Whether from a WWE wrestling ring, the big screen, or perhaps his sitcom, practically everyone on the planet is aware of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Over the past several years in particular, Johnson has been Hollywood’s absolute biggest star, headlining blockbuster after blockbuster and bringing multiple million dollar franchises new life while doing so. Before this, he was arguably the most popular superstar in the WWE Universe and thus pro wrestling in general, winning 10 World Championships and countless other accomplishments. Somehow, he also finds time to star in Ballers, a sitcom about the sports entertainment excess for which he’s known, which immediately became the highest-rated show on HBO.
Given the self-proclaimed Great One’s unprecedented success at every medium he enters, it’s easy to assume Dwayne Johnson can do no wrong. On the contrary, however, there have actually been plenty of low points throughout his life and career, sometimes coming when he and his fans least expected them. Turns out nobody’s perfect after all, but like any human, Johnson prefers to focus on the positives of his career rather than drudge up the negatives.
Of course, not all fans of his might be so willing to overlook his downsides, wanting a full view of the man and his experiences in life thus far. Truth be told, there’s nothing particularly scandalous in his past aside from a few iffy movies and a couple questionable wrestling angles, yet to someone considered flawless, even these are noteworthy faults his team might try sweeping under the rug. Keep reading to learn about 15 questionable things in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s past he can’t escape.
15 He Grew Up In Extreme Poverty
Regardless of how much Dwayne Johnson has achieved in his career, everybody starts at the bottom. A common misconception may be that since Johnson’s father was a famous wrestler, he and their family were extremely wealthy from the start, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Much to the contrary, there was once a point when the Johnson family was so desperate for cash they couldn’t afford Thanksgiving dinner.
Years later, Johnson explained on Instagram that in 1987 specifically, the family “was praying someone would invite us over their house to eat.”
Whether or not they got this wish is unclear, though less mysterious is the fact the Johnsons now celebrate Thanksgiving and every other holiday in serious style. The trouble didn’t stop with that one hungry holiday, though. Dwayne himself would struggle with a lack of funding for years after this moment, once recalling that when he got cut from the CFL Calgary Stampeders, he only had $7 to his name. There was an upside to it all, as this sense of loss and need inspired Johnson to always work his hardest to ensure he’d never end up in that condition again. Chances are it also has something to do with his ability to connect with people, having relied on close relationships over material possessions since childhood.
14 His Football Career Didn’t Quite Pan Out
As one of the most popular pro wrestlers in history, the star of a TV show, and a repeat blockbuster movie star, many critics would readily agree Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a serious triple threat. When Johnson was younger, though, he wasn’t particularly interested in any of these professions. Instead, his one goal in life was to play for the NFL. To this end, he played football through high school and then in college at the University of Miami. While a decent player, multiple injuries caused Johnson’s to lose his usual slot on the team, and he was replaced by NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.
From then on, Johnson admits he was pretty much in Sapp’s shadow, and had few chances to stand out. After college, the NFL showed no interested, and he was drafted to the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. Two short months later, he was cut from the team, leading to what he later told Sports Illustrated was “a nice fun dance with depression.”
Luckily, he was eventually able to get out of that funk by becoming one of the biggest stars on the planet. In the same interview, he looked back on his lack of success in football by saying, “You know what the simple answer is? I was in the wrong game. And now I’m in the right one.”
13 A Rocky Relationship With His Father
Given the hype about The Rock being a third-generation WWE superstar, it’s understandable fans would assume Dwayne Johnson’s relationship with his father was always strong. Sadly, this would appear to be another popular misconception, as like many pro wrestlers, the elder Rocky Johnson was often too busy to spend time with his son or family. Speaking to the tabloid Star magazine, Luan Crable claimed she engaged in a 25-year relationship with the married elder wrestler, and acknowledged the emotional toll it had on his son.
The relationship was apparently equally painful, with Crable also alleging Dwayne once called her and chewed her out over it, demanding they stop hurting his mother immediately. Neither Dwayne nor Rocky have commented on the allegations, but either way, its unquestionable wrestlers are constantly on the road and have little time for family. Despite this, later on in life, the Johnsons would reconnect as adults and appear very close today, with Dwayne giving his father extravagant gifts at every occasion.
