How Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson went from WWE wrestler to Hollywood's star

Dwayne the rock johnsonBrendon Thorne/Getty ImagesHow’d he go from wrestling star to movie star?

Dwayne Johnson recently went back to his wrestling roots when he made an appearance at the WWE Royal Rumble.

He’s come a long way since those early days.

In fact, most people today recognise Johnson for his big blockbuster movies, not his wrestling alter ego. Thanks to franchises like “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Fast and the Furious,” Johnson has been able to seamlessly make a massive career transition.

He’s been very successful, too. In total, his movies have made over one billion dollars, which is not an easy feat for anyone, former wrestling superstar or not.

Frank Pallotta contributed to an earlier version of this slideshow.

Before he was 'The Rock,' Dwayne Johnson was born May 2, 1972, in Hayward, California.

Source: Biography

Wrestling is in Johnson's blood. His father, Rocky 'Soul Man' Johnson, was a member of the first African American tag-team champions and his grandfather, Peter Maivia, was of the first Samoan wrestlers.

Johnson's wrestler father, Rocky, on the right.

Source: YouTube

Johnson didn't go straight to wrestling. His first sport was football. After being a high school star, he joined college football team, the Miami Hurricanes. Over his tenure at the school, Johnson only started once but appeared in 39 games, had 77 tackles, and was a part of the 1991 national championship team.

Source: ESPN

The University of Miami was also where he met first wife, Dany Garcia. The two separated after 10 years, but have stayed close. 'Since our divorce, we've become pretty good at working together, and we are also raising our beautiful 11-year-old daughter, Simone,' Johnson has said.

Source: Huffington Post

If not for serious injuries to both his shoulders and back, Johnson's football career could have taken him to the NFL.

Instead, he ended up playing in the Canadian Football League only making $250 a week, and eventually getting cut. 'The dreams I had, they're dashed,' he explained. 'There is no more football. My relationship was crushed. That was my absolute worst time.'

After he stepped away from football, Johnson looked into the family business of wrestling. After spending time in the WWE's minor leagues, he debuted on TV at the 1996 Survivor Series. His wrestling name was 'Rocky Maivia,' which was a combination of his father and grandfather's names.

Source: YouTube

The first third-generation wrestler in WWE history, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest wrestlers to ever enter the ring.

Source: WWE, Bleacher Report

During his many years at the WWE, he created and became known for signature moves like 'The People's Elbow' and 'The Rock Bottom.'

Johnson proved his prowess in the ring by winning the WWE Heavyweight Title six times and securing the Tag Team Title five times.

Source: Biography

Being an incredibly popular wrestler put Johnson on Hollywood's radar. This included getting a call from New York about hosting 'Saturday Night Live.' After he was asked to host, Johnson says, 'I fell out of my chair.'

Source: YouTube, YouTube

The wrestler's stint on 'SNL' (as seen below playing the monkey-human hybrid, Papa Peepers) was a ratings success. Most importantly, the gig showed Hollywood that Johnson wasn't just another wrestler -- he could really act.

Source: YouTube

Johnson made his feature film debut in 2001's 'The Mummy Returns' playing a villainous ruler. He reprised the role in 'The Scorpion King.' He made $5.5 million, the most any actor has made for a first leading role.

Source: MTV

Despite his large paycheck, it wasn't until 2003's 'The Rundown' people began to see him as a legitimate action hero. 'The Rock has a flair for action and comedy,' wrote Rolling Stone. 'He's a real movie star.'

Source: Rolling Stone

The film also included a brief cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger, which many critics like Roger Ebert saw as the passing of the action movie torch. 'Whether The Rock will rival Schwarzenegger's long run as an action hero is hard to say,' Ebert wrote. 'But on the basis of 'The Rundown,' he has a good chance.'

Source: Roger

As his career began to take off, he dropped 'The Rock' from his name. ''The Rock' was a name, a character I created in TV,' he said. 'When I made the transition into film, I knew eventually I was going to be billed as my given name.'

Source: LA Times

He showed his range by acting in family films like 2007's 'The Game Plan' and comedies like 'The Other Guys' in 2010. 'I felt there were bigger and better opportunities,' said Johnson. 'I also felt there was franchise potential, hopefully multiple franchises in every genre -- whether drama or comedy or action-comedy.'

Johnson finally found his franchise when he appeared in the fifth instalment of the popular 'Fast and the Furious' series, 'Fast Five,' alongside Vin Diesel. 'I've known Vin for a long time and we've always talked about doing something together,' Johnson said. 'This felt like the right opportunity to create a formidable adversary for him.'

Source: Screenrant

'Fast Five' was also an opportunity for Johnson to work again with Universal, the studio where he started his career. 'They were the first studio to believe in me when I was making the transition... into acting and helping me create opportunities,' Johnson said.

Source: Collider

The film went on to make $676 million worldwide. Johnson appeared in 2013's sequel 'Fast & Furious 6,' and is set to reprise his role again in this spring's 'Furious 7.'

Source: Box Office Mojo

Since then, he's appeared in two more franchises 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' and 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.'

Throughout his career, the one thing that has separated Johnson from many is his work ethic. The actor put on '12 to 15 pounds of muscle' for 2013's 'Pain and Gain.' Between himself and co-star Mark Wahlberg, the actors were eating 17 meals a day.

Source: Yahoo

Even though Johnson's acting career is going strong, he has returned to the ring for events like Wrestlemania. 'I'm back, not for money, not because I like being on the road, but because I love the business,' he said.

Source: Huffington Post

One of these events was WWE's Royal Rumble. Johnson had teased that he was going to appear at the event, and then he showed up in the middle of a wrestling match to help Roman Reigns win the prize.

This year, Johnson's big film will be 'Furious 7,' but he'll also headline a major earthquake disaster movie this summer, 'San Andreas.' The movie has been referred to as 'the west coast version of 'The Day After Tomorrow.'

In addition, Johnson will take his talents to TV with upcoming HBO series, 'Ballers,' which will follow current and retired football players. Johnson will definitely empathise with these characters, given his initial football career.

Now that you've seen Dwayne Johnson's career trajectory ...

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