As one of the biggest stars ever to hit the squared circle within the WWE, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has amassed not only a huge fandom among the general public, but also behind the pro wrestling curtain. Johnson comes from a family of wrestlers, with his own WWE debut happening 24 years ago, so when he publicly shares his opinions about the Greatest of All Time athletes in the sport’s history, it’s definitely worth listening.
They’re two of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. But if you had to pick one, who would you choose: Stone Cold Steve Austin or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? It’s a question we recently asked the WWE Universe — and one The Rock himself saw fit to answer.
While taking the time to answer questions from fans on Twitter, the Rock was faced with what would seemingly be a hard question, to name his wrestling G.O.A.T. But there was no hesitation when he laid his answer out there. In his words:
In wrestling? Easy answer; when I was 15 (broke & evicted) this man let me live with him in Nashville. Downtown Bruno. Most don’t know who Bruno is but a few do. My brother [Stone Cold Steve Austin] comes in a very close 2nd. Cheers to life’s wild and unpredictable journey #goat
Surprisingly enough, The Rock’s first choice for his pro wrestling G.O.A.T. isn’t Ric Flair or Bret Hart or one of the many crowd-building superstars that held long championship reigns within WWE history. Instead, he went with Downtown Bruno, perhaps better known to ’90s wrestling fans as Harvey Wippleman (whose real name is actually Bruno Lauer).
Having started his career off wrestling and managing in independent wrestling promotions around the South, Bruno Lauer took his Harvey Wippleman persona to the WWE (then WWF) in the 1990s, serving as a great foil as a manager for wrestlers such as Giant Gonzalez and Kamala. Wippleman was involved in some of the more ridiculous matches in that era, including the Tuxedo Match against his rival, ring announcer Howard Finkel (R.I.P.). He also became the first man to win the WWE Women’s Championship belt, while dressed as a woman and going under the faux persona Hervina.
It’s no secret that Dwayne Johnson was something of a troublemaker in his teens in Hawaii, having been evicted from his apartment at 14, and having to rely on stealing from tourists to acquire funds.
So it’s obviously great that he was able to eventually cross paths with Downtown Bruno Lauer in Nashville to find some temporary shelter. Apparently that graciousness meant the world to Johnson, who gave Lauer the ultimate compliment by giving him G.O.A.T. status.
A wrestler who needs no introduction, if only because he’d do a way better job of giving it himself, Stone Cold Steve Austin made the cut as The Rock’s second-tier G.O.A.T., which feels like a slightly more fitting answer for the question, since he was a proper WWE superstar that arguably laid the “referring to himself in third-person” groundwork for The Rock’s rise as a microphone master.
Steve Austin took on various personas in the wrestling world prior to his Stone Cold debut – including “Stunning” Steve Austin in the WCW, and The Ringmaster in the WWE – but everything changed in 1996, when the outspoken wrestler dropped one of pro wrestling’s most beloved (and lucrative) catchphrases: Austin 3:16. It’s almost hard to believe that was the same year that Dwayne Johnson got hired to the WWE and fought under the name Rocky Maivia. (Fun fact: The Undertaker thought that Johnson wouldn’t last after his Madison Square Gardens debut.)