Wade Keller: Who do you think is the next Rock or the next Steve Austin on the WWF roster? Who has that untapped potential in the type of things that it took for you to make it - the dedication, almost perfectionism, all of those superlatives and adjectives? Who has those qualities so that in a year or three years, they are going to be the next guy knocking at your top spot?
Rock: That is hard to say. We have so much talent in the WWF. We have so many young guys who are clawing and scratching and hungry. I say young like I'm old even though I'm twenty-seven. But there are guys who are twenty-five or twenty-six, I think we have a couple of twenty-four year-olds, again, these guys are hungry which is great to see. So that is a hard question to answer.
Keller: Are there one or two guys, without trying to exclude anyone, that you can name that are above that crowd right now? Is it Andrew Martin, or Edge, or Matt Hardy, or Val Venis? Do any of those names really just stick out or are they all just kind of right there?
Rock: I tell you, all of those guys that you just mentioned are great guys. The Hardy Boys, Edge and Christian, Andrew (Martin).
Keller: D-Lo (Brown)?
Rock: D-Lo, sure, absolutely. Val Venis, I enjoy working with Shawn (Moorley). And I enjoyed him as a heel. He worked with me as a heel and he worked with Steve (Austin) as a heel. In time, I see big things for Shawn as I do for Andrew. Shawn showed that tenacity and that aggressiveness that you need when I worked with him. I can foresee big things for a lot of guys. Even the Dudley Boys. I was pleasantly surprised after our match, our tag match. I thought it went very well. I think they have certain idiosyncrasies that you don't see too often as heels. To be a true heel you can't have an ego. You have to have the mentality that I'm going to go out there and get my ass whooped and I'm going to give this babyface the biggest comeback he's ever had in his life and I'm going to keep these people up as high and for as long as I possibly can. That's the role of being a heel.
Keller: They are willing to show ass, so to speak.
Rock: Absolutely, you've got to. As a heel, you are going to get your ass whooped. If you are a great heel, you can get your ass whooped nightly, and have incredible heat. Going back to me as a heel, whether it was the IC Title or the World Title. I mean, the IC Title, I lost nightly (laughs).
Keller: As did Steve Austin before his WrestleMania win.
Rock: Sure. Absolutely.
Keller: I don't think Austin had one high-profile win over Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart or Undertaker, yet he was the biggest star in the WWF.
Rock: Absolutely. There is something special about getting your ass whooped and walking out the champion.
Keller: I left him off of the list, but a lot of people are talking about Chris Jericho. He's kind of had a rocky start in certain ways, a lot of it due to high expectations, but what is your take on his spot because he's received a bigger push upon entering the WWF than all of those other names that I mentioned?
Rock: Chris did have a hard time initially coming in. We have a different style up here, of working. Chris was so used to working with a lot of the luchadors and that style, again, we have a very distinct WWF-esque type of entertaining style up here. And it has taken Chris a little bit of time to get used to that and acclimate himself to that. Slowly, but surely, he's going to be there.
Keller: Is it fair to blame the DX group for trying to sabotage Chris Jericho's career out of jealous because he is a threat to some of them or all of them? Friends of his in WCW are speculating that that might be the case. Is there any truth to that?
Rock: I couldn't tell you that. I have no idea. Anyone who really knows me knows that I try not to involve myself in a lot of that political bullsh--. You can't hold talent down. There were times when some were trying to hold down the Rock from ascending to that very top tier, but you just can't do it. True or not, who knows?
Keller: But Jericho's adjustment to acclimating himself was not created solely by jealousy on anyone's part, it is simply an acclimation process? Is that fair?
Rock: I think that is fair to say. He was brought in and held in the highest regard and was ready to receive a big push. And of course, he made his debut with the Rock. I felt it was a hell of a segment. So, yes, Chris just needed to get acclimated. He is still acclimating himself and I think he's going to do fine. He should forget about all of the outside bullsh-- that goes on. My advice to Chris has always been, "Never mind the bullsh--, just go out there and do your thing. If you do things right, nothing is going to hold you down."
Keller: I don't think Shawn Michaels's name has come up other than when we talked about the Survivor Series. What are your thoughts on him? Was he helpful to you? Was he a hindrance to you? Was he someone you learned from, even his mistakes? Did he set a good example?
Rock: He was not helpful to me. I never sought his help. I really have nothing to say about Shawn.
Keller: Is that because if you can't say something good, you don't want to say anything at all?
Rock: Not necessarily. He was cordial with me as I was with him. But other than that, he doesn't know me well enough to speak of me and I don't know him well enough to speak of him.
Keller: Michaels is regarded as a fabulous athlete, a fabulous performer, and one of the best of this era or generation. If you agree with that to any degree, do you have a desire to work a top program with him if he were able to come back and work a handful of matches?
Rock: No, I have no desire to work with Shawn. None whatsoever.
Keller: Do you disagree that he was a great performer?
Rock: Not at all. He was a tremendous performer, a tremendous athlete. His work was an asset to the business.
Keller: You said one of your first memories in wrestling was of Pat Patterson. As I understand it, he is incredibly influential to this day when you are working out a match or an interview. What has he meant to you?
