Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, may be one of the most recognizable and popular professional wrestlers in existence. While he certainly held his own in the ring, against numerous talented opponents, Johnson has made a real name for himself as an actor. Born in 1972, The Rock played college football as a member of the University of Miami team that won a national championship. He tried his hand in the Canadian Football League but stayed only a few months.
He followed his grandfather and father into the world of professional wrestling, becoming quite famous and popular under the World Wrestling Entertainment banner. Johnson became “The Rock” early in his career when he was known as part of the Nation of Domination. He wrestled occasionally in 2000 and 2001 but devoted an increasing amount of time to acting in movies and television shows.
But those who know Johnson only from his acting career shouldn’t be misled. He was a world champion nine times (seven WWF/WWE and two World Championship Wrestling). He held the Intercontinental title twice and won the WWF Tag Team Championship on five separate occasions.
Johnson has been in numerous major movies, including The Scorpion King, Get Smart and Race to Witch Mountain, a career that is a long way from his youth in California. Members of Johnson’s family have been involved in professional wrestling for decades. Even his grandmother was a wrestling commissioner in the early 1980s, the Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling organization. Johnson is of Samoan and black heritage. His father’s family traces its roots to Nova Scotia.
Johnson participated in track, football and other sports in high school, eventually catching the attention of several Division I colleges. He attended the University of Miami, where he played football. Johnson and his wife, Dany Garcia, have donated large amounts of money to their alma mater. Dany is a member of the university Board of Trustees.
At 6’3” tall and 255 pounds, Johnson was a formidable opponent in the ring. He was trained by family members who had extensive experience in professional wrestling. His successes include the USWA tag-team title in 1996. He first appeared in WWF competition as Rocky Maivia, using parts of names from his grandfather and father. He often wrestled as an audience favorite and was generally known as a clean wrestler and a clean-cut sort of man. The Rock won the Intercontinental title by defeating Triple H in 1997.
Feuds with Steve Austin and others highlighted The Rock’s career in the late 1990s and into the new century. He was the first African-American to gain the heavyweight title. Johnson wrestled at the top of the professional game for several years, primarily due to his popularity among fans of all ages. He began to develop a sense of comedy and presented this personality during television interviews.
The years 2000 and 2001 were very busy times for Johnson. His wrestling career was going at full speed, during a time when he was often referred in connection with a Kurt Angle feud. He left wrestling and the WWE for a short time to pursue his career in Hollywood, but returned for a short time. The Rock’s wrestling career has been part-time/retirement since 2004.