While The Rock is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and one of the most famous wrestlers in history, his road to the top wasn’t always easy.
Despite being the son of a WWE Hall of Famer, The Rock’s wrestling career was far from straightforward. After failed attempts to make a living in the NFL, with just “seven bucks” in his pocket, Dwayne Johnson decided it was time to follow in the family business.
The would-be World Champion made his debut at Survivor Series 1996, but it wasn’t long before crowds turned on the on the smiling, over-the-top, pure as the driven snow babyface, and began serenading him with chants of “die Rocky die!”
Despite his inauspicious start, and one heel turn later, The Rock quickly rose to become one of the biggest stars in the industry, and arguably ever.
Speaking to Citizen Abels, The Great One reflected on his troubled start in the ring. During the interview, the People’s Champion opened up about he didn’t feel comfortable in his own skin, something that happened again when he moved to Hollywood.
“I felt least comfortable in my own skin on two occasions. When I first started as a professional wrestler, I was told back then, that you can’t smile enough, you have to be happy every time you go out there. You have to be so joyous at the opportunity that you have. I wasn’t reacting authentically and I was being a very buttoned-down version of who I actually was at that time in the world of professional wrestling,”
“The other time that happened to me was when I made the transition to Hollywood. At that time, a few years into my Hollywood career, approximately the mid-2000s, I was told then that I had to lose weight, I had to change my eating habits and diet. I couldn’t go to the gym as much and had to slim down. I had to not reference the name The Rock, I had to do, as best I could, to not mention or reference the world I came from, the world I was proud to come from, in professional wrestling.
At that time, when there is no blueprint for somebody who looked like me, walked and talked like me, half-black, half-Samoan. ‘You can’t be big, you can’t go to the gym you can’t call yourself The Rock, let’s not talk about pro wrestling.’ You buy into that shit, as I did, until, one of two things is going to happen; you either continue down that road and you’re miserable, and eventually your career is probably going to fizzle out and you don’t have any sense of longevity or equality.
The other thing that (could) happen is you’re going to say, ‘fuck this shit, I’m gonna be me, and we’re gonna see what happens.’ In that authenticity moment of clarity, a funny thing happened in the world of pro wrestling and Hollywood, both industries conformed to my authenticity and allowed me to be me. That’s when things changed.”
While The Rock hasn’t wrestled something resembling a proper match since 2013, it has long been rumoured that he will be returning to the ring at WrestleMania 39 to face Roman Reigns.
It also appears that he is keeping his finger on the wrestling pulse, as he recently took to social media to praise Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins for their match at Hell In A Cell.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.