Since its launch, AEW has reached out to several former wrestlers and gauged their interest in working for the promotion. Some have joined AEW, like former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jake Hager, and others have not with Rocky Johnson being the latter.
Johnson talked about why he passed up on AEW and what he thought of Dusty Rhodes when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"It was great working with Dusty. We were tag champs in Florida and we switched back and forth with the heavyweight belt. Now that his son has a chance with this Elite Wrestling, they have the capital and everything. I had talked with them and probably could have worked with them, but I'm not interested anymore," admitted Johnson.
"But, the point is, that no matter how much money you've got, if you don't have talent then you're not gonna draw. But they are smart enough in that they are getting these independents and are opening a school where they're gonna develop their own talent.
"I think it's gonna be good, the wrestling wars because it's gonna be good for the guys. But I think a lot of them are gonna jump ship from WWE."
Throughout his career which took him all over the world, Johnson worked with various wrestling promoters. Some were good and some were not and he discussed what it takes to be a good promoter.
"A good promoter is one that treats you with respect and as a human being. I worked for promoters that I couldn't stand and they couldn't stand me. But they knew if they put my name out there, I would sell out for them," said Johnson before adding that performer also needs to show the promoter respect, but not necessarily kiss his ass.
"You've got to have a good rapport with whoever you're with."
Johnson was with WWE in the 1980s when the company transitioned from being under Vince McMahon Sr to Vince Jr. He talked about this change and what it did for the pro wrestling business.
"[Vince Jr] was doing the announcing then, but we had a meeting and Vince [Jr] did all the talking and you go ask Sr a question and Vince Jr would answer," Johnson said of the transition. "You could see that he was getting more powerful. Sr was one of the greatest men I ever met and I was there when he passed away. Vince Jr took over and he had big dreams which we all did. He proved his dreams and not only took over the wrestling business, he said I'm gonna take the world and he did."
Johnson then talked about all the places in the world he has been to because of the McMahons. However, when asked if he was a fan of the direction of the business under Vince Jr, Johnson was short with his answer.
"No. But I don't wanna get into it though," replied Johnson.
In 2008 Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his son The Rock. He explained why that was such a bittersweet moment.
"It was great and it was not great. It was great that they acknowledge you and they give you a ring and a big plaque," stated Johnson. "To me, it's a sendoff. It's over – that's the end. But I knew that and I told them that the next time you see me, it will be on a tape on TV."
He added that Vince should do more for aging talent but former wrestlers get treated the same way as former athletes in every other sport. Promoters are always quick to replace someone that they no longer need or think they can't draw them any money.
"Promoters know the business. The boys are just pawns in the chess game. You move, they move," said Johnson.
Rocky Johnson's autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story" will be available for purchase on-line and in stores on October 15, 2019. You can pre-order the book via Amazon by clicking here. Rocky's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Rocky discusses writing his upcoming autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story", his final memories of Peter Maivia, encountering racism early in his pro wrestling career, ways black wrestlers used to be stereotyped, crazy ribs he's pulled, AEW, training his son The Rock and more.