV titles.
– Barry “Bull” Buchanan is the latest WWE roster cut. Also recently let go were Raven and Justin Credible.
– Longtime WCW announcer Tony Schaivone and The Rock N Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) are the latest names to join Vince Russo’s outlaw faction in the NWA-TNA. “Russian Nightmare”-turned-evangelist Nikita Koloff joined the group several weeks ago.
– Former Carolinas star Pistol Pez Whatley recently suffered a heart and was hospitalized at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Upon his release Whatley will return to his hometown of Chattanooga to await a heart donor.
Whatley, a former UTC football star, also wrestled under the names Shaska Whatley (as part of The Jive Tones) and Willie B. Hert.
– The announcement last week of Ted Turner’s resignation as AOL Time Warner vice chairman shouldn’t raise any false hope that the media magnate might be tempted to revive his old rasslin’ promotion. As one of the terms of the company’s sale of WCW to WWE in 2000, none of the Time Warner stations are allowed to air pro wrestling until 2006. Although Turner could independently start up his own mat company, it’s not likely since his wealth has taken a hit in recent years, due largely to the media conglomerate’s plunging value.
The Drudge Report last week claimed that Turner wanted AOL Time Warner to sell him back the Atlanta Braves. The report also said he was interested in repurchasing CNN.