Surprising Way Dennis Rodman Wormed His Way into Wrestling

In the 1990s, Dennis Rodman was as hot as you could get with the mainstream audience, from his multi-colored hair to his risqué wardrobe to even dating the Material Girl, Madonna. He was as naturally fit for professional wrestling as anyone at the time.

We break down the unexpected way the bad boy of the NBA went from grabbing rebounds on the basketball court to body slamming in the ring and how he “wormed” his way into WCW in the ’90s and again in AEW in 2023!

Learn the surprising story behind "The Worm" Dennis Rodman's foray into the world of professional wrestling.
Learn the surprising story behind “The Worm” Dennis Rodman’s foray into the world of professional wrestling.

From Rebounds to Body Slams: Dennis Rodman’s First Involvement in Wrestling

Renowned rebounder and five-time NBA Champion Dennis Rodman was often seen as the ‘third guy’ of the Chicago Bulls. And if Michael Jordan was the wrestling equivalent of Hollywood Hulk Hogan, and Scotty Pippin was Kevin Nash, then this most certainly makes our subject today – Dennis Rodman, the Scott Hall of the group.

Dennis grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas. He became a lifelong wrestling fan after watching the Von Erichs make magic in their Dallas-Fort Worth-based World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) promotion. As a result, Rodman had the itch from a young age to get in the squared circle.

Dennis’s first involvement in wrestling saw him decked out in the red and yellow with a pre-Hollywood Hulk Hogan in WCW at the Bash at the Beach pay-per-view on July 16th, 1995.

Dennis Rodman during his first appearance in WCW at Bash at the Beach on July 16th, 1995.
Dennis Rodman during his first appearance in WCW at Bash at the Beach on July 16th, 1995. Photo Credit: WWE.

Before Hogan’s big showdown with Vader later that night, Rodman stood idly beside Jimmy Hart as the Hulkster cut a Hulkamania-style promo backstage.

At one point, Rodman seemed overly excited as he awkwardly slid his palm across Hogan’s face.

‘’Take it easy, big man!’’ Hogan exclaimed before wrapping up the odd segment.

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Rodman Joins the nWo

At this point in 1995, Dennis Rodman was there purely for name value.

However, there were rumblings that the then WWF wanted Rodman in the corner of Goldust at some point, and this interaction with WCW put the kibosh on any future involvement.

Fast forward just a couple of years, and Rodman had made a wise move by sticking with Ted Turner; WCW was soon to be the hottest product on television.

Dennis Rodman after joining Hulk Hogan and the nWo.
Dennis Rodman after joining Hulk Hogan and the nWo. Photo Credit: WWE.

Dennis made his next WCW appearance on the March 10th, 1997, edition of Monday Nitro. At this show, Hogan offered Rodman membership in the hottest posse in pro wrestling at the time through a nWo t-shirt.

"Big bruh, you’ve earned the colors, my friend. It’s your style. 4-life!" Hogan would proclaim.

The ‘baddest man’ in basketball had been inducted into arguably the coolest faction in wrestling history.

Dennis Rodman at WCW Uncensored ’97

Six days later, Dennis Rodman would accompany Hulk Hogan down to ringside for the main event of WCW Uncensored ‘97.

It would be Team nWo (Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, plus Hogan’s on-off buddy, Randy Savage) versus Team Piper (Roddy Piper and Four Horsemen members Chris Benoit, Steve McMichael, and Jeff Jarrett) versus Team WCW (“The Giant” Paul Wight, Lex Luger, and Scott Steiner).

Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan backstage at WCW Uncensored on March 16th, 1997.
Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan backstage at WCW Uncensored on March 16th, 1997. Photo Credit: WWE.

During the match, Rodman got his hands dirty by assisting in eliminating the Hot Rod by pulling down on the top rope, thus ruining Piper’s evening.

Rodman also got involved in the finish when Luger had Hogan tortured in a rack. However dirty, Dennis decided to slip a nWo-licensed spray can to Savage. Randy took it upon himself to blast Luger in the face with it, costing Team WCW the win.

Dennis Rodman Makes His In-Ring Debut at Bash at the Beach 1997

Dennis Rodman had drawn first blood on “The Total Package” Lex Luger. This, in turn, became the catalyst of what was to come at WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1997.

The main event consisted of Luger and The Giant facing the dastardly duo of Hulk Hogan and the in-ring debut of Dennis Rodman.

After around five minutes of one-on-one action between Lex and Hulk, Rodman was finally tagged into the match.

