Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the most charismatic entertainers of all time. It’d be a disservice to just call him a wrestler or actor, as the man has transcended to the top of both professions and done so in a way that will surely leave you inspired.
Johnson may be the highest paid actor in the world in 2016, but his life has been full of adversity. He’s had his dreams crushed, battled depression and even slept on a filthy mattress that he found outside of a sex motel. He’s seen his family be evicted but as you’ll learn, has used every opportunity in his life to push him even further.
One of the quotes he lives by is, “Once you’ve ever been hungry, really hungry, you’ll never be full,” and Lord knows, The Rock has been hungry.
But now he just happens to be the biggest celebrity in the world. And with that also come some great stories, both from his time in the ring and his time on the big screen. Learn what his defining moment was for both industries, which animal’s testicle hair he glued to his face, the story behind the fanny pack photo that went viral and just how insane his diet is. No matter where you fell in love with Johnson, you’ll surely leave this list with a lot more admiration and respect for who he is as a person.
16. He Preferred To Lose Than Win Matches
Wait…what? That’s right! When Johnson was talking with Larry King in 2002, he talked about how “The Rock” loses more than any other famous wrestler that he can recall. When he was asked further as to why that is, Johnson responded “I think with the character of The Rock, very over the top, very bombastic at times, and saying anything, doing everything, and he has transcended that industry. And when people watch, it’s very important to me to be relatable. Now, while people might not relate to wow, there’s the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, it’s very important that they relate to being flawed,” and the best way to do that? Make him lose.
Johnson said he believes firmly in that formula for success, saying “I prefer to lose more often than I win, actually… that’s the thing, there’s The Rock fan — I don’t know whether he’s going to win or he’s going to lose, but I can guarantee that he’s going to give me all my money’s worth. And I can guarantee that that guy is going to fight until he can’t fight anymore.”
15. He Switched To Acting For Stability
The Rock is always going to be one of the most iconic (and electrifying) entertainers in wrestling history. But when he decided to make the transition to acting, he did so because he wanted to ensure he’d have a career that would be sustainable. When talking about the experience to Esquire, Johnson said “I came to Hollywood wanting a career that had longevity, and I wasn’t afraid to take risks because I had a dollar in the bank. I wasn’t driven by money as much as I was driven by making a successful transition. And I was smart enough to know that I certainly didn’t have all the answers and I needed to surround myself with smart people and be willing to take risks and be willing to fail.”
The Rock went on to then compare his own family to that of Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler, saying that his father and grandfathers, while great wrestlers, ended their lives wrestling for $100 bucks a night with broken down bodies because it was the only thing they knew.
14. He Was Next To Wrestle After Owen’s Death
Owen Hart’s death was a tremendous tragedy, but what made the event even harder may be the fact that Vince McMahon did not stop the show. The next person to go out there was supposed to be The Rock.
Johnson was incredibly close to Owen and his family, and further explained how the night went down. “I remember wanting to — like, seeing what was going on through the curtain, and they were trying to revive him”, he said. “And I was ready to run out there and be beside my friend. And it was at that moment that I realized that if I go out there, I don’t want these people to react to The Rock and everybody be happy and everybody think it’s part of the show. So I stayed back, and when I finally saw him come through, I knew he wasn’t with us anymore. And that was really difficult.”
He called it the hardest night of his life, and that wrestling was the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
There are a lot of reactions to Owen’s death that are worth reading, but you can imagine the immense torment Johnson would have felt knowing he wanted to run out and be beside his friend in his dying moments, but also knowing he couldn’t have the crowd not realize it was a serious moment.
13. He’s Had Extreme Battles With Depression
Dwayne Johnson has not had himself an easy life, and when he was 14 his family was evicted from their home. Johnson opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about his difficult youth, where he admitted “I didn’t want to do a thing. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was crying constantly. Eventually you reach a point where you are all cried out.”
Johnson was able to battle through his depression when he got a full ride scholarship to play football at the University of Miami (more on that below). But when Johnson was not drafted in the NFL, and then was cut by his CFL team (the Calgary Stampeders), depression hit him harder than ever.
Johnson continued to get emotional in the interview saying, “The dreams I had, they’re dashed, there is no more football. My relationship was crushed. That was my absolute worst time…I looked in my pocket, and I had seven bucks. Wow. Seven bucks to my name.”
12. How Hated He Was At The Start
You may not be shocked to hear that a lot of your favorite wrestlers definitely had less than ideal starts to their careers. When The Rock made his debut as Rocky Maivia, fans were definitely less than thrilled. In fact, it became very commonplace for the fans to chant “Rocky Sucks” at the superstar, who in his own admission, said he smiled way too much and it was annoying fans.
