CAC Stars Star On Television And The Rock's First CAC Event Back in 1995! By Dr Mike Lano
Many from our CAC family have been on television lately well beyond our "Rock" in Dwayne Johnson. He remains the world's number one and top grossing motion picture star as ranked by both the Motion Picture Association of America, the Associated Press plus industry trades like The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Multichannel News, etc entertainment outlets for well over a year. If that wasn't enough, Rock hosts the second season of his hit NBC show The Titan Games Monday nights. His Disney family film based on their Jungle Cruise Ride debuts soon and is predicted to be yet another box office smash. NBC next year also debuts his new "Young Rock" tv series based on his amazing childhood and even his early in-ring career as a third-generation wrestling star. Dwayne will again not only star but executive produce the show from his Seven Bucks production team. It's been one of the few to ever be immediately green-lit or given straight-to-series orders by this major tv network. This after his hit HBO cable show Ballers recently ended it's multi-season run. ABC recently reaired his animated film Moana to record ratings. Of course he sings in it so is there anything he can't accomplish?
Dwayne recently became a CAC Life Member and of course his beloved mom Ata Maivia-Johnson regularly attends CAC besides almost every major pro wrestling event, Hall of Fame, brother/sisterhood reunion and of course most major WWE pay-per-view events front row. Usually with Rock's oldest daughter Simone (formerly nicknamed "Pebbles") who's training at WWE's NXT to become what most believe will be the world's first fourth-generation wrestler. And she's WWE's youngest signee ever. Rock recently said Simone's WWE career is already "blowing his mind since she wants to do it on her own, forge her own path which is so important." Simone had already been on-stage and on-camera for several award shows like the Golden Globes escorting honorees off after they'd given their acceptance speeches. She's in good company as other teens who've done it include acting family royalty who became stars themselves like Melanie Griffith and Lucie Arnaz. Simone recently said "it(wrestling) means the world to me. To know that my family has such a personal connection to wrestling is really special and I feel grateful to have the opportunity, not only to wrestle, but to carry on that legacy."
As CAC's photographer all these decades, I was with Dwayne at his only CAC to date back in 1995 when we had one of our few ancillary CAC weekends in Tampa, FL. Dwayne was lead presenter along with WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson to present the top men's award that year to Dwayne's dad and Pat's famous San Francisco/Roy Shire territory World Tag Partner Rocky Johnson. Jack and Jerry Brisco, double CAC-honoree Dory Funk Jr(who honored us with his presence last year again at the podium and for a daytime class) plus Wahoo McDaniel all paid respects at the podium to Rocky. I always remind Pat that at that event, he told me he predicted that Dwayne would not only become a huge wrestling star(he was just finishing up at WWF's then OVW training system) but also a major movie and tv star. Pat "The Starmaker" Patterson, still knows his stuff. But let's not forget what a great athlete he also was in the Los Angeles territory, Eddie Graham's Florida, Verne Gagne's AWA, in Montreal for International, New Japan for Antonio Inoki, the Pacific Northwest and more. Pat and Duane's ring accomplishments are all over WWE's streaming network programming.
*WWE and Lucha Underground alum Matt Stryker, after just two episodes on Fox's brand new Wednesday night reality show "Labor Of Love," is already not only the star but also seemingly the front runner to win. The show is hosted and jointly conceived by Sex and the City HBO star Kristin Davis who says "whoever wins the competition will skip the dating and go straight to baby-making." It pits 15 males competing to win the love of Diana Bunici who "wants to find my soul mate and have a baby right away." Bunici said on episode two "I feel the most comfortable around Matt, who's been a very calming presence during all the show's stress. I could easily see myself growing old with this wrestler." It's worth a look to support Matt who created a lot of memories at CAC last year in his "deathmatch" with Rock Riddle. It was Matt's first CAC, but hopefully not the last.
