You look at Dwayne Johnson today and he’s sitting on top of the world, ruling the roost in two industries. He seems untouchable; you see his face on posters smiling down at you and think, "This guy’s lucky, this guy’s got it good." However, it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses for Dwayne Johnson. He’s embarked down plenty of rocky roads during his career, has suffered many setbacks and has hit rock-bottom many times, in both his professional and personal life. But what does The Rock do when he hits rock-bottom? He perseveres, he gets knocked down but gets up and keeps going – all those clichés hold true for Dwayne Johnson and have helped mold him into the superstar he is today.
Picture this: a young Johnson in the police cells, wondering where his next meal’s going to come from, where he’s going to sleep, what he’s going to do after his hopes and dreams have been dashed. That young Johnson never lost hope, and said to himself, “I want the world.” Today it’s certainly his; he’s one of the most loved and greatest wrestlers of all time, and is also the world’s highest-paid actor.
Dwayne Johnson has hit rock bottom many times, but each time came back to triumph over adversity and “kick ass better than anyone on the planet” – as he so eloquently puts it.
15 Almost On The Streets
Many people think that Johnson, because of his association with the Anoa'i wrestling family, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has always had it good. That’s far from the case.
It may surprise many of you to know that Johnson never actually lived in a house he could call his own until his late 20s. His family kept moving around, living in rented flats and apartments. The young Johnson moved around a bit too, living in the U.S., but also briefly in New Zealand. He was therefore never settled.
But he recalls one particular instance which transformed his mindset for life. At the tender age of 14, Johnson and his mom were essentially made homeless.
“We were living in an efficiency that cost $120 a week. I came home and there was a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mom starts bawling. She just started crying and breaking down. Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?” This incident is still fresh in his mind, and he put this anger to good use and took up the weights as a means of letting out all that pent-up aggression.
14 Resorted To Being A Thief
Again, looking at the way Dwayne Johnson conducts himself today in public and in front of the camera, you’d think that he’s always been a model citizen, so it’d probably surprise most of you to know that he’s got a pretty extensive rap sheet, mostly for petty crimes, but still crimes not becoming of the man we all know and love today.
Johnson’s criminal career began in his teens, actually because of the eviction notice his family received when he was 14. He wanted to have money in his pocket so as never to have to suffer another similar situation again. He joined a theft ring in Hawaii, and targeted tourists to make a quick buck. Johnson and his cronies would get their hands on anything they could -- money, jewelry, clothes -- and then sell it and share the profits.
Due to his thieving days, Johnson was arrested nine times by the age of 17 – certainly dark days that Johnson would love to forget.
13 Arrested For Fighting
The young Johnson was not only arrested for stealing, he was also arrested numerous times in his teens for fighting. The teenage Johnson was a bit of a hot-head, especially from the period of 14-17 years old; that eviction notice again proved to be the catalyst and transformed Johnson’s mindset.
If you’re a guy in your mid-teens, you’ve got testosterone coursing through your body – testosterone levels are at their peak at this age. Add in weight training and the bodybuilding lifestyle, and the immature ways of an already troubled teenager, and it’s a recipe for one thing – fighting.
Johnson turned to weight training to help himself overcome the pain of being turfed out of his family’s apartment, and he admits that it definitely helped. Unfortunately, it also helped him develop a new persona – the macho man, big tough rowdy guy that wanted to get up in everybody’s business. This inevitably landed Johnson in plenty of trouble, and he was arrested and charged many times for fighting, in addition to his convictions for theft.
12 Serious Injuries At College
You look at what Johnson’s managed to achieve in the wrestling industry today and you’d think he’s probably always wanted to be a wrestler, came out of his mother’s womb kicking and screaming, throwing punches and giving the people’s eyebrow, right? That certainly wasn’t the case. The young Johnson loved sports, but didn’t have a wrestling career on his agenda. It was all about football for Johnson, and everything he did during his teens and early 20s was geared towards becoming a pro footballer.
He worked hard playing in various football leagues and graduated through the ranks, eventually earning a full football scholarship to attend the University of Miami. He thought his career was on track – as you would – but a string of serious injuries kept him side-lined and he was eventually dropped and replaced.
Johnson was understandably devastated as these injuries almost ended his potential football career from taking off just as soon as it had started.
11 Calgary Stampeders
This should have been a joyous occasion, an instance where Johnson had hit the big time. Sure it was not the NFL, but getting a contract with a major team in the Canadian Football League is still a big deal, especially for a young guy looking to make his dream of turning pro into a reality.
Initially Johnson was overjoyed and could not believe his luck. His football career at Miami was blighted by injuries, injuries which kept him side-lined from the Miami Hurricanes' national championship team. Still, despite his lack of action, he was picked up by the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Johnson must have thought he had a stepping stone to the NFL, but he left a couple of months into the season after having not played, being relegated to the practice team, and with his football career in tatters. His short-lived football career and aspirations were all but over.
10 Had To Seek Parents' Help After College
For those of you who have been to college, you know what it’s like. You work hard – well some of the time anyway – to ensure that when your college days are over, you’ll be able to stand on your own two feet. Many people get jobs and start to climb the career ladder straight away. This often means going and knocking at opportunity’s door, going where the jobs are, and where the money is. True independence often starts after you graduate from college.
But for Dwayne Johnson, unfortunately, and despite his