When Dwayne Johnson first arrived in the WWE (then WWF) in 1996, he was known as Rocky Maivia. The name was originally pitched to him by Vince McMahon and was a combination of his father (Rocky Johnson) and grandfather (High Chief Peter Maivia). But, as Johnson explained on WIRED's Autocomplete Interview with Emily Blunt this week, he hated the name from the start.
"I hated it because the lineage I had gave me the opportunity to at least knock on the door but I wanted my own identity, my own space," Johnson said. "So I was very proud to come from who I came from, with my dad and my grandfather, my whole family's wrestling. I still wanted my own space, so I said I hate it. He [Vince McMahon] said, 'Okay, great, well that's your name,' and I went, 'Okay.' So I embraced it and I did it, and that name did not stick."
Johnson's initial character was almost immediately rejected by fans, and it wasn't until he turned heel and joined The Nation of Domination that he started finding his footing. It was then the he shortened down his name to what millions (and millions) know him as today — The Rock. Johnson came up with the name alongside WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson.
"A guy who was my father figure, Pat Patterson, was a mentor of mine in pro wrestling, and I lost him last year when I lost my dad at the same time... I lost my father and my father figure in the same year." Johnson continued. "He said, 'Why don't we call you The Rock?' French guy, tough French accent. And I said, 'I love it.' He goes, 'Okay, you're The Rock.' That was it."
"The People's Champ" posted a heartfelt tribute to Patterson after he passed away late last year. He wrote, "Rest in love, Pat. You'll be missed. Rough phone calls to get this morning to tell me, our dear family member, Pat Patterson who was my pro wrestling mentor and father figure has passed away. A WWE Hall of Famer, TRUE trailblazer and one of the most brilliantly creative wrestling minds the industry has ever known. He was also responsible for calling Vince McMahon when I was training to become a pro wrestler (my $7 bucks days) and said, 'Vince you gotta see this kid work in the ring.' Vince flew me to RAW a few weeks later and I had my first match EVER in Corpus Christie, Texas. The rest is history and years later, here I am writing this post."
View this post on Instagram