WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart said this week on his Confessions Of The Hitman podcast that Shawn Michaels and Triple H had it out for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson early in his WWE tenure.
On the podcast (h/t WrestlingInc.com's William Windsor), Hart specifically mentioned a time when Michaels berated The Rock for using a missile dropkick during a match:
"I remember Shawn Michaels coming into the dressing room and dressing down poor Dwayne. Shawn came in and just dressed him down and he chewed him out. And I believe [HBK] told [The Rock] to never do a top-rope dropkick ever again because that was his move. That's what he was mad about. And then he slammed the door and he walked out. The Rock was [deflated] because in those days, Shawn had a lot of weight. He was a pretty important guy for the company, a veteran guy kind of dressing him down like that. He was apologizing and said he didn't know, and he thought it would be OK.
"I remember the door closed after Shawn left and I said, 'That's bulls--t. That's total bulls--t.' I said, 'Nobody owns the dropkick off the top. You can do that. Owen [Hart] does it all the time! Why doesn't he cut a promo on Owen?' I said, 'They're just busting your chops, and they're trying to work on you.'"
Hart said Triple H also gave The Rock a hard time and expressed his belief that both Michaels and Triple H wanted The Rock gone from WWE:
"Triple H was the same. He was always out to get The Rock. Shawn was out to get him, and they just worked on him and worked on him and worked on him. And I left. [The Rock] was still in the doghouse with those guys. They wanted him [out] as bad as they wanted me out. Like, they were after him. And for me, maybe a year later, he started getting his break, and he started to take off in WWE, and I'm so glad he overcame their petty bulls--t."
Hart noted that Michaels and Triple H "almost succeeded," but The Rock eventually gained his footing by turning heel and joining the Nation of Domination after his ill-fated babyface run as Rocky Maivia.
The Rock went on to become one of the most popular and successful Superstars in WWE history, and now he is the highest-earning actor in Hollywood.
The Rock was a highly touted prospect when he arrived in WWE in 1996 as the son of WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson and grandson of WWE Hall of Famer Peter Maivia. The Rock also had an impressive athletic background having played college football at the University of Miami.
For as athletically gifted as he was, the WWE fanbase didn't initially embrace him, instead opting to boo him despite his babyface persona. Everything changed once he turned heel, though, as he was finally able to tap into his considerable charisma.
Michaels and Triple H were atop the company in 1997 when The Rock was receiving a push, and it has often been claimed by many in the business that Michaels and Triple H were among those who had no issue using their backstage clout to influence booking decisions.
Hart is well aware of that fact, as he was on the wrong end of the Montreal Screwjob in 1997. The Screwjob was orchestrated backstage by the likes of Michaels, Triple H and Vince McMahon as a means of getting the WWE Championship away from Hart before he made the move from WWE to WCW.
While Hart seems to be in a better place with Michaels and Triple H now than he was back then, there are clearly still some hard feelings on The Hitman's part.
Hart expressed his belief that Michaels and Triple H attempting to hold The Rock back was a result of professional jealousy and fear that he would take their spot.
The Rock did go on to become one of the top guys in the company along with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, but both Michaels and Triple H continued to enjoy a great deal of success regardless, which proves there is plenty of room for multiple stars when the wrestling business is booming like it was during the Attitude Era.
Listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot wrestling topics. Catch the latest episode in the player below (warning: some language NSFW).