Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson helped build the WWE into the colossal organization it is today. The company decided to push Johnson’s character after he made his debut at WWE’s 1996 Survivor Series, and just under 20 years later, we can confidently say it was one of their greatest decisions.
Fans likely know The Rock for his WWE Championship bouts, his in-ring rants and feuds with stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vince McMahon and The Undertaker. To date, fans have seen him in some of the most lucrative action-movies, as well as nauseating kid movies. Nevertheless, The Rock is the most successful WWE wrestler to step outside the ring and maybe even in the ring.
So, is there anything we don’t already know about The Rock? More importantly, is there anything further we care to know? There most certainly is! We can always learn new things about someone’s life, as well as additional details to add to their already existing story.
Let’s start here. At one time, The Rock had mere dollars to his name. “In 1995,” said Johnson, “I had $7 in my pocket and knew two things: I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.” When his college and semi-pro football career ended, he turned to wrestling to crawl out of the abyss of poverty he was lying in. No person ever became successful by playing it conservative, and Johnson’s risks paid off. His decisions—while likely risky—positively changed his life and impacted the lives of “the millions and millions” of Rock fans worldwide.
In any case, let’s get this going and delve a little deeper into what made Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” and then back to Dwayne Johnson the movie star.
10. Winning Gold With the Most Unlikely Partners
The Rock won his first Tag Team Championship with the most unlikely of allies, Mick Foley. Once enemies, they found a common bond in trying to dispatch The Undertaker and Big Show, and together, formed the most improbable, but entertaining tag team in WWE history dubbed the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection.
During a 1999 segment of Raw Is War in Boston, Massachusetts, Foley challenged The Undertaker and Big Show to put their tag- team tiles on the line against himself and The Rock. The Rock eventually, and somewhat reluctantly accepted, and later that night both superstars left Boston with gold after they defeated the Big Show with a double People’s Elbow.
While The Rock formed his most famous tag-team with Foley, he also held the belts with The Undertaker and later Chris Jericho. However, post Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, The Rock always struggled to hold the tag-team belts for long.
9. “The Rock Says” was a New York Times Best Seller
During the height of his WWE fame, The Rock published his first book, an autobiography called The Rock Says, which detailed his family’s wrestling legacy, as well as his struggle and rise in professional wrestling. The book was a smash hit, especially among younger wrestling fans who looked up to the superstar as he carried the WWE into the 21st century.
The Rock Says, co-written by Joe Layden, was published in 2000 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. It would spend several weeks on the list.
8. Last Stop in the Canadian Football League
It’s well documented that Johnson played college football at the University of Miami, but his football career didn’t end there. After college, Johnson signed a three-year deal with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Once heavily recruited for being one of the top high school football players in Pennsylvania, Johnson had found himself making chump change—possibly as low as $150 a week—on the Calgary Stampeder’s practice squad.
Soon cut from the Stampeders, Johnson’s football career was officially over. He made his way back home to train as a wrestler with his father.
7. There Are Two Rocks. One is in a Museum
There isn’t much to say here besides this: When you become famous, you get things like awards, medals or even replica statues of yourself. And when you’ve won multiple WWE Championships and stared in movies, you receive your own statue in Madame Tussaud’s Museum in New York. In an April 2002 photograph, The Rock posed next to his newly unveiled replica statue at the historic wax museum.
6. His Catchphrase was Added to the Dictionary
The Rock long proclaimed SmackDown!, WWE’s Thursday night special, to be “his” show because it used part of his catchphrase, “layeth the smack down” on various parts of a person’s body. The show debuted in April 1999 and later became part of the WWE’s brand extension after the company took over its primary rivals WCW and ECW. When the WWE’s roster size more than doubled due to these acquisitions, it used SmackDown! and Raw Is War to host specific wrestlers. The Rock was even drafted to “his” show when the WWE used a draft format to decide each program’s roster.
