Nobody Predicted The Rock Becoming A Mainstream Star According To D'Lo Brown
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson burst out of the world of professional wrestling to become a global megastar. But according to his former Nation Of Domination stablemate D'Lo Brown, the man known as 'The People's Champion' was not always destined for global megastardom. Speaking exclusively to SPORTbible, Brown explained "If somebody tells you now that they saw The Rock becoming what he has become today, they're lying to you."
Rather than being pre-destined for life as a main event superstar and box-office titan, D'Lo credits his former partner's work ethic for taking him to the very top of two industries. "I saw him and knew he had something in him because of his preparation. His willingness to work and wanting to be better than everybody else. So that gave him the opportunity to become great". Elaborating on the unique cocktail of personality, presence and ability that made The Rock into a ring legend, D'Lo said "It was a perfect combination of timing, story, charisma and a hundred other things that allowed him to grow into that role. To sit there and have the best in the house and be front row watching it happen, it was pretty damn amazing."
D'Lo Brown enjoyed a decorated wrestling career in his own right. He was a pivotal part of the WWE Attitude Era and a central part of storylines such as the aforementioned Nation Of Domination, his unification of the Intercontinental and European championships, and perhaps most famously his spell wearing his now-iconic chest protector. While D'Lo wearing chest-padding to both protect himself and use as a devious weapon helped launch him towards the top of WWE, he was not initially keen. "(Jim Ross) gave me the idea and initially and I remember being mad about it. I was like 'I don't wanna do that! It's a joke!' But I went home and thought about it and thought let's give it a try. I just wanted to be different, I wanted to stand out from the crowd and that's what it did."
The chest protector melded perfectly with the swagger and cool that D'Lo displayed in his performances. Striding down to the ring to his classic "Real Deal" theme tune, D'Lo came to realise his new apparel had completed the package of a popular character. "I think the combination of my attitude and the way I walked to the ring, all that played in together to become something pretty cool. I think people just gravitated to me for some reason. I'm glad they did. I'm incredibly fortunate and lucky that was my path in wrestling."
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D'Lo now finds himself in the Jim Ross role, as a producer for IMPACT Wrestling. He is now tasked with finding that next Dwayne Johnson, as he coaches a new generation of superstars looking to break through to the next level. As he explains, competition is fierce "Our roster is so talented and so deep that there's literally ten or twelve people who have the ability to be that breakout star. To be the one that can captivate the wrestling world. Just in general from a Sami Callihan to a Tessa Blanchard to Eddie Edwards, Michael Elgin or The North. They all have that ability to be that person or team that can just take over the wrestling world."
In addition to being a big part of The Rock's journey to greatness, D'Lo also rubbed shoulders with another former WWE Champion on their way up. In IMPACT Wrestling's previous TNA incarnation, he contested an acclaimed feud with AJ Styles over the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. Even at this early stage of the career of 'The Phenomenal One', his talent was clear. "Just in the ring on wrestling ability alone, this kid had a shot at being something special. To watch him grow over the next few years and to watch him break out and go from a regional, to a national star to an international star, that was fun. To be part of talking to him and mentoring him along the way was a good little ride."
After a successful in-ring career spent clashing with the very biggest names of the past and present, there's few people better placed than D'Lo Brown to coach the next generation of IMPACT Wrestling stars. He also has some words of advice for those who hope to walk through the company's doors one day. "Find that thing that makes you different, highlight it, and make it 1000 times bigger. We as wrestlers all know the same twelve wrestling moves. What makes your twelve wrestling moves better than somebody else's? What makes your ring entrance, what makes your presentation of you different and better than somebody else's. That's the thing you need to focus on and highlight. What makes you unique in the world of wrestling. When you can find that, the sky is the limit."
Take this advice on board and you might one day find yourself where D'Lo Brown, AJ Styles or The Rock are today. Have a favourite D'Lo Brown memory? Let us know in the comments.
D'Lo Brown was speaking on behalf of IMPACT Wrestling, which you can catch every Wednesday from 9:30pm on The Fight Network (Sky Channel 192)