One of the best things that could have happened to Johnson was a significant knee injury that sidelined him for several months. It caused Johnson to reflect, and in an interview, he said “It wasn’t me personally that they didn’t like, it’s that I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t being real. I wasn’t being authentic. Who is this guy in wrestling who’s smiling when he’s getting beat?”
When asked to come back as a heel under the advice of Vince McMahon he agreed, but made it clear that he wanted at least two minutes before the match to address the fans.
Johnson returned in August 1997 and as expected, was being jeered by the crowd with chants that he sucks, leading him to respond “I may be a lot of things, but sucks is not one of them,” it was in that moment that Johnson said he truly started to understand The Rock and within a month, he was the biggest heel in the company.
11. He Used Yak Testicle Hair For His Beard In Hercules
When Dwayne Johnson was cast in Hercules there was little doubt that he would do everything he could to be dedicated to the part. Johnson trained relentlessly, saying he worked out “Three and a half hours every morning. So I would get up at half three and then I would eat and train again, as I had to train twice a day for the role, and then I would go and sit in hair and make up for three and a half hours for the transformation.”
But one thing Johnson was unaware of until the designer started putting it on his face, was that the beard for the character came from yak testicles. As you just read, this was far from a quick process but Johnson joked that “It’s the commitment of which I will go to.”
The movie also suffered a significant hang up when Johnson tore his rectus tendon and adductor muscle in the ring when going up against Cena. On top of that, Johnson suffered a hernia a few days later. Shooting ended up needing to be delayed a month, costing the studio $2 million.
10. When He Knew He Made It As An Actor
There are a lot of signs that The Rock’s career has been going well. The countless movies he’s signed on for is definitely one of them, but the biggest sign for Johnson came in a letter that he received back in 2015.
In the letter was written, “Been enjoying your movies over the years. Very entertaining. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know you over the years, most recently after watching you host Saturday Night Live. Great job. You continue to go for it. Proud of your work and look forward to meeting you. Steven Spielberg.”
9. After The Disappointment Of Tooth Fairy, He Changed Agents
Johnson has put out some fantastic movies, but boy oh boy has he made some incredibly awful ones as well. One of the ones that we are sure he would probably rather you forget about was the 2010 movie Tooth Fairy.
The movie still made a solid profit at the box office ($112.5 million on a $48 million budget), but critics and Johnson himself were not too happy with the movie. In fact, the movie was so disappointing that it caused Johnson to reflect on his career and realize that he needed to change agents and publicists.
When commenting on the matter, Johnson said “It was incredibly difficult because you develop a friendship over the years. But it just dawned on me: Change has to happen.”
8. He Was Almost Wonka And Johnny Bravo
While Johnson has had no shortage of fantastic roles, there are also plenty of roles that he nearly nabbed or that never came to fruition. The most known role that he was close to nailing, was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a role that later went to Johnny Depp.
Johnson has also been heavily linked anytime there are talks of a live-action Johnny Bravo movie. There were strong talks of it happening in 2002, in fact Warner Bros. Pictures even purchased the rights to the character.
Perhaps the failings of the live-action Scooby-Doo movies made them a little more hesitant to create the finished project. Or you know, maybe The Rock just said he liked Bravo in passing and the studio got way too into it. Kind of like the boy you say you sort of like, and then he buys you 100 flowers.
7. He Knew About The Death Of Osama Bin Laden First
When Osama Bin Laden was killed America rejoiced, but one of the weirder things about the day definitely has to be the fact that The Rock knew about the death before nearly anyone else. The Rock and Navel Reserve Intel Officer Keith Urbahn both tweeted out at 10:24 (exactly) news that would indicate Osama Bin Laden had been terminated.
Johnson took to Twitter to say “Just got word that will shock the world – Land of the free…home of the brave DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”
When asked about it, Johnson said “I got friends in high places and low places. It was a very interesting day…The individuals who were there were proud to let me know.”
It was around an hour later that President Obama spoke to the nation and delivered the news.
As a fun fact, when John Cena announced to the crowd the news, he used the phrase “Caught and compromised to a permanent end.” That is definitely a pretty badass way to announce a death!
6. He Dreamed Of Being In The NFL
It can be easy to see The Rock and think he was always destined for the WWE and then the big screen, but you may also be aware that The Rock played some football at the University of Miami. In fact, his replacement on the team ended up being Warren Sapp who went on to have a legendary football career. Johnson also has said in several interviews that he battled some significant injuries during his time.
