Dwayne Johnson won over wrestling fans and, later, the world with his character The Rock. As a professional wrestler, Johnson made a name for himself as this tough guy that played by his own rules. He only referred to himself in the third person, insulted fans, and made cutting people off one of his iconic traits.
In an unexpected turn of events, Dwayne Johnson became the highest-paid actor of 2015. With numerous blockbusters under his belt, Johnson made an even bigger name for himself as Luke Hobbs in The Fast and the Furious franchise. With so many movies built around his star power, his success in Hollywood shouldn’t have come as big of a surprise as it did.
In addition to having a prolific wrestling acting career, Johnson was a bestselling author in 2000 for his autobiography, The Rock Says. He’s been listed in the top 20 of Forbes‘s Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities every year since 2014. In 2015, He was listed as “Man of the Century” by Muscle & Fitness, and every year, he grows his fan base a little bit more.
Johnson’s social media presence is second to none. He regularly posts videos on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook to address his fans. As a celebrity with one of the highest fan counts on Facebook, Johnson’s life has been an open book since he won over the world as The Rock. That said, there are a number of photos that The Rock wishes nobody would look at.
Everyone has embarrassing photos from earlier in his or her life — and that’s true even for the toughest man in Hollywood.
16. He Used To Have An Afro
Contrary to what you may think, Dwayne Johnson isn’t actually bald. According to The Rock himself, “I’m not bald because I went bald. I’m bald because my hair is a cross between an afro and hair from a llama’s ball sac.” Don’t Google that; it’s an image nobody needs to see.
As a kid, Johnson embraced his afro-like haircut. As he grew up, he started styling his hair (for better or worse) to fit in with the fashion of the time. When he started to become a household name, The Rock was styling a buzzcut. his The last time Johnson was seen with hair on his head was in 2010. Few men with hair choose to rock the bald look, but Johnson manages to pull it off with confidence. Though he’s bald, you probably don’t think of him as a bald guy. You think of him as a tough guy who happens to be bald.
Clearly, Johnson has a disdain for his head of hair. When looking at old photos with interviewers, one of the first things he comments on is his hair. It may be a major insecurity for Johnson, which could have prompted him to get rid of it entirely!
15. When He Wore A Pink Suit
Some people are born into greatness, while others earn it for themselves — The Rock did both. Growing up, he didn’t have an ordinary childhood. His father was one part of the first black tag team to win the World Tag Team championship in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF — now known as WWE). Johnson’s grandfather was Peter Maivia, a world-renowned Samoan professional wrestler. In other words, Dwayne Johnson came from a lineage of prolific wrestlers.
The Rock originally had his eyes set on playing in the NFL. When that career didn’t work out for him, he asked his dad to train him to be a professional wrestler. His dad agreed under the condition that he wouldn’t go easy on him.
Dwayne Johnson takes his family history pretty seriously. During his debut, he appeared as Rocky Maivia, as an homage to his father’s and grandfather’s ring names. The character flopped, and eventually, he settled on the persona of The Rock.
14. Hanging Out By The Stereo
How old do you think The Rock is in this photo? 19? 25? How about 15? At 15 years old, Johnson looked like more of a man than I do at the age of 22. He looks like he could have a son or daughter that’s graduating high school. According to Johnson, at the time this photo was taken, he would’ve been around 6 ft 4 inches and about 215 pounds. That’s not how the average 15-year-old is built.
As a teenager, Johnson found himself hopping from high school to high school because his family moved a lot. He went to schools in New Zealand, Hawaii, Nashville, and Pennsylvania. When he transferred to a school in Nashville, people assumed that he was an undercover police officer trying to bust students for drug use. None of the students wanted anything to do with him because they thought he was much too developed to be a teenager!
13. His High School Graduation Photo
Johnson looks like he’s thirty years old in this photo. You could tell people that this is a photo from when The Rock was working for a real estate company after college, and people would believe you.
During high school, Johnson was somewhat of a super athlete. Most likely, it was because he was so much larger than the other students. At 6 ft 5 inches, Johnson excelled at high school football and was a member of his school’s track and field team as well as the wrestling team. He was considered a football prospect during his senior year.
After graduating, Johnson received offers from Division 1 collegiate programs. He decided to attend the University of Miami on a full scholarship as a defensive tackle. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined him through college, and he was replaced by Warren Sapp, an NFL hall of Famer. There’s no doubt, at some point, Johnson thought to himself that he could’ve had Sapp’s life.