"C’mon, Worm. Let’s see what you got!" the ever-great Bobby Heenan blared out on commentary to the audience at home.

Live chants of "Rodman sucks! Rodman sucks!" began resonating from the paying crowd at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Seconds later, Rodman proved the crowd wrong when he delivered an arm drag on Luger.

The crowd pops hard for that. Even Randy Savage, at ringside, jumped onto the apron to cheer on his nWo comrade.

Moments later, Rodman managed a perfectly formed leapfrog over the top of the Total Package’s perfect physique.

"The Giant" looks on as Dennis Rodman leapfrogs over "The Total Package" Lex Luger during a tag team match at WCW Bash at the Beach 1997.
“The Giant” looks on as Dennis Rodman leapfrogs over “The Total Package” Lex Luger during a tag team match at WCW Bash at the Beach 1997. Photo Credit: WWE.

Delivering Beyond Expectations

"This is no rookie we’re watching right now," Bobby Heenan emphasized.

Dennis Rodman was delivering beyond expectations.

Dennis Rodman wrestles impressively against "The Giant" at WCW Bash at the Beach 1997.
Dennis Rodman wrestles impressively against “The Giant” at WCW Bash at the Beach 1997. Photo Credit: WWE.

A few successful double teams with Hulk Hogan later, and we were headed for the finish. However, there wa a communication breakdown.

Rodman took a right hand from Luger, leaving Hogan vulnerable.

Moments later, Hogan was being tortured-racked, allowing Luger and The Giant to gain the win via submission. However, this wasn’t the end of the rack attack as Rodman and then finally Savage both got racked for good measure.

It was an impressive in-ring debut for Dennis Rodman.

Not the Big Win That the nWo Hoped For

Dennis Rodman with Hulk Hogan repping the nWo in WCW.
Dennis Rodman with Hulk Hogan repping the nWo in WCW. Photo Credit: WWE.

Surprisingly, Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan didn’t bring home the big win on this night, considering the hype surrounding this bout. Plus, it was a rare sight to see Hogan taking a clean loss via submission.

It was clear by this that Rodman was being protected and perhaps being saved for a rainy day.

Dennis Rodman versus Karl Malone

Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) and NBA great Karl Malone throw up the diamond shape in WCW.
Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) and NBA great Karl Malone throw up the diamond shape in WCW. Photo Credit: WWE.

Fast forward to WCW’s Bash at the Beach ‘98, and Dennis Rodman was as hot as he could be at this point in his career.

1998 saw the second battle between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. On the Bulls side, we had a power forward in Rodman, and on the side of the Jazz, we had “The Mailman” Karl Malone, also a power forward.

Around this time, Malone had inadvertently inserted himself into the rasslin’ business by throwing up the DDP diamond shape during a Jazz game to Diamond Dallas Page himself.

That, in turn, got some tongues wagging. Plus, it didn’t hurt because Malone and Rodman had court-side heat with each other.

Problems For Showing Up at Nitro

Dennis Rodman in WCW.
Dennis Rodman in WCW. Photo Credit: WWE.

Eric Bischoff reported on his 83 Weeks podcast that Rodman was being paid a flat fee of a ‘measly’ 1 million dollars for all his appearances leading up to and the pay-per-view itself.

Rodman would miss his NBA Finals training to appear live on WCW Nitro. However, Michael Jordan wasn’t worried, as Dennis knew when to turn it on for game time. And how right Jordan was as the Bulls brought home another NBA Championship trophy that year, their sixth in eight years.

Back to the squared circle, it was only when Hogan and Rodman beat down DDP with metal furniture that something began to brew.

“The Worst Thing” About Working with Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman, wearing his Chicago Bulls NBA Championship hat, outside a WCW tour bus with Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
Dennis Rodman, wearing his Chicago Bulls NBA Championship hat, outside a WCW tour bus with Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Photo Credit: WWE.

Diamond Dallas Page would need a partner, and Kanyon was busy, so the only person he could turn to was Dennis Rodman’s adversary, “The Mailman” Karl Malone.

A platform was needed to set up the match, and what better place than the Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

One issue was that while Karl Malone was busy getting put through his paces and learning how to bump in a wrestling ring at the grueling Power Plant with DDP, Rodman was just as busy with his entourage of female companions.

According to Kevin Sullivan via Wrestling Shoot Interviews, the worst thing about working with Dennis Rodman was that he was “always impossible to track down backstage!”

However, Rodman knew when it was ‘go time,’ especially in a showdown with his b-ball arch nemesis, Karl Malone.

Dennis Rodman versus Karl Malone: On the Court and in the Ring!