When asked about how he played, the defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes, Ed Orgeron said “If not for [Sapp], Dwayne could have been an all-conference, perhaps an all-American,” which also could have led to us seeing Johnson in the NFL.
When talking about his past experiences Johnson related to his character of Spencer Strasmore on his show Ballers, who had the life that Johnson always desired.
“[I wanted to be] All-Pro, making money, buying my parents a house, the whole thing, like he has done. That is who I failed at being! That’s the irony of it.”
5. His Insane Diet Of 5,000 Calories and 7 Meals
While we are sure this is always subject to change for Johnson, one thing that cannot be denied is the dude is absolutely jacked, and you don’t get that way without a monstrous diet. Johnson gave huge insight on his diet when talking to Muscle and Fitness around the time of Hercules being released. It was revealed that Johnson eats roughly 5,000 calories a day, and 10+ pounds of food. 2.3 pounds of that was cod, which Johnson uses as one of his staple foods. You can see the 7 meals he would have daily laid out in front of him in the above photo.
When you do the math, that’s over 800 pounds of cod eaten every year, so you better believe that is always what is cooking at his house. Johnson’s picture of his legendary “cheat day” also went viral, in which he posted pictures of him eating 12 pancakes, 4 double dough pizzas and 21 brownies after he had eaten clean for 150 days.
4. He Ordained A Wedding
Could you imagine walking down the aisle and seeing The Rock at the end of it? Let’s hope you definitely don’t have any second thoughts about that marriage, because he definitely won’t hesitate to lay the smackdown all over you and your new potential bride. Nick Mundy has worked for the movie site Screen Junkies for several years, and with that also came plenty of opportunities to meet and form a friendship with Dwayne Johnson. Nick Mundy was sent to interview The Rock, but that was far from what happened.
Mundy was ready to go home for the day after being told that the segments he was going to film with The Rock didn’t work out, but then around the corner came The Rock who got officially ordained as a minister. Who needs to prepare a wedding when you can just have The Rock there? Mundy was given about a few seconds’ notice before entering the room where he was going to get married to his fiancé.
Nick Mundy literally got married while wearing America-themed pants, that’s how unprepared he was for the day. Kudos to his wife for being a good sport, but if you ask me, having a prank that ends in you getting married may be a little too much!
3. The Explanation Behind The Fanny Pack Picture
Everyone has some outfits in their past that they would definitely like left buried. For The Rock, he definitely won’t be suiting up again in the fantastic fanny pack photo that he posted on his Instagram one Throwback Thursday. The photo quickly went viral and of course was the topic of discussion when Johnson later appeared on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Fallon asked about what on earth was in the fanny pack, to which Johnson replied condoms and pop tarts. Johnson also made sure to reiterate that when rocking a fanny pack, you gotta make sure you get that thumb tucked in nice and tight like in the above photo.
The segment came to a close with a hilarious finish when Jimmy Fallon went to pull out the action figure for Hercules to show off, only to have swapped the Hercules action figure with one made with Johnson’s now-iconic look.
2. He Is The Highest Paid Actor In 2016
Dwayne Johnson, as you now know, had a period in his life in which he only had $7 to his name, but holy smokes is he far from those days now. It was announced by Forbes that Johnson was the highest-paid actor in the world in 2016, earning roughly $64.5 million in just 2016. When you look at the roles he has ahead of him, including a comic book movie in which he’ll play Black Adam, it’s clear that this may not be the last year that Johnson tops out this list.
Johnson was able to negotiate upfront fees for his role in Central Intelligence as well as in Baywatch, though the latter does not come out until 2017. In 2012 when talking to Forbes he joked that he can kick ass better than anybody on the planet, it looks like he can also cash bigger cheques than damn near anyone in Hollywood.
1. How He Came Up With “The Rock”
When Dwayne Johnson first made his way into the WWE it was with the character Rocky Maivia. The idea was that it would take part of his grandfather, who was Peter Maivia and part of his Dad who was Rocky Johnson. When talking about the experience to Larry King, Johnson explained “I never wanted to ride on the coattails of my family in the family business. I wanted to do everything on my own. If I couldn’t get it on my own, I didn’t want it.
So I wanted to steer clear, and when they came to me — all right, you ready for your name? And I’m like, yes, sure, hit me with me. OK. Rock Maivia. No way. Couldn’t do it. There’s no way.”
You can imagine he must have been ecstatic when people started shortening it, and he felt The Rock was far more marketable than Rocky Maivia (hard to argue with him there). As you also now know, it didn’t help that the crowd hated Rocky Maivia and would often chant “Rocky sucks!”