12. Stuck On The Bench
Graduating in 1995, Johnson was denied his dream of playing in the NFL. Wanting to make a name for himself, he began playing in the Canadian Football League in 1995 with the hopes that he could transfer into the NFL. Johnson joined the Calgary Stampeders on the practice roster as a backup linebacker.
In a recent Instagram video, The Rock revealed that he played in his first Canadian Football League game against the BC Lions in Vancouver, Canada. Two days after playing the game, he was cut from the team after a short two months with their organization.
He was 22 years old, and his life dream had been shattered. Everything he had worked for through high school and college was for nothing. He was sent home with $7 in his pocket and had to come to the realization he wasn’t going to play in the NFL.
11. The Infamous Turtleneck Photo
The ’90s was a weird time, especially for The Rock. The above photo was taken in 1996. At the time, Dwayne Johnson was still in the early stages of his wrestling career. The previous year, he was sleeping on a mattress he had stolen from a dumpster behind a sex motel. According to Johnson, he couldn’t afford to buy a bed and had to clean all sorts of bodily fluids off of the mattress.
On Instagram, Johnson used this photo to inspire his followers going through their own ‘used mattress’ phase. In the post, he pokes fun at the fact that he put a tissue down to protect the fabric of his cheap turtleneck. Was this outfit ever considered cool?
10. He Looks Like A 1990s TV Extra
In the past year or so, Johnson started a YouTube channel to build his social media presence. One of his new series is called ‘Rock Reacts,’ which is pretty much just like any other react video out there. In one installment of this series, Johnson reacted to his WWE (at the time WWF) debut.
According to Johnson, rookies to the WWE rarely debut at a pay-per-view event. For his debut, he appeared at one of the largest pay-per-view events of the year, at one of the most famous venues in the world — Madison Square Garden.
He ran out of the tunnel in his first ever Survivor Series wearing a ridiculous, almost ancient Egyptian-inspired outfit. He looked absolutely ridiculous, and as Johnson noted in his YouTube video, he had a ‘Chia Pet’ as a haircut.
9. Too Friendly To Win A Belt
When Johnson made his debut as Rocky Maivia, he acted vastly different than he did as The Rock. To start, Rocky Maivia was this baby-faced character that was seen as an inexperienced rookie who had no place in the WWE. Though he eventually became one of the most famous wrestlers of all time, Johnson wasn’t always popular among wrestling fans.
Many fans thought that Johnson was his character — cheesy, childish, and way too nice to be a wrestler. As his career as Rocky Maivia progressed, just months after his debut, fans became hostile toward the character. People in the stands of events would chant “Die, Rocky, die!” and “Rocky sucks!”
After a brief hiatus because of a legitimate knee injury, Johnson began developing his persona as The Rock. He started referring to himself in the third person, refusing to acknowledge his name as Rocky Maivia and throwing insults at the audience, wrestlers, as well as interviewers — and everyone loved it.
8. When He Grew Out His Sideburns
By no means was Johnson fat during the start of his career — but he definitely had some meat on his bones. As his career progressed, his body became more toned, and his body-fat percentage went down. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see that when he was first becoming a wrestler, his body wasn’t as cut as it is today. His body is the result of decades of hard work in the gym and in the kitchen.
That said, I’m not sure what screams ’90s more — his side burns or his outfit. Nothing says retro ’90s like purple outfits with unusual patterns on them. His waistband looks like he stole it off of public city transport. Then again, fashion tends to come back now and then. If stores sold shirts that looked like this, they would certainly sell out.
7. When He REALLY Grew Out His Sideburns
It’s hard to say exactly when this photo was taken, but judging by the length of his sideburns, it would have been sometime near 1998-1999 when he began calling himself The People’s Champion. During this time, The Rock’s WWE persona was gaining popularity, and wrestling fans found themselves loving Johnson as a villain. He was a tough guy — a bad guy — and his image had to reflect that. This image does not.
His sideburns merged with what appears to be half of a chinstrap. I mean, sideburns make someone look menacing, so at least he was building his brand. Regardless, there’s almost nothing salvageable about this photo — nothing that makes him look cool. He looks like someone that’s trying too hard to look cool. The photo looks like something you would see on a dating profile in 2008. Ladies, would you swipe right on this guy?
6. When He Became Self-Aware
Johnson loves himself. That’s apparent on his social media channels, and you can tell that he’s more than happy with how his life has turned out when he appears on talk shows. He hasn’t lived an easy life, but he worked his butt off to get to where he is today, and he’s proud of that.
