In the middle of the 1998 NBA Finals, Dennis Rodman just decided to become a professional wrestler. This caused headaches for the Chicago Bulls, especially for head coach Phil Jackson. Professional wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, Rodman’s close confidant, shared the tumultuous circumstances on that fateful day when the Zen Master continuously nagged him.
The Last Dance
In Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals, the Bulls humiliated the Jazz, 96-54, to take a 2-1 lead. Rodman snagged six rebounds in 22 minutes — a subpar performance based on his standards. After a poor showing, your average player would grin, bear it, and move on to the next game. But Rodman isn’t your ordinary player. And his way of coping was to fulfill his other dream: to become a professional wrestler, even for just one night.
Obviously, this little plan did not sit well with the Zen Master. He called the 1997-98 season “The Last Dance” because it might be the team’s last hurrah together. And so Jackson, who was used to Rodman’s antics, confronted him head-on. Or at least he tried. Jackson contacted Hulk Hogan, who then begged Rodman to follow his coach’s orders.
“I’ve got Phil Jackson calling me, going, ‘Where’s my guy at, where’s my guy at?’” recalled Hulk Hogan in a WWE Chronicle documentary on Rodman produced for the WWE Network. “I’m going, ‘Rodman, Phil Jackson keeps blowing up my phone, you gotta go back, [and Rodman] says, ‘I don’t wanna go back,’” per ESPN.
It’s been etched in history that Rodman was absent from the Bulls practice for Game 4. It’s also in the record books that the Bulls won Game 4 and took a 3-1 lead. Rodman also snagged 14 rebounds in 29 minutes.
Setting the pieces
Then WCW president Eric Bischoff didn’t give a damn about how Rodman’s absence affected the Bulls and their title quest. His concern was how he could dovetail Rodman’s appearance into something bigger.
“I couldn’t talk to Dennis and Karl [Malone] about doing anything during play that would help promote WCW,” said WCW president Eric Bischoff in the same WWE Network documentary. “But someone may have said, ‘Hey guys, if you get an opportunity during stoppage to have any kind of animated conversation between you two, that would only help,’” Bischoff said.
Bishoff’s scheme came into fruition just a month after the NBA Finals. Dennis Rodman came back. This time, it wasn’t just a small cameo. The Worm put his tights and wrestling boots on and actually wrestled. He teamed up with Hulk Hogan as they fought a tag team duel with Karl Malone and Diamond Dallas Page. From getting physical on the basketball court, Malone and Rodman threw clotheslines at one another inside the squared circle.