When Dennis Rodman entered the world of actively competing in professional wrestling in 1997, it only made sense to join forces with his old friend and one of the most popular heels at the time, Hulk Hogan and the New World Order (nWo). They were the bad boys of the wrestling world – like Rodman’s Detroit Pistons a decade earlier, just not as physical.
He was still an elite NBA player, and a key member of the Chicago Bulls during “The Last Dance” season, but Rodman always enjoyed hobbies and needed different ways to stay motivated. Hence, his foray into wrestling.
The story goes that Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (the WWE today) was interested in signing the Chicago Bulls forward, but Hogan was friends with Rodman and convinced him to sign with WCW instead. It was the higher rated brand at the time, and the former Detroit Piston Bad Boy was also promoting his movie Double Team, which honestly seems like one of the worst movies ever – I mean, just look at this crap.
Regardless of its quality, WCW made the most sense, at least as a promotional vehicle, and his ensuing arrival was made official on Monday Nitro on March 10 in a segment recorded one night earlier – when the Bulls lost to the New York Knicks.
While popping up over the next 18 months on house shows and Monday Nitro events, Rodman officially fought three times with WCW. His independent match against Mr Perfect was considered halfway decent, though he was clearly never going to have a full wrestling career – even if there were a handful of not-terrible moments. But if you’re going to invest your time in watching them, here are his best performances in the squared circle.
3: Rodzilla vs Macho Man Randy Savage – Road Wild, 1999
This was Rodman’s final match, and his novelty had worn off.
The narrative leading up to the fight was good: womanizer Rodman had been eyeing up Randy Savage’s girlfriend Gorgeous George, and Macho Man didn’t take to kindly it.
Rodzilla arrived at the ring in a flamboyant dressing gown but leapt out of it when Savage arrived, only to get on the microphone and ask his rival “where’s my bitch?” referring to George.
When the match began, it started out as a brawl, with Rodman physically dominating Savage outside the ring by pushing him into turnbuckle posts and lighting rigs. When the fight eventually got going inside the ring, a series of simple displays of physicality, such as big punches and clotheslines. Rodman executed a good Russian leg sweep but that was the end of the wrestling.
They headed outside the ring again and bump and punched their way back stage. After throwing Rodman into some trash, Savage opened the door to a portaloo and removed whoever was in there. Savage threw Rodman in, somehow locked it from the outside and pushed over the toilet, spilling lumpy liquid out of the bottom of it – a Jackass move before Jackass.
Once again, they took the long walk down back to the ring, throwing punches and crap wrestling moves before Gorgeous George arrived, handing Savage a chain. He used it to punch Rodman and pin him, bringing a thankful end to a terrible match.
2: Rodzilla and Hollywood Hogan vs The Mailman and Diamond Dallas Page – Bash At The Beach, 1998
While watching the Houston Rockets play the Utah Jazz, Diamond Dallas Page caught Karl Malone’s eye and The Mailman threw up the Diamond Cutter signal from the bench. The two connected, and when DDP heard that Rodman was coming back for a second stint in the WCW, he connected with Malone and WCW President Eric Bischoff.
A couple of Nitro appearances later, including one when Rodman was supposed to be at Bulls practice during the Finals, the date was set for a tag team match on Bash At The Beach.
It was a deathly slow build up. Rodman and Malone began the match and the two circled each other for what felt like 10 minutes. Eventually they locked up and Malone was put into a headlock, but he whipped Rodman into the ropes before the recently crowned NBA champion escaped the ring.
A tag was made to bring Hogan in against Malone, but the Utah Jazz forward body slammed the nWo leader with ease – an impressive display of strength.
They both tagged out and after much circling and jostling, Rodman claimed that Page grabbed his do-rag, so he spat at his opponent. Rodman arm-dragged Page, then there were some awkward moments between the two when they tripped and collided, and repeated the sequence in a bid to get it right. Rodman whipped Page into the ropes and then leapt over him twice, only to awkwardly collide again with the basketball player appearing to clash heads with DDP and then fall into him.
All the rumors were that Malone had been the one turning up and paying attention at training, and it showed. The Mailman showed strength and athleticism, leaping over the ropes to enter the ring, he caught Hogan and Rodman with body slams, hit Hulk with a big boot and connected with multiple clotheslines.
Meanwhile, Rodman looked tired. He’d apparently spent a lot of time partying whenever he was with the WCW, and had recently won his third straight NBA championship with the Bulls.
The match finished with DDP hitting a Diamond Cutter on Hogan, and was about to pin him until Rodman entered the ring. Malone caught his basketball rival with a Diamond Cutter of his own, and there was then some awkwardness over who was the legal tag and The Mailman tried to pin Rodzilla.
In the confusion, Discipline – an nWo wrestler situated outside the ring – hit DDP with a stunner and laid Hogan’s arm over him. The referee counted three and Rodzilla got the first win of his WCW career alongside Hogan.
1: Rodzilla and Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs Lex Luger and Giant – Bash At The Beach, 1997
Rodman first wrestled at The Bash At The Beach, which continued a long-running rivalry between the nWo and the rest of WCW, which was represented by Lex Luger – an underrated wrestler from the 1990s – and Giant, who many WWE fans would recognise as The Big Show. It took some time for Rodman to enter the ring while Hogan hogged the limelight early against Luger and Giant. But standing on the apron, Rodman knew what he was doing – cheering his partner on, chatting strategy and lifting his foot up on the rope so Luger’s head could be thrown into it. He even got into it with the referee.
When he finally entered, Rodman grappled with Luger and armdragged his opponent to the mat. The crowd popped, Luger looked suitably shocked, but when the two locked horns again, he got the better of Rodman with an armdrag of his own. Rodman fell well and looked like he’d been training in between the missed Bulls practices.
Rodman then whipped Luger into the ropes and leapt over him impressively to avoid contact, before knocking the wrestler down. They awkwardly repeated the same sequence, but there were other times when Rodman held his own: elbows in the corner, a double hiptoss with Hogan on Giant, and the basketball player threw himself around the ring enough around the ring enough to concern the Bulls training staff. The match ended when Luger made Hogan tap out with the Torture Rack.
Off the mat
While nobody could ever knock Rodman’s effort when the lights were on, and his athleticism was probably better than most professional wrestlers at the time, he was noted for picking a commitment to training. This could have been due to his main job as a basketball player or the rising distractions as a celebrity. Either way, 1999 was Rodman’s last hurrah in WCW. He managed a few more celebrity matches but nothing caught the headlines like his time with the New World Order.