At the time this photo was taken, Johnson would’ve been just making a name for himself in WWE. He was broke and possibly still heartbroken over getting cut from his Canadian Football League team. By no means was he a successful wrestler, but he was starting to make a name for himself as Rocky Maivia, soon to be The Rock. Yet, here he is, holding a rock — symbolically loving himself. It’s beautiful.
5. The Scorpion King
Although Johnson is known as a Hollywood hotshot today, that wasn’t always the case. When he was trying to break into the scene, he appeared in an episode of That ’70s Show. It was his first-ever acting job, and he didn’t land his next role until nearly a year later in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
Johnson appeared in The Mummy Returns (2001) to set up his starring role in The Scorpion King (2002). Unfortunately, his appearance in both films is considered somewhat of a joke. He was a character generated by special effects in The Mummy Returns and even for its time, the effects were terrible.
The Scorpion King, although a commercial success ($165 million at the box office), was obliterated by critics with their reviews. The movie was sold on Johnson’s star power and on the familiarity people had with The Mummy franchise. Additionally, it was Johnson’s first leading film role, and he was paid $5.5 million for it — breaking a world record for the highest-paid actor in his first starring role.
4. Showing Off On The Red Carpet
This photo was taken at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, and it’s one of the most 2000 things you’ll ever see. Johnson wore an all gold outfit and made sure he had the accessories to match. At any point in time, he could’ve looked in the mirror and thought to himself, ‘I look ridiculous,’ but he didn’t — because the year 2000 was insane.
Sure, you can look back at the late ’90s and early 2000’s and wonder what the hell everyone was thinking. That’s easy to do. But to really appreciate how hilarious this photo is, remember that Johnson’s character, The Rock, was a tough guy. He was wrestling’s macho villain who had a flair for style — and here he is wearing an all gold outfit. He put rappers with bling to shame. It was a moment that went down in MTV history — for better or worse.
3. When He Wore It Better Than She Did
At the 22nd Annual Kids’ Choice Awards (2009), moments before Miley Cyrus was presented with the best female singer award, The Rock, dressed exactly like her, was brought onstage. When his dress exposed part of his chest, Cyrus told him that he was having a wardrobe malfunction and needed to cover up.
Knowing that it was at the Kids’ Choice Awards makes this photo a little less embarrassing. But, as one of WWE’s most famous villains — you’d never expect him to dress in drag. If at the height of his wrestling career, you told wrestling fans that The Rock was going to wear a wig and a red dress at the Kids’ Choice Awards, people would laugh in your face.
This is a man that said, “Mary had a little lamb. Well, I’ll tell you what: piss on the lamb, piss on Mary, and piss on you.” He was never exactly family friendly during the peak of his wrestling career. But today, he’s re-branded himself as a wholesome, family friendly celebrity.
2. When He Went To Splash Mountain
Somewhere between stepping back from WWE and becoming a household action star, Dwayne Johnson became a family friendly, wholesome celebrity. This shift in his public image could’ve occurred because of his charity foundation to help terminally ill children, or through how he’s branded himself in movies and in interviews.
While he loves to be everyone’s favorite tough guy, Johnson has taken a number of roles in family-friendly movies. Starting with Tooth Fairy (2010), Johnson went on to star in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012), San Andreas (2015), Moana (2016), and later this year, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017).
Even on his social media accounts, Johnson tries to promote loving yourself, following your dreams, and never giving up when times get tough. There’s no way you can follow The Rock on Instagram and not love him. It’s hard to not be happy for someone who’s so happy.
1. Bonus: It Doesn’t Matter
As a wrestler, Dwayne Johnson tried out a number of catchphrases and hoped that something would stick. Some of these include ‘If you smell what The Rock is cooking’ and ‘Kung Pao B*tch,’ and he actually coined the term ‘smackdown.’ But perhaps the most iconic phrase that The Rock uses is “It doesn’t matter.”
Basically, The Rock would ask his opponent a question. Whenever the person tried to respond, The Rock would cut him off and say, “It doesn’t matter!” He used this phrase on opponents, on fans, in comedy sketches, and he even used it a few times on interviewers for his own amusement.
In an obvious money grab, The Rock appeared on Wyclef Jean‘s song ‘It Doesn’t Matter,’ where his iconic catchphrase was used. It’s kind of awkward. It doesn’t work in the song as it normally does. It has nothing to do with The Rock’s delivery; it’s just an awkward premise for a song.
17 years after the release of the song, I’m sure Dwayne Johnson can only look back on this song and laugh at himself.
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