ESPN’s The Last Dance reintroduced a new generation to Michael Jordan’s heroics, Scottie Pippen’s often unsung contributions on both ends of the floor, and Dennis Rodman’s turn as a World Championship Wrestling heel. Homecourt’s Jimmy Ness climbs the turnbuckle for a birds-eye view of The Worm’s unique legacy in the world of wrestling.
Dennis “The Worm” Rodman. Hair-dye vanguard, party-monster, and U.S diplomat. A true radical. More defence than cybersecurity, more arms than Shiva, Rodman was unrelenting. Rebounding was his lifework. The Worm’s tattooed physique assaulted every pocket of the court. Forever energized, the Bulls forward furiously exercised post-game. Dennis’ double-helix is different. When The Last Dance revisits his WCW appearance, nothing feels impossible. Number 91 is the most vibrant human being named Dennis. Who else skips training for a TV brawl, neck-deep in the run for an NBA championship? Rodman’s side-hustle makes uncanny sense. He already acted, looked and trash-talked like a ringside beefcake. Rodzilla was snatching mics and kicking camera-men before it was part of the gig. It would be stretching the spandex to insinuate his wrestling was masterful; but god it was entertaining.
Rodman somehow gets an action figure
D-R adopted a heel persona. In pedestrian lexicon, this is the villain you love to hate. Heels roast the fan favourite, rile up the crowd, and get beaten with a steel chair to rapturous applause. If only that applied to the NBA.
Rodman’s recruiters New World Order, domineered wrestling like a naughty street crew. Their popularity steered turnbuckle antics from ’90s glam to millennial edginess. A fist-bump culture clash, NWO were West Coast hip-hop with tow-truck swagger. Cowboys from Compton, if you will.
Alongside pre-controversy Hulk Hogan, Rodman was an innate showman. Despite only four pro matches, his persona was marketable enough to be moulded into plastic figurines for children and grown men alike.
Each toy (sorry: collectible) came with necessary hair tone variation as well as disco-ball coat and pimp hat for peak flamboyance. Dennis’ weapon was a hoop and backboard for “back-flippin board action.” Irrelevant details like the NBA equivalent weighing around 100kgs is deemed minor next to precisely replicating his tribal navel tattoo.
Bash At The Beach 1 and 2
Part Hells Angels, part leather dance gang, NWO were certified bad-boyz. To solidify their audacity, the rebellious dudes marched to hard rock solos, wore slick Oakley shades and hacked the sleeves off any t-shirt they could find.
Beach Bash round one is a cultural snapshot. Every muscle is greased to shimmer. Human goatee Hogan air guitars on the championship belt. The bootcut NWO blissfully grunt and parade their improvised “rock on” signal. Dennis is having a ridiculously good time. With coach Phil Jackson back in Chi-town, it’s time to let loose. Since the Hulkster and D-R’s ‘95 appearance in matching outfits, “Rod The Bod” has had a rebellious makeover. As “Rodzilla,” the bandanas are tied firm, the nose pierced and the sleeves absolutely ruined. Jordan could never.
Technically, Rodman never trained past the basics. Your big bro was better at the four-figure leg lock. Basketball was Dennis’ priority, Vegas was runner up. Plus he’s no weakling. Rodzilla’s natural brawn from squaring-out seven-foot centres was enough. Rival “The Giant” looks like “The Medium” by comparison. The Worm ultimately takes a loss, but it’s the following year that really matters.
The Bulls vanquished Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz in the 1998 Finals. Rodman and The Mailman were not friends. Fellow power forward Karl resided under the skin of many adversaries. He threw elbows with mechanised repetition. Dennis tripped Malone thrice during game six. Rodman paints Karl as a square; he dressed like a cowboy and was as conservative as The Worm is rebellious. In a genius match up, WWE somehow got the two to agree to duel and Malone to take the loss. They mostly exchange bodyslams and clotheslines, but the tight-panted tension was very real.
Rodman Down Under
On July 14, 2000, a powerful solar flare caused a disturbance on the earth’s magnetic field. This erupted into a radiation storm as energetic protons flooded our atmosphere. Scientists claim this event was triggered by heat disturbances on the sun’s surface. Sports fans know the truth.
Galactic elements were shifting for the ultimate showdown. A night of “two diesel trains heading toward each other.” A cash-grab to rock the skies, shake the heavens and eclipse Rodman’s board-snatching ‘96 playoff finale. Ok, we might have gone too far on that last one.
What sounds like a Chippendales tour was actually Rodman taking on Curt Henning, AKA Mr Perfect. Dubbed an “Auzzie Outback Match” for max marketability; Rodzilla’s down-under debut was actually a traditional Hardcore round. Basically, anything goes. This means a litany of weapons for head-pummelling and fighters can go anywhere in the stadium. You now know more than the commentators, who repeatedly question how it all works.
So bad, it’s good, what follows is a fight with less athleticism than Manute Bol. No Rey Mysterio somersaults here. This duel makes your trampoline acrobatics look professional. Dennis also loses due to disqualification, which is breaking a rule in a no-rules match. Brilliant.
Rodzilla gets thrown into a port-a-potty during his final WWE Road Wild match.
You have to appreciate Rodman’s thought process here. Ok, I will allow a human leather sandwich named Randy Savage (first name Macho Man if we’re being formal) to throw me into a temporary toilet. He can tip the potty over in front of a backstage crowd. I will make any sacrifice to entertain my new fans.
WWE commentators, sickened by the prospect of toilet antics, utter variations of “oh no” seven times during the first seconds of spillage. Rodman later reverses a head-slam into a tour bus and looks exhausted by the effort. Plenty of stumbling and not looking behind him ensue. Other notable visual references include Macho Man’s suffocating Puka-shell necklace, carefully bejewelled Cowboy boots and the *illegal use of a *veryreal chain as a weapon. This is 1999 folks.
“An introverted, sentimental, sometimes shy man” with glittery eyebrows is interviewed by a hard-nosed news journalist and compared to Andy Warhol.
Rodman’s life reads like a religious myth. He didn’t play organized basketball until he was 21. Pearl Jam wrote a song about him. Dennis was at the Vatican to see the new pope. He was accused of stealing a 180-kilogram volcanic crystal from a yoga studio. Rodzilla was fired from Celebrity Apprentice for misspelling Melania Trump’s name. He won five NBA championships, would read a magazine benchside with his shoes off and lived with Mark Cuban. Of course, The Worm remains in tune with his wrestling spirit. He appeared at Ric Flair’s wedding alongside fellow legend The Undertaker. In March, Rodman challenged NFL’s Rob Gronkowski to face-off.
If the modified body of our saviour returns to the mat, you better tune in.