"The Mailman" always delivers! Karl Malone and Hulk Hogan in the ring at WCW's Bash at the Beach pay-per-view on July 12th, 1998.
“The Mailman” always delivers! Karl Malone and Hulk Hogan in the ring at WCW’s Bash at the Beach pay-per-view on July 12th, 1998. Photo Credit: WWE.

Rodman put on another entertaining performance during this 23-minute tag team scuffle.

Near the end of the bout, Rodman ate a Diamond Cutter from Malone, who had learned it from the master, DDP.

Rodman later claimed that he was glad to get hit by this maneuver because he knew his part in the match was over!

This, in turn, left Hogan to gain the pin and the team victory after interference from “The Disciple” Brutus Beefcake.

Rodman’s venture in WCW was far from over.

Dennis Rodman versus Randy Savage

Dennis Rodman knocks down "Macho Man" Randy Savage, leading to their WCW feud in 1999.
Dennis Rodman knocks down “Macho Man” Randy Savage, leading to their WCW feud in 1999. Photo Credit: WWE.

Dennis Rodman’s third and final WCW feud began on July 19th, 1999, when Dennis returned to WCW Nitro to knock down former nWo comrade Macho Man Randy Savage.

Over the following weeks, Team Madness- consisting of Mona (a future Molly Holly), Madusa (the former Alundra Blayze), and Savage’s girlfriend at the time, Gorgeous George– began to fall apart from within.

Rodman would even get his mitts on Gorgeous George at ringside, dragging her off, kicking and screaming. The Gorgeous one was found shrieking in a corridor alone, while Savage found Dennis in his trailer in the car park.

After Rodman successfully launched his green feather bower at Savage, Doug Dillinger and the rest of the Security Squad dragged Savage away. However, with the help of a Mona low blow, Rodman got the upper hand on Savage with a few elbows.

Fast forward to August 9th, six days before their pay-per-view showdown, Macho Man indeed showed Rodzilla who was boss after chasing him out of the ring after he called Savage a “Macho *******,” promising to make sure Gorgeous George knew that she is Rodman’s “*****.” Strong language, indeed.

Just like before, Rodman and the Jay Leno show go hand in hand, and what better place to hype their bout than on the August 10th, 1999 edition of the show?

Savage finally got his Macho mitts on his foe, spearing Dennis Rodman straight over the top of some of Leno’s furniture and down onto the set floor.

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Road Wild Was Wild

The stage was set for WCW Road Wild, where Dennis Rodman’s first singles bout would go down.

It was August 14th, 1999 – and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was all revved up.

Rodman got a cheap shot in early after bonking Savage right in his noggin with a live mic before taking it outside the ring to rough him up some more.

"He’s not wrestling Savage. He’s fighting him!" Heenan would exclaim.

Seconds later, a Russian Leg sweep is delivered to Savage, proving Heenan wrong.

Although this is the end of the wrestling, we are treated to what appears to be a no-disqualification brawl as both participants lay out refs and even a WCW editor.

Savage used the editor’s camera to get some microphone payback on Rodman in clear sight of the new ref.

Road Wild was certainly living up to its name.

Randy Savage finally got his hands on Dennis Rodman at WCW Road Wild ’99.
Randy Savage finally got his hands on Dennis Rodman at WCW Road Wild ’99. Photo Credit: WWE.

Then came the most memorable spot of the match: Savage loaded Rodman into a porta-potty before tipping it over.

Another ref bump later, and Gorgeous George was right on cue for the finish.

Revenge was delivered to Rodman for laying his hands on George as a low blow is delivered.

Savage provided the final nail in the coffin to Rodman’s WCW career by drilling him with a chain punch right in the kisser.

This would be the final WCW appearance for Dennis Rodman.

Rodman’s Return to the Ring in 2000

"Rodman Downunder!" Dennis Rodman made his in-ring return against Curt Hennig at a wrestling event in 2000.
“Rodman Downunder!” Dennis Rodman made his in-ring return against Curt Hennig at a wrestling event in 2000. Photo Credit: i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling.

In July 2000, Dennis Rodman wormed his way back into the ring for a main event for the short-lived i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling.

The tagline for this show was called “Rodman Down Under,” just in case the audience needed reminding that this was being held in Australia.

In his bout, he took on another former nWo comrade – Curt Hennig.

Unfortunately, the match also included outside shenanigans and ref bumps and ended in a disqualification after there was too much ref abuse in the ring.