12 He’s Not Biologically Related To The Anoa’i Family
Especially in today’s world, the concept of a “modern family” hardly requires a blood connection or shared branches on a biological tree. While this is a good thing in the sense it’s bringing the world closer together, there’s no denying the idea can get a little confusing at times when people start throwing around words like “brother” or “cousin” in reference to their close friends. That seems to be the case with The Rock’s relation to wrestling largest dynasty in the Anoaʻi family, which dates back nearly a full century.
The confusion began way back when The Rock’s grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia became “blood brothers” with Amituanai Anoaʻi, father of Afa and Sika of The Wild Samoans. From there, any of Maivia or Anoa’i’s offspring were considered part of the same shared family, including Rock’s mother, Ata Maivia. Confusing things a little further, Ata was actually Peter’s adopted daughter from his wife’s previous marriage. Now, does this make them any less of the family in their hearts? Absolutely not. If anything, the fact the Anoaʻis have continued to warmly embrace the Johnson/Maivias is a sign “blood brothers” may as well be the real article. Nonetheless, it’s a bit complicated to explain in full, so it’s easier for everyone to simplify it and just say they’re “related” in vague terms.
11 His Weird First Ring Name
Call him The Brahma Bull, The People’s Champion, or The Most Electrifying Man In All of Sports Entertainment, it’s obvious Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an expert of creating nicknames. No one was better at getting the millions (and the millions) of wrestling fans to their feet and chanting his name than The Rock, yet it’s hard to imagine him achieving this same level of fame using the ridiculous ring name he was originally given while training in Jerry Lawler’s independent promotion, USWA. Before he was The Rock or even Rocky Maivia, Dwayne Johnson’s original title inside the squared circle was Flex Kavana.
Nowadays, WWE gets a little bit of flak for naming new stars in very generic fashion, but at least Dalton Castle or Kassius Ohno vaguely sound like real people.
Flex Kavana sounds like a trendy gym, and not the sort in which a serious athlete would train. Nonetheless, the young superstar did manage a small modicum of fame, instantly shooting into the main event for a feud against Lawler. His first match with the company was a tag team bout versus Lawler and Bill Dundee, with Brian Christopher as his partner. Of course, things would rapidly explode from there, as he was soon ready for the WWE Universe, where he got a much better name.
10 Audiences Hated Him As A Rookie
For as big a star as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would become, his humble beginnings in the entertainment world weren’t exactly anything to write home about. The Rock’s career on television kick started at the 1996 Survivor Series, when he participated in a 10-man tag team match on the winning team. He got a nice reaction that night, but within weeks, fans were already sick of his goofy smile and cheery blue outfits. They didn’t just dislike The Rock; they genuinely wanted him dead, loudly chanting “Die, Rocky, Die,” despite the fact he was supposed to be a good guy. Unlike in the modern era when WWE fails to acknowledge things aren’t working, when the hot new “blue chipper” started getting booed out of the building, everyone realized something had to change, fast. Previously on the fast track for greatness, The Rock was written off television for several months to revamp his character. Upon returning, he was a brash bullying jock, basking in the vitriol the audience threw at him. Looking back on things, Rock told Sports Illustrated,
It sucked when they hated him because he was boring, but once they hated him for the right reasons, the sky was the limit for what Rocky could achieve.
9 The Low-Key Feud With Shawn Michaels
Of all the great missed opportunities in wrestling, one of the lost dream matches that stings WWE fans the most is The Rock versus Shawn Michaels. In fairness to Vince McMahon, there just weren’t all that many opportunities, with HBK retiring just after Rock came to fame, then Rock leaving for Hollywood as he made his comeback.
During the few short months they were on the same roster, both men were generally just too busy for this match to happen, but there may have been something deeper beneath the surface that few fans know about.
Rumor has it the real reason this encounter never happened has more to do with the two men disliking one another than busy schedules. Without saying anything directly, Michaels has eluded to a pretentious and cocky attitude he felt The Rock had from day one, souring him from then on. According to The Rock’s father Rocky Johnson during an interview with Hannibal TV, tensions once got so high, the two got into a backstage brawl, though he admits he wasn’t there and just heard stories that seem otherwise unconfirmed. No matter how far things went, it’s doubtful Johnson would make up such a story about his son if he and HBK were friendly. Either way, it seems both wrestlers have moved on past whatever problems they once had.
8 The Transition To Acting Wasn’t Exactly Smooth
By 2016, every movie Dwayne Johnson touched was bound to make millions of dollars. However, in the same way his wrestling career needed a few tweaks to truly get off the ground, his time in Hollywood wasn’t always an easy ride. That said, early indications suggesting Johnson would make it in due time, with his debut role in The Mummy Returns instantly leading to a starring role in a sequel called The Scorpion King. The catch is that his prospects quickly diminished once he started playing other characters, to an extent it nearly looked like his Hollywood career could wind up like Hulk Hogan’s.
To name a few of the bombs Johnson got involved in, it’s hard to imagine he spends much time looking back on Doom, Tooth Fairy, The Game Plan, or Walking Tall.
Some of these pictures made acceptable, if not fantastic, money, but each one of them was harshly maligned by critics, who all essentially begged for the star to give up his career and go back to the ring. Suddenly, an appearance in Fast Five dramatically turned things around, making Johnson the star he always knew he was. Even though none of Johnson’s films have been huge winners at the Academy Awards, once they started regularly breaking nine figures at the box office, that was no longer an issue.
7 He Tried Downplaying His Wrestling Past For Years
No matter what some wrestling purists may try and argue, there’s really nothing wrong with a former WWE superstar deciding to pack up their gear and head for Hollywood. Acting is a lot safer than bouncing around the ring, and with the right talents, it can make a whole lot more money, too. However, should a former wrestler, or any athlete for that matter, try and cover up their past, old fans will quickly resent the perceived betrayal. This is what happened to The Rock when he first started calling himself Dwayne Johnson, slowly removing all references to his former persona.
Despite still being billed as “The Rock” in select movies, the trend started when Johnson hosted Saturday Night Live for the second time and spoke solely of his movie career. Wrestling fans were even more annoyed when The Rock couldn’t be bothered to appear on a Raw 10th Anniversary special honoring him, only appearing via satellite.
It wasn’t long before Johnson realized rejecting his past wasn’t the best idea, gradually changing his movie billing to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. By the time he dropped the middle part for a second time, it made total sense, as his movies genuinely had eclipsed his former career. By that point, people realized they like Dwayne Johnson just as much as The Rock, anyway.
6 His Ex-Wife Manages His Career
Such is the nature of the entertainment business, sports or otherwise, that very few celebrities boast long-lasting happy marriages. For all his charm, Dwayne Johnson is simply one of the very, very many to have suffered a divorce in his life, yet the exact circumstances of his split from ex-wife Dany Garcia are nonetheless quite unique.
The strangest thing about it is although they’ve been apart for over a full decade and both moved on to other relationships, they remain extremely close as friends and business partners to this day.
Perhaps part of the reason they’ve been able to overcome the pain is related to how long the couple knew one another before tying the knot. Johnson first met Dany Garcia way back when the two were in college. That doesn’t make it any less surprising that it was actually during their divorce proceedings that Johnson officially asked Garcia to become his manager. The way Garcia talks about it, getting divorced only made them stronger in this sense, forcing them to push through any emotional discomfort to ensure both could continue living happy work lives when it was over. Not everyone immediately understands the arrangement, but according to Garcia during an interview with Marie Claire, producers and executives are quick to overlook the weirdness the second they present a business plan.
5 His Childhood Family Nickname
Okay, so Flex Kavana wasn’t the best name a person could come up with for himself, but at least it was clearly just a character. Unfortunately for Dwayne Johnson, his family bestowed him with another nickname that he strangely found significantly more embarrassing in retrospect. For whatever reason, those closest to Johnson when he was a child decided that rather than “Dwayne,” “The Rock,” or a similarly manly name, they were going to call their child “Dewey,” as in the decimal system.
Now, there are surely plenty of Deweys out there in the world who are entirely happy about what people call them. Dewey Foley, for example, is a WWE-adjacent person who never seemed to complain all that much about what his father Mick named him. However, Johnson was never all that happy about it, even showing animosity decades later when he told Rolling Stone the situation was messed up. Apparently, Johnson’s friends on the football team would make fun of him for this, presumably without the level of flair Rock would later possess when breaking down his opponents. Luckily for Johnson, in his own words, the name “died a slow death” by the time people recognized his greatness. Quite frankly, we’re a little surprised someone like Chris Jericho never brought this one up.
