‘The Rock’ returns to WMC
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The biggest movie star in the world visited Action News 5 in September.
Our WMC staff members strategically positioned themselves in hallways just to get a glimpse of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
After the superstar drove himself from Walls, MS, and the old trailer park where he lived in his early wrestling career with Bruno “Downtown Bruno” Lauer, the Rock returned to our TV station where his meteoric career began more than a quarter of a century ago.
Smooth as silk and cool as an autumn breeze, the Rock greeted our staff and his own team members who lined the station’s hallways. “Hey everybody,” the Rock said as he strolled through WMC to prepare for an interview with a team from CBS Sunday morning.
You read that right. CBS interviewed the Rock at the Memphis NBC affiliate because it was the only place the Rock would do it.
Dave Brown, the WMC broadcasting legend, was a witness to the wrestler’s arrival at the station in 1996 and welcomed Johnson back upon his recent return.
Brown and the late Lance Russell became household names in the Mid-South as they narrated Saturday morning broadcasts of Championship Wrestling in the 1980s and ‘90s.
It didn’t surprise Brown that The Rock demanded that CBS interview him at the most unlikely of locales, an NBC affiliate because this is the place where his career began.
“That’s the kind of guy he is, great guy,” said Brown. “So he had a good start. He made it to the WWE. He was huge, but he is still Dwayne Johnson,” Brown said.
And you do get the sense that you’re meeting a down-to-earth human being even when one encounters this muscular specimen of mankind who has enjoyed the greatest successes the world of entertainment has to offer.
So you might think Johnson might have at least a little bit of a superior attitude. Worldwide box office for his many movies tops $10.5 billion.
At the moment, The Rock has the No. 1 hit on the silver screen, Black Adam. The star put the smackdown on the entire world of professional wrestling, becoming one of the WWE’s greatest success stories ever. Season 3 of the superstar’s hit comedy tv show “Young Rock” premieres on NBC and Peacock on Friday night, Nov. 4.
Instead of machismo superiority, The Rock’s down-to-earth humility and kindness are his calling card.
The man is truly gracious, humble, and authentically grateful. The 50-year-old gave Action News 5 an exclusive Memphis interview to talk about his origins.
“What does it mean to you to be back at the place where it all began? “Joe Birch asked.
“Oh man, it means so much. I haven’t been here in years. You know I drove up from (Miami) Florida (in 1996). I didn’t have much money. Those were the days when I had 7 bucks. Infamous 7 Bucks (His movie company that just released Black Adam” is therefore named “7 Bucks Productions).
I drove here with some grit and a dream, and I knew I loved wrestling, and Memphis wrestling was the hottest show in town at one time for a long time.
But there’s also such rich history not only in the city of Memphis with Memphis wrestling. “ said Johnson
“My Dad wrestled here. My Dad laid his roots down here. (His Dad was the late professional wrestler Rocky Johnson) I lived here when I was a little boy. I used to come to this station (WMC) as a little boy, running around and getting in trouble.
So to be able to come back and not only wrestle, but also kick off my wrestling career. And I always say - you know how you say, well, if I can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.
But if you can make it in Memphis at Channel 5 wrestling, you can get cheered or booed which was very important, then you got a shot at making it. So it means so much to come back here today, really and truly.
And not only that but it means so much to a lot of people who I work with, who work with me, and who work on the team. This is where it all started. How cool is that? It all started, literally, right here,” said Johnson.
“You know, you could do anything. You’re a major movie star. You have a video game empire going on. You have Young Rock and a TV empire, too. But you chose to return to Memphis, TN In your discernment: what do I want to do? You chose to do this in Memphis,” said Birch.
“That’s right,” Johnson said
“That means a whole lot - that’s a very noble thing to be doing,” said Birch.
“I appreciate that, thank you. You know for a show like Young Rock, we could shoot a lot of places. Past two seasons, we shot in Atlanta, we shot in Australia, and we’ve shot all around but so many of the defining moments and times of my life happened right here in Memphis. Right here. Channel 5.
The trailer park I used to live at in Walls, with Downtown Bruno.
You know, wrestling at The Big One Flea Market here. Every Monday night. So much has happened here in Memphis so I thought if we’re going to do Season 3 of Young Rock, let’s do it, let’s do it the right way.
Let’s come down to Memphis, let’s really showcase Memphis, let’s not go to Atlanta and try to build Memphis. Let’s go to Memphis and shoot in Memphis.
Not only that but then hopefully we can create some jobs for some Memphians, and not only that but I think when people watch Young Rock, they’re really going to feel the authenticity of being here in Memphis and what it means,” said Johnson.
“On behalf of all Memphians, thank you from our hearts for coming back here and doing this,” said Birch.
“Thank you for saying that. I appreciate it. It’s such a pleasure to be back,” said Johnson.
In fact, Memphis and Shelby County governments have provided tax incentives to NBC Universal to keep Young Rock or another NBC show in production here for at least the next four years.
An estimated 237 Memphis area residents have jobs with the goal of making Young Rock an even bigger hit on Friday nights than it already is!
As our interview concluded, the Rock turned to the camera and offered a thank you to his countless Mid-South fans who witnessed his start under his 1990s wrestling stage name “Flex Kavana.”
“Now that I have this camera on, I want to thank you, guys. Thank you, Memphis for being so good to me at a time when no one knew who I was. Flex Kavana was my name by the way. What was that? Everybody was saying, Cabana? Look at everybody laughing now.
Dave Brown as well. He was like Flex Cabana? Kavana? But thank you Memphis, Thank you, Dave Brown. Thank you TV. Thank you Channel 5, thank you for just embracing me and making me one of your sons so thank you,” said Johnson.
After our interview, the Rock posed for selfies one after another. He made it to the parking lot and consulted with his team on his next move in Memphis.
The star was in the city to record his appearances for Season 3 of Young Rock and to encourage the talented cast of actors playing him and his family and early life associates.
After a group selfie with members of our staff, the Rock climbed into his SUV and waved to his WMC fans as he rolled out of our parking lot to maneuver through our Memphis traffic.
The man is brave, indeed.
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