Frank Shamrock is undoubtedly one of the pioneers of mixed martial arts and although he is still unlikely to get into the UFC Hall of Fame, many hardcore fans know who he is and the legends that follow him.
Here is the tale of an often untold story, the night WWE (professional wrestling) owner Vince McMahon and Shamrock almost got into a tussle.
According to wrestler Chris Jericho’s autobiography: The Best in the World, At What I Have No Idea, McMahon called Shamrock a midget, not fully knowing who he was or what he was capable of. The story goes like this:
The night before WrestleMania 25, the legends and I were scheduled to have a rehearsal to discuss what we wanted to do in the match. The layout was pretty simple: I would beat Snuka in a minute, Piper in two minutes, and then Steamboat in about five. Afterward I’d then beat up Flair and challenge Rourke, who would enter the ring and hit me with a knockout punch. Mickey’s spot was easy, but a rehearsal was necessary since it was his first time in the WWE. I was looking forward to finally meeting him after our Larry King confrontation and the subsequent weeks of buildup I’d done on Raw without him.
I got to Reliant Stadium in Houston at midnight and walked out onto the massive set that had been constructed at one end of the field. I could see Rourke in the ring with his entourage and they appeared to be the size of ants, and I started walking the one hundred yards down the ramp, when I ran into a WWE publicist. “Hey, I just talked to Mickey and he’s mad at you,” she said. “He thinks you have a real problem with him.” That surprised me. “Well, did you tell him I don’t?” “No. Should I have?” Uh, yeah . . . I mean, what did she think the letters PR stood for in the first place? I was part of the Public and it was her job to Relate to Mickey that I was a good guy.
As I got closer to the ring, I could see Rourke staring at me and noticed that his entourage looked less like Turtle and Drama and more like the Delta Force. Three shredded bodybuilders glared at me with their heavily tattoed arms crossed in front of them. . . . One was even wearing army fatigues, for Pete Fornatale’s sake! I knew my work was cut out for me as I climbed into the ring and greeted Mickey with a warm smile. “Hey, man, nice to finally meet you!” I said cheerily and gave him the kind of hug you see two dudes in da club do when they don’t really know each other. I could sense the last thing he wanted to do was embrace me and he couldn’t pull away fast enough.
He was about the same height as I and looked like he’d been through the ringer a time or two, with the wear and tear on his face to show it. His hair was braided with blue and green extensions and held up in a topknot à la Jericho circa 1999. His face was oddly puffy, and with his dyed-black goatee, gold front tooth, and slight hint of BO, he reminded me of an older Jack Sparrow, you savvy? He also looked tough as shit and ready to snap, not the kind of guy I wanted on my bad side. Especially since I was supposed to be taking a punch from him the next day.
We exchanged some small talk as Rourke’s Dorks kept staring at me, seemingly ready to pounce at any given moment. To make matters even worse, I recognized the one on the left as Frank Shamrock, and even though he was the shortest of the three, he was one of the toughest UFC fighters ever. What were these guys even doing here? I decided that the direct approach was in order. “Hey, man, I hear you’re a little pissed off at me for the Larry King thing, but I want you to know that I was just putting on a show, ya dig?” Rourke’s face hardened as if he’d been waiting to get to the heart of the matter from the moment I got into the ring. “No, brother,” he said with his distinct New York accent. “You don’t say the things you said to me and not mean it. In my world, in the boxing world, when you say that shit, it’s because you’re looking for a fight.”
Wow. That explained why he’d never replied after I’d sent the text through Flair. He was legitimately pissed with me. “No, it’s not like that, man. I was trying to get people interested in seeing us wrestle each other. I was just playing a character. Same thing you do when you do a movie.” Here I was explaining acting and the inner workings of pro wrestling to a man who had just won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his portrayal of a pro wrestler. After a few more minutes, I was finally able to convince him that I’d had been playing a role on the King show. His face softened as he realized I was telling the truth. “So you’re telling me that even though I’m the one who got nominated for an Oscar, you outacted me?!” He burst out with a you son of a bitch laugh and gave me a bear hug for real this time. All the tension floated away and the entire vibe in the ring changed.
He went on saying how he was so mad after the show that he’d called his agents and demanded them to allow him to fight me. They of course said no, so he had planned another form of revenge. He pointed to the bruisers standing beside him and said, “I flew these guys into Houston on my own dime to make sure everything went smoothly. If you tried anything funny, I told them to kick the shit out of you.” I was flattered but told him that maybe he had overestimated me a little. “Mickey, to be honest, you didn’t need to bring three guys. I’m sure just one of them would’ve sufficed.” All of us laughed except the guy wearing army fatigues, an Israeli bounty hunter who didn’t find any of this funny and continued to stare me down for the rest of the night.
Vince made his way down to the ring, unaware of the confrontation Rourke and I had narrowly avoided and went through his ideas for the match. As a wrestler, I would listen to what Vince wanted, think about the logistics of it, run through it once or twice, and move along. But as an actor, Mickey was much more concerned with camera angles and minor movements. He wanted to rehearse his punch over and over again, discussing his motivation, his positioning, everything. There would be no improv for this guy. Then we discussed how he was going to hit me. I told him not worry about pulling the punch and just swing like he would in a boxing match.
He shook his head and warned me, “I don’t know about that. I’m Golden Gloves, brother. If I hit you with this right hand, you’re going to feel it.” I convinced him that it was OK and told him he could hit me as hard as he wanted as long as it looked good. After being walloped in the forehead for real by the seven-foot-tall Big Show, I thought I could take a punch from a 160-pound actor.
After about a half hour of going over the punch spot a dozen times, Mickey was happy and he left ringside with his posse in tow. I went over to Vince and told him what had almost happened. “You know, Rourke hired those guys to kick my ass if I tried to double-cross him.” Vince stared down the rampway at Rourke’s gang. “Are you kidding me? Those guys?!” He laughed. He motioned at Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, who were talking at ringside. “You, me, Finlay, and Malenko would’ve beat the shit out of them. I mean look at that one guy. . . . He’s a midget!” The “midget” Vince was referring to was Shamrock, the multiple-time UFC champion. I smiled at Vince and said, “Well, if anything goes down, I’ll take Rourke and you take the midget.” “Damn right I will,” he murmured and swaggered out of the ring.