Joining Forces with Hulk Hogan Again in Wrestling in 2008

Dennis Rodman alongside celebrity stars on Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship (CCW) television program in 2008.
Dennis Rodman alongside celebrity stars on Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship (CCW) television program in 2008. Photo Credit: CMT.

Dennis Rodman would have another flutter with pro wrestling in 2008 with Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling, where Rodzilla, along with a whole gaggle of celebs, including Dustin Diamond (AKA Screech from Saved by the Bell fame) and Butterbean (famed for his knockout punch at WWF Brawl For All.

Each would compete every week in the ring.

After being put through their paces by trainers such as Brutus Beefcake, and one-half of the Nasty Boys – Brian Knobbs, the celebs would have it out to see who would become the CCW Champion.

The final came down to Dennis Rodman and actor Todd Bridges.

After eight weeks of celebrity carnage, Dennis Rodman was declared the winner of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.

The Worm’s Resurrection: Dennis Rodman Makes Emotional Return to Wrestling in AEW in 2023

The bad boy of basketball caught the wrestling bug once again and returned to the squared circle in All Elite Wrestling (AEW) in 2023.

With AEW causing a stir in the industry, drawing a record crowd of 81,035 fans to Wembley Stadium, just outside London, on August 27th, 2023 (the largest attendance ever recorded for a professional wrestling event in Europe) for All In, it appeared to be the ideal platform for Rodman to stage his wrestling comeback.

Dennis Rodman makes his first return to the United Center in thirteen years a memorable segment in AEW.
Dennis Rodman makes his first return to the United Center in thirteen years with a memorable segment in AEW. Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling.

During an episode of AEW Collision on September 2nd, 2023, Dennis Rodman emotionally returned to Chicago’s United Center after thirteen years since his last appearance, just a week after AEW’s triumph at Wembley.

While wearing Crocs, “The Worm” performed a choke-slam on Sonjay Dutt during a memorable segment on Collision.

While it was more like a choke-shove, it still captured a reaction from the Chicago crowd.

The stage was set: Rodman would manage The Acclaimed and Billy Gunn against Jeff Jarrett (a former foe in WCW), Jay Lethal, and Satnum Singh with Sonjay Dutt in their corner the following night at September 3rd, 2023’s AEW All Out event at the United Center in Chicago.

At All Out, The Acclaimed were supposed to have Dennis Rodman walk them out as they would defend their Trios World titles against Jeff Jarrett, Satnam Singh, and Jay Lethal as part of AEW All Out 2023’s preshow.

However, the NBA Hall of Famer played a much more significant role than just that.

Dennis Rodman at AEW All Out 2023

Dennis Rodman at AEW's All Out on September 3rd, 2023.
Dennis Rodman at AEW’s All Out on September 3rd, 2023. Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling, @dennisrodman.

Jeff Jarrett and his team had the early advantage at AEW All Out 2023 until Karen Jarrett entered the ring and argued with the referee, Aubrey Edwards. The referee then pushed Karen out of the ring.

Soon later, Dennis Rodman stepped between the ropes, hitting Singh with a guitar while the referee was distracted.

After the melee, Gunn and The Acclaimed would hit their finishers before claiming the victory.

The five-time NBA champion spoke about the fans’ reception and expressed his love for the city of Chicago.

“It’s amazing; Chicago has been lovely to me, man,” Rodman expressed. “I get so emotional because they love me so much. I can’t speak.”

“[It’s been] thirteen years [since I was last] here, and there’s so much love here.

“I respect these people so much. Thank God they loved someone that worked their *** off. And I hope the city of Chicago will love me as much as I love them.”

Dennis Rodman’s Legacy in Wrestling

Dennis Rodman, Kevin Nash, and the rest of the nWo members make their way through the wrestling crowd.
Dennis Rodman, Kevin Nash, and the rest of the nWo members make their way through the wrestling crowd. Photo Credit: WWE.

The colorful Dennis Rodman is a natural fit for professional wrestling, and although his appearances were infrequent, they were certainly memorable.

We’re grateful that the basketball great wormed his way into the squared circle.

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Mike Gentry is a lifelong professional wrestling fan who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting and Directing. In recent years, Mike has taken his hand at writing. In recent years, Mike wrote, edited, and produced an online production raising money for a local amateur theatre. This work caught media attention and was featured on BBC South East Today, KMTV, Kent Online, and BBC Radio Kent. He received an Accolade of Excellence for the 2020/2021 National Operatic and Dramatic Association - South East Awards for this accomplishment. He can be reached on Instagram @mikeyguk85.