Rodzilla on the rampage: Inside the sports-entertainment career of Dennis Rodman

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June 28, 2013

Rodzilla’s team ultimately lost the match, but the event was a flat-out hit. More importantly, an athlete who was both hugely famous and seriously controversial had embraced the world of sports-entertainment a full year before Mike Tyson mean mugged with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on WWE TV. WCW had leveraged sports stars before — namely former NFL heavies Kevin Greene, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Reggie White — but none of them brought in the attention that Rodman did. A year later, WCW attempted to double their luck.

“I went over to [former WCW executive] Eric Bischoff’s house and I said, ‘I got this idea: Me and Malone against Rodman and Hogan,” Diamond Dallas Page said. “Bischoff thought about it and went, ‘Wow, Hogan and Rodman versus Savage and Malone.’ I said, ‘Maybe you didn’t hear me. Me and Malone, because this is my connection and I’m not giving it to anybody.’”

Check out photos from Rodman's WCW tenure

It was smart thinking on DDP’s part. At that time, Malone’s Jazz and Rodman’s Bulls were battling for the NBA title. More than that, Malone — a hardworking, respectful family man — represented everything the lavish, outspoken Rodman didn’t. It was a perfect dichotomy, the embodiment of the black hat versus white hat tenet that defined sports-entertainment. And the press ate it up.

“Rodman doing the nWo thing got coverage, but it’s Dennis Rodman. He’s a superfreak!” DDP said. “But when Karl Malone got involved, that’s when the world went, ‘What the [hell]?’”

The showdown was hyped on an episode of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” showing just how ingrained in pop culture wrestling had become. Page and Malone confronted Hogan and Rodman on the set of America’s top late-night talk show, even getting into a skirmish with Leno squished in the middle. The Hulkster hadn’t enjoyed that kind of national prominence since he hosted “Saturday Night Live” with Mr. T back in ’84.

On July 12, 1998, the two teams squared off at the Bash at the Beach event in front of more than 10,000 fans in San Diego’s Cox Arena. As much as it was a spectacle, the bout was not very good. Malone — who managed to appear both neighborly and completely ripped in a manner reminiscent of Ned Flanders — had dreamed of being a professional wrestler as a child and was clearly primed. Rodman, on the other hand, looked sluggish and, at times, barely conscious.

“He’s probably one of the only people in the history of our business to fall asleep during a match, using the turnbuckle as a pillow,” Dean Malenko said.

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