Dwayne Johnson, aka, The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment, has successfully crossed over from wrestler to legitimate movie star in a way few could have imagined. A member of the famed Anoa’i family, he debuted in the former World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in 1996 under the name Rocky Maivia, paying homage to his father Rocky Johnson and his grandfather Peter Maivia.
Now, Johnson, one of the hardest working men in Hollywood, has a net worth rumoured to be in excess of $190 million, owns production company Seven Bucks Productions with his ex-wife and manager Dany Garcia, and has even fanned speculation of running for President in 2020.
To celebrate The Great One’s latest appearance in fantasy adventure sequel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, we look back at his top five performances.
A returning war veteran finds his hometown unrecognisable after the opening of a new casino. After his attempt to make the casino patrons aware of the use of loaded dice, he is beaten and left for dead. But Chris Vaughn – Johnson’s character – is not a man so easily beaten and takes it upon himself to clean up the town when local law enforcement refuses to do so.
Early on in his movie career, Johnson was very much an action star, which is hardly surprising given his background, but Walking Tall also hints at his comedic side, helped here by Johnny Knoxville as side kick and furthered developed in 2005’s Be Cool. But the action here is spectacular, from Vaughn’s revenge attack on the casino that leads to his arrest to his final showdown. Johnson was originally marketed as the next Arnie, and with roles like this, it is not hard to see why.
Bob Stone, a former fat kid turned CIA agent, is the perfect role for Johnson. It allows him to shoot guns and Rock Bottom people (one of The Rock’s signature finishing moves) and crack a few jokes. Playing opposite Kevin Hart – whom he will star alongside in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – he is a man who is not quite used to the attention his good looks and massive physique brings him after a lifetime of being the outsider. The story, and Johnson, never take themselves too seriously, and these are the type of roles that really allow Johnson to shine. It received mostly positive reviews from critics on release, and Johnson promoted it heavily on his multiple social media accounts allowing audiences a look behind the scenes. Plus it has a half-naked, CGI Johnson lip syncing in the shower. What’s not to love?
Lending his voice to demigod Maui, this is not Johnson’s first appearance in family friendly fare having previously starred in the likes of The Tooth Fairy, Race to Witch Mountain and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. However, here, as selfish Maui, Johnson’s natural wit, charm and humour really shine through. He bursts into the story with the insanely catchy “You’re Welcome” where he tells Moana all the wonders he has created for humans before attempting to abandon her (“I’m gonna need that boat … because Maui can do anything but float!”). In return for Moana helping him retrieve his magical fishhook, he will return the stolen heart of the Goddess Te Fiti and stop the approaching darkness.
As usual with Disney, the story is full of heart and Johnson’s vocal talents play a huge part of that, giving the reluctant Maui an air of mischief as he struggles to do what is right and help Moana find a sense of purpose and her place in the world. His animated face even gives the famous People’s Eyebrow, retaining more of The Rock than Dwayne Johnson, but at this point in his career, when potentially more people know him as an actor than a wrestler, he is able to borrow his alter ego’s characteristics without blurring the line between the two.
With the release of The Fate of the Furious earlier this year, the franchise now has eight entries with no signs of stopping anytime soon. Johnson’s inclusion in 2011 was a welcome breath of fresh air. He plays Special Agent Luke Hobbs, whose team is tasked with bringing Vin Diesel’s band of merry misfits to justice. As the series has rolled on, Johnson’s role has changed, eventually joining “the family” to face down the villains that plague them.
A rumoured spin-off with Johnson and Jason Stathman is causing real life tension with co-star Tyrese Gibson, who has called out Johnson on social media, seeing it as a betrayal of the fast family and allegedly threatening to leave the series over it. No matter the status of the stars, Johnson has been welcomed into the franchise of the furious by fans all over the word.
It is without a doubt that Johnson’s greatest performance so far is that of his smack-talking alter ego, The Rock. Wrestling fans initially hated the baby face third generation superstar, showing their distaste with chants of “Die, Rocky, Die”. But that all changed in August 1997, when he returned from injury, turned heel, and joined the Nation of Domination. He began cutting scathing promos on fans and referring to himself in third person. The Rock had been born.
Despite being a heel through most of 1997 to ’99, his skills on the mic and in the ring began to draw cheers from the fans, and by 2000, the self-proclaimed People’s Champ had entered one of the most legendary feuds in sports entertainment history, facing off on numerous occasions against Triple H.
Regardless of his growing success as an actor, The Rock continues to make sporadic appearances back in WWE, having feuded with John Cena, beating CM Punk for the WWE Championship, and appearing at several Wrestlemania events. As time goes on, it is obvious that The Rock is no longer his own entity, and it has become increasingly clear that he is now “Dwayne Johnson as The Rock”, but that does not make him any less entertaining. No matter how long his absence is, one thing is for certain: the moment his music hits, there is no doubt that The Rock has returned home.