Rock: Not really on interviews, but matches. Pat Patterson's mind for the business is amazing. The finishes, the drama that he comes up with is fantastic. I would like to end the misconception that he only comes up with great finishes for the Rock's matches. That's not the case. The top matches have Pat Patterson's finishes. The WWF Title matches have Pat Patterson's finishes. I'm constantly picking his mind as I am Vince's (McMahon's) and guys like that. He just has a tremendous mind for the business. And the guys who reach a certain level and have the privilege of working with him and consume the drama that he comes up with and the theatricalities that he comes up with in terms of match finishes is fantastic.
Keller: What is your favorite match that you've been in to this point?
Rock: My favorite pay-per-view match would have to be WrestleMania XV with Steve and then the match after that, "Backlash" with Steve, as well. And, of course, I've had some great house show matches with Steve. I've had some great house show matches as well as pay-per-view matches with Hunter. I enjoy working with Hunter. Hunter is a real student of the game. He's great to have around and I learn from him. If I learn from him then we feed off of each other. I tell you what, X-Pac is another guy I've had great matches with. I enjoy working with Sean (Waltman, a.k.a. X-Pac).
Keller: X-Pac seems like someone who, if you are not privy to the inner-workings of the wrestling business, you might think he's cool or popular, you might like to see him perform, but I think people are surprised at his age the level of respect he's reached behind the scenes in the business. Some people would be surprised by the respect he has from all levels in wrestling.
Rock: Absolutely. We're the same age, he and I, we're twenty-seven. He's like the oldest twenty-seven year-old I know. I enjoy working with him and I've had some great matches with him. And Mick Foley, too, is another guy I've enjoyed working with over the years. With Mick's style and my style, and especially with all of the pay-per-view matches we did and TV matches and half-time of the Super Bowl, we've had so many matches that we've always been forced to be creative. There is a comedy chemistry that you have with Mick and me. There is an undeniable chemistry there with Mick and me in terms of entertainment. Again, as there is an undeniable kick-ass chemistry between Rock and Austin.
Keller: What did it mean to you to headline WrestleMania? Had it at that point become inevitable and it was just the next logical step, or was there something special about that name , WrestleMania, and being the headliner on the marquee?
Rock: Absolutely. It was very special to me to headline WrestleMania, with the history of WrestleMania, all of those who have been in the headlining position of WrestleMania, and to know that Steve and I did that, pulled in a record number without the celebrities that WrestleMania usually has. That was a fantastic feeling.
Keller: What makes a match good in your eyes? Is it all crowd pops, is it whether it draws money, is it a sense of wanting to do something new?
Rock: What makes a match to me is to not necessarily go out there and do moves that are going to kill you, but to go out there and present a match that is essentially an emotional roller-coaster, complete with ups and downs, drama, and it obviously helps to have two characters in there who click. And, of course, a dramatic ending - win, lose, or draw.
Keller: Seeing what has happened to Steve Austin and looking at Mick Foley today, have you worked very hard at being very efficient, so to speak, in the moves that you do to limit wear and tear on your body?
Rock: I've worked very hard at being efficient. I've worked very hard at being very crisp and solid with what I do. I don't do a thousand moves. I do a good number of moves, but I always make sure that what I do is very solid and I absolutely believe in the moves that I'm doing. They are very crisp, very solid, and very believable. I believe it and I know it comes across that way, that's why I know that the people believe it. It's one of those things that it's easier said than done. It's easier to say than to realize and try to ingest that everything happens for a reason. I told Steve that and I know that Mick knows that, too. Anyone who has had an injury knows that. I've had my fair share of injuries in football and in wrestling, too, but it's one of those things where when you think about it, I don't believe you perform to the best of your ability. You have to go out there and not think about getting hurt, think you are in God's hands, and go out without inhibitions.
Keller: This is one of those locker room scuttlebutt type things, but a couple of years ago I heard that "Rocky is too careful, he's not willing to take enough chances." Was there ever a time when you took that too far?
Rock: I think that came from (laughs). In fact I know that came from the run I had with Mick Foley. Mick Foley was doing everything while the Rock was taking a DDT through a table and that was it (laughs). I was very fortunate as a heel with the heat I got and as a babyface the reactions I get. What I will do is go out there and entertain you. Everything I do will be solid and believable. Mick Foley's choice of path is, as we all know, is very dangerous. And he has chosen that way and he's found his niche and that is his niche. But that certainly is not mine (laughs).
Keller: How about at the time of the ladder match with Triple H? Did you hear any criticism that you were too conservative?
Rock: I never heard any criticism about that, and if I did, I would say okay. That particular ladder match was not necessarily full of taking crazy bumps and unnecessarily crazy bumps, but moreso just putting in thirty minutes of drama and working toward a hell of a reaction at the end of the match. And that is exactly what we got.
Keller: Kind of an emotional roller-coaster ride as opposed to one highspot after another?
Rock: Oh, absolutely.
Keller: How long do you want to wrestle?
Rock: I want to wrestle as long as I continue to be blessed with the ability. That sounds corny, but it's true.
Keller: Mick Foley came out with this unbelievable book and you have one coming out in a couple of weeks. Are you worried about not living up to Mick Foley's book? Or how is it different from what Mick Foley has done?
Rock: I am not worried about being able to follow Mick's book. The success of Mick's book has been unbelievable and I'm very happy for him. My book, "The Rock Says," is a different type of book. Again, I grew up in the industry whereas Mick didn't. There is different insight coming from a completely different view of growing up in the industry. A lot of the book is written as the Rock speaking, talking about matches. This is where it becomes zany and a laugh-out-loud, hysterically entertaining book. You can imagine.