Dwayne Johnson first came on the wrestling scene in 1996 as Rocky Maivia: a combination of both his father and grandfather’s wrestling names. This original character was panned by wrestling fans as being too cheesy, but that all changed after an injury took him out of the ring and brought him back as The Rock. Now full of attitude and working as a heel for the WWE, The Rock quickly became a fan favorite and a huge ratings pull for the sport.
As his name became increasingly known, Johnson grabbed small roles on television shows and movies, but his big break didn’t come until 2001 when he was cast in a CGI-laden role in The Mummy Returns. While only a small role during the climax of the film, Johnson’s popularity as a wrestler and public figure was enough of a draw to make this sequel almost as successful as the original.
During an indefinite suspension from wrestling, Johnson took on his first starring role of the main character in The Scorpion King. As a whole, critics pretty much dismissed the film as cheesy, but some critics did commend The Rock‘s work. The Scorpion King went on to be a success, though still generating fewer box office returns than both Mummy films. That success was enough to score Johnson even more gigs to kickstart his acting career.
Between 2002 and 2009, The Rock had taken several acting roles in films. The majority of these roles were either action-based, like The Rundown or Walking Tall, or comedy-based like Be Cool or Reno 911!: Miami. Critics continually panned his films but continued to compliment Johnson on his growing skills as an actor. Financially, his films continued to make money and he even helped to reinvigorate some film franchises. Fast Five is one such example and was released in 2011 and even though it was the fifth installment of a dying franchise, The Rock’s popularity once again breathed new life into this long-running franchise. Afterwards, Johnson was able to land even more high-profile roles in various films.
After reviving Race to Witch Mountain and The Fast and the Furious, Hollywood filmmakers began to look at Johnson as the “Film Savior” and brought him in to revive dying franchises. Roles in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and G.I. Joe: Retaliation helped further this Film Savior feeling in Hollywood. Sequels for all three of these films are in the works starring Johnson, including his upcoming fourth starring role in Furious 8.
These roles have helped solidify The Rock as a great summer blockbuster attraction, but many critics and filmgoers are still wondering if he can actually act in a more serious role. This chance is given to him in the new HBO series Ballers, where Johnson plays a retired football player turned financial advisor to up-and-coming football stars. Having premiered in June with the finale airing August 23rd, which you can catch through Xfinity, FiOS, or AT&T, Ballers has already been renewed for a second season. While being billed as a comedy, The Rock’s role is more serious as he copes with the problems, both professional and personal, that come with the high-speed lifestyle of major sports and huge sums of money.
Beginning on a one-note path to wrestling obscurity, Dwayne Johnson has used his looks, personality and attitude to carve out a lucrative acting career. Even after being cast in several critically panned films, he continued to master his acting skill and become even more of a dangerous force in Hollywood. Over ten years after his major acting debut, The Rock gets a chance to show how much he has learned and to see if he can carry a major dramedy as the lead character. No matter what the end result of Ballers, the future smells delicious for The Rock.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brandon Engel is a Midwestern blogger with a keen interest in wrestling, boxing, horror movies, and classic Russian literature. Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonEngel2.