On top of that, in 2007, Merriam-Webster added The Rock’s famous word “smackdown” to its heralded database of words. His impact on the WWE and the English language extended well beyond his in-ring performances.
5. “The Rock” Was Johnson’s Third Wrestling Name
While we now know Dwayne Johnson by his famous name, The Rock, he previously sauntered down the ramp under names that just didn’t stick. Prior to being the Jabroni-eating, pie-loving superstar who checked his victims into the Smack-Down hotel, Johnson called himself Flex Kavana and Rocky Maivia.
While both names may sound familiar to the more well-versed wrestling fanatics, some may not realize he actually dropped the name “Flex Kavana” when the WWE felt it wasn’t going to work on the grandest wrestling stage. In need of a new name, Johnson somewhat reluctantly combined his fathers and grandfather’s in-ring first names, Rocky and Maivia, to form Rocky Maivia. Johnson felt hesitant about using his family’s names because he didn’t want to appear to use their wrestling legacy to bolster his own status.
Surprisingly, Johnson again changed his name when he felt his family’s legacy might actually be holding him back. He dropped the name Rocky Maivia and proclaimed himself The Rock during a Raw Is War promo where he attacked Ron Simmons (Faarooq), a former member of Johnson’s in-ring group called the Nation of Domination.
4. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records
For all the grief critics and movie goers give The Rock for his sometime sup-par acting skills and even more questionable movie roles, that never stopped the Brahma Bull from being offered lucrative movie contracts.
What most people may not realize is the $5.5 million he was paid for staring in his first feature film, The Scorpion King, was a world record for any actor in his first leading role. The movie received average ratings from top critics, but it propelled The Rock into the Hollywood spotlight. He suddenly became the heir-apparent to aging action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
3. Johnson Finally Owns the Name “The Rock”
Now a semi-retired pro wrestler, Dwayne Johnson has stopped using his in-ring name outside of the wrestling circuit. After all, his first wrestling name Rocky Maivia held him back in the WWE, so one might assume his in-ring name The Rock would have likely held him back in Hollywood. So, then, if he rarely calls himself The Rock, does the name just vanish or could other super stars use it?
Actually, for a while, Johnson and Vince McMahon co-owned the rights to the name, The Rock, as well as a variety of other catchphrases Johnson used while with the WWE. Reports, particularly from IMDB.com, indicate Johnson now owns the rights to the name The Rock, as well as all logos and phrases associated with the character.
2. Family Lines Runs Deep in the WWE
When building The Rock’s character in the mid-1990s, the WWE continuously reminded the audience he was the company’s first, third-generation super star. The Rock’s family line runs deep in the WWE; in fact, it runs so deep that when he first began wrestling, The Rock felt his family’s ties with the company might hold him back in the business.
While it’s well documented that his father Rocky Johnson and grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia also wrestled, you may be more familiar with some of his younger family members who also wrestled in the WWE. The Rock’s cousins include the late Yokozuna (Rodney), Rikishi (Solofa), Manu (Afa Jr.) and the recently departed Umaga (Eddie).
The one thing I take away from all of this is Yokozuna’s real name was Rodney. Just Rodney.
1. Charity is Second Nature
When you watch an actor take part in an interview, you wonder whether they are actually being themselves or, well, acting. While The Rock gave every opponent a verbal smack down prior to fighting them in the ring, outside the ring, he is actually one of the most sincere stars to walk Hollywood Blvd.
For example, Dunkin Donuts once offered The Rock a promotional deal, which would have a donut named after him; however, he graciously turned it down because he felt the deal would make him appear big headed.
In the mid-2000s, The Rock also donated $2 million to the University of Miami, his alma mater, for the to-be built Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center’s living room. In 2006, The Rock founded the Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation, which currently works with at-risk and terminally ill children.
Oh, and to top it all off, he bought his mother a new car for Christmas and his house keeper of 10 years an SUV. Clearly, The Rock’s heart is the strongest muscle in his body.