*Many CAC members past and present have participated in VICE cable network's second season of it's "Dark Side Of The Ring" weekly documentaries. The four year old network said it's been their biggest ratings success ever. President Brian Blair along with 1991 CAC Los Angeles attendee Missy Hyatt, 1995 CAC Tampa attendees Danny Spivey and Brian Knobbs; multi-attendees Barbara Goodish, Mick "Cactus Jack, Mankind" Foley, Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine, Kevin Von Erich, Jim Ross, Pat Laprade, Bertrand Hebert, 2019 attendee John Arezzi, Jim Cornette and many others have participated on-air as well as CAC honoree Wendi Richter and more. Paul Ellering and Animal Joe Laurenitis(to be honored soon by CAC) of course were the leads on the dedicated LOD/Road Warriors episode.
Until recent years, pro wrestling seldom cracked mainstream media and entertainment even though it was arguably televisions very first massive hit(from Jules Strongbow's syndicated L.A. brilliance to the equally great Chicago Marigold Arena Fred Kohler weekly spectaculars). Many of my fellow biz historians were just thrilled any time Bing Crosby or Bob Hope would even mention Gorgeous George's name. Or when the Three Stooges had dedicated shorts on legit wrestling fan Curly(Jerome Howard)grappling right in the ring. Few know both Curly and older brother Shemp Howard regularly attended wrestling cards at the Olympic Auditorium in the forties.
We had Jack Benny's tv show with him in the ring. Nat King Cole singing "Nature Boy" on tv at the piano to(1993 CAC honoree) Buddy Rogers in the early 50's. Gene Lebell and Count Billy Varga appearing on the The Munsters. The tide changed when Andre The Giant appeared on The Tonight Show in the seventies. Soon he was memorably in The Princess Bride. There was CAC honorees Fred(Dick Van Dyke Show Twizzling WWA Champ) Blassie and Verne Gagne seconding Muhammad Ali(or was it seconding wrestler Buddy Wolfe?) on ABC's Wide World Of Sports prior to the Ali/Inoki 1976 bout. Peter Maivia fighting Sean Connery's James Bond at length in You Only Live Twice. The tv shows and films HB Haggerty and CAC founder Mike Mazurki appeared in for decades. Retro tv Network airs the mid 60's Jerry Lewis ABC syndicated tv show that featured weekly regulars Mike Mazurki and CAC attendee Harold "Odd Job/Tosh Togo" Sakata. Only one episode however had them both in a skit together, tossing faux lumberjack Lewis crashing through various windows. CAC honoree Prof. Toru Tanaka also appeared on tv and films and how about Bobby Heenan, Killer Kowalski, Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler on Letterman! Things improved again after WWF's 1984 Rock and Wrestling Connection along with the first Wrestlemania making our industry cool and part of "the daily news and pop culture conversation." Hogan and Mr T on Saturday Night Live begat Rock, HHH and Paul "Big Show" Wight popping ratings on the same NBC institution later. Now we think nothing of wrestlers regularly appearing on Ellen, Rachael Ray, all the late night shows like Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmell, Colbert and Mick Foley was even a regular political correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. CAC'ers Sabu, RVD and more have discussed world events on Vice's trippy Action Bronson show.
Lately, we've even had icons from Ric Flair to Hulk(Hogan Know's Best reality show)Hogan throwing out MLB's first pitches in important games. The biz is at it's rightful position at the world table. And we've not even mentioned John Cena and Rock as MakeAWIsh top requests. Or all the wrestling athletes who've regularly entertained our troops. Or Iron Mike Tyson crushing tv ratings first on WWE programming like RAW and then just last Wednesday night on successful upstart All Elite Wrestling's show on TNT(AEW Dynamite) recreating the Tyson/Steve Austin pullapart with a renewed Tyson/Chris Jericho brawl, ten years after they first made headlines. Jericho's not only hosted heavy metal cable shows but also rock music award shows. A wrestling company(Impact owner Anthem) now even owns a major stake in a huge tv network(Mark Cuban's AXS formerly HDNet).
Pro Wrestling will continue it's rightful ascension dominating pop culture. It was the first competitive sports/ent genre to return without missing a beat last March during the Pandemic. And there's more content coming like more Miz & Mrs reality show, WWE female stars reality show Total Divas and grappling's version of the Kardashians, The Bella Twins and their own weekly reality show Total Bellas besides their wine line. Mike the Miz' newest game show Cannonball debuting soon on USA Network which already airs RAW and NXT each week.
"Wow, how far wrestling's come bay bay" as NXT champ Adam Cole would say.