4 Not Everyone In WWE Was Happy About His Comeback
From a business standpoint, any time Dwayne Johnson makes a return to the WWE Universe as The Rock, everyone in wrestling should be overjoyed at the money and attention they stand to receive. Unfortunately, such is the nature of humanity that some entertainers are innately jealous of the spotlight anyone else receives, and sometimes, this is a reasonable reaction. For one thing, some people apparently weren’t entirely pleased the longest WWE Championship reign in recent history ended in a throwaway during one of only three matches The Rock would wrestle that year.
At one point, tensions ran so hot the Pro Wrestling Torch was reporting The Rock had “no allies” in the current locker room.
Another point of contention was apparently that some wrestlers felt Johnson was just using WWE as paid publicity for his movie careers. In his defence, other crossover stars like Mick Foley had been doing this for decades and received much less flak for doing it. Another popular counterargument is that whenever The Rock is on the card, everyone is guaranteed to have a much bigger payday, making it hard to understand what exactly the other wrestlers were allegedly complaining about. Of course, the fact no specific wrestlers were named in the reports make them hard to fully unpack.
3 The Problematic Lana Skit
Okay, so Dwayne Johnson is a charismatic, attractive, and all-around charming man. That doesn’t mean every woman alive instantly turns to jelly when she starts talking to him, though. It’s especially unlikely a happily engaged person would suddenly ditch her fiancée to fawn over a random coworker walking down the hallway. Unfortunately, that’s what WWE decided Lana should do right before her wedding to Rusev, having The Rock approach her backstage to graphically describe an alleged one-night stand. Lana said absolutely nothing in response.
The worst part of this segment was that it came right at the beginning of the so-called women’s wrestling revolution.
At the same time WWE was promoting female superstars as capable of taking over the world, one of them was forced to stand silently and giggle while a man repeatedly questioned her devotion to the person she was about to marry. WWE has always been a little derivative writing for female stars, but this was especially low, painting Lana solely as an object. Granted, The Rock himself isn’t entirely to blame here, as this idea reeks of Vince McMahon’s influence. Johnson still could have turned it down, though, considering it was absolutely pointless and never lead to a real match. The only plus side is that this also means few people remember it.
2 Wrestling For Position With Vin Diesel and Tyrese
Anyone who believes Dwayne Johnson left his combative spirit in the wrestling ring hasn’t been paying attention to the drama behind the scenes of the Fast & Furious franchise. The controversy began around the start of The Fate of the Furious, when Johnson posted a message to fans on social media praising his female co-stars, but called some of the males he was working with “candy asses.” Who exactly he meant was unclear, though many fans and gossip sites quickly assumed he had an issue with Vin Diesel, because he was known for showing up late to set. Fuel was added to the fire when the movie came out, when their previously friendly characters weren’t ever seen together onscreen.
Eventually, Johnson and Diesel claimed to talk things out, and while they still disagree on how to do business, they seem to wish one another well in their future endeavors. However, fellow co-star Tyrese Gibson recently started speaking out as well, lambasting Johnson for daring to “abandon” the main franchise for a spin-off based on his character.
Apparently, Tyrese felt Johnson was “breaking up” the Fast family as it were, repeatedly calling him out on Instagram. Finally, someone on Johnson’s team reached out to Tyrese and got him to calm down, with the man himself telling Rolling Stone he neither understood nor cared about the “beef.”
1 Black Adam Is Taking A Long, Long Time
While Dwayne Johnson has firmly been seated in the throne as Hollywood’s top box-office star for some time now, there’s still one thing missing from his resume. Notwithstanding the legendary Hercules, the former WWE Champion has somehow yet to play a true superhero (or villain), despite the fact movies about them are the only thing in the world more popular than he is. Granted, this hasn’t been for lack of trying — Johnson has apparently been attempting to portray Shazam’s archrival Black Adam for nearly a full decade now.
Originally, Johnson was going to take the role in the upcoming Shazam film, finally slated for release in April 2019, only for plans to fall through when studios decided to give Black Adam his own movie.
However, Johnson has remained extremely busy, and recent DC films haven’t been performing quite as well as their competitors with Marvel, lowering the stock of a side movie about a minor character. Then again, Dwayne Johnson’s power knows no bounds, so it’s entirely possible he’s exactly what the universe needs to get back on top. The only question is when they’ll actually give him the chance, and if he’ll even have time to accept it when they do. On the plus side, Johnson recently confirmed a script has been written, suggesting things are indeed moving along smoothly.