How Did Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Become Famous?

It’s always been inevitable more WWE stars would turn into bigger stars than just being associated with wrestling. While we’ve seen numerous professional wrestlers become actors, 99% of them didn’t turn into critical darlings. Only Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has now usurped his WWE peers by far in acting ability and cinematic success.

Johnson has been acting now longer than you may remember if you’ve only paid attention for the last few years. How he became famous was a lot more to do with his personality and communication skills rather than acting ability. However, those abilities all integrate when you look back at how he formulated them.

It’s been almost a quarter century since Johnson made his wrestling debut

A few of you may have forgotten Johnson was a professional football player before moving into wrestling. He first played professionally with the Miami Hurricanes in 1991. After an injury, he took the extra time to finish up his college education studying criminology and physiology.

He tried one more time with his football career by playing in Canada before going into wrestling. After being cut from the roster, he managed to wrangle a deal to do several tryout matches through the then WWF.

If you were an avid fan of WWF in the mid-1990s, you may remember seeing his early matches, despite not yet going under his famous “The Rock” moniker.

Did you know “The Rock” came from his initial WWF stage name Rocky Maivia? This was a combination of names from his father and grandfather.

A natural affinity for communicating with an audience

Johnson had a naturally magnetic personality (and eyebrow) made perfect for professional wrestling. By the late 1990s, he’d become a superstar wrestler exclusively under the name The Rock.

Casual fans watching in those days likely didn’t even know his real name was Dwayne Johnson considering WWF/WWE would occasionally refer to him as Rocky Maivia for a while longer.

Regular WWE appearances were already capturing attention, but Hollywood wasn’t exactly looking for their next biggest talent from the wrestling ring. It took Johnson appearing on Saturday Night Live in 2000 to finally generate more interest in hiring him for TV/movie projects.

Nevertheless, he’d already won a few small parts on television a year earlier.

From small movie roles to leading star

Playing The Scorpion King in 2001’s The Mummy Returns is basically what established Johnson’s movie stardom. The role was perfect as a showcase reference to his wrestling persona while still putting in a good acting performance.

Within a year, he was top-billed for the sequel: The Scorpion King. He never looked back after this, and managed to be top-billed in most to all of his films since.

However, he also made one smart move in his movie career by going into comedy. Moving in this direction was one of the best things he could have done, mostly thanks to his hilarious SNL hosting gigs around this time. He’s still doing similar movies under the category of “comedy adventure,” though also acts in action/disaster movies arguably taking themselves too seriously.

Can Johnson become a serious actor?

There isn’t any doubt Johnson could go on to show his chops as a dramatic actor eventually. Even though he’s set a certain type of film persona (much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s), he has time to reinvent himself for potential acting awards.

He’ll have to wait until he’s done with his comedy-adventure era as he’s currently enjoying with the rebooted Jumanji franchise and his upcoming turn in Disney’s Jungle Cruise.

Thanks to his natural acting ability, many would find it interesting to see what Dwayne Johnson is capable of in a serious film. Perhaps his 50s will showcase it when doing action films becomes more prohibitive due to the possibility of not being immune to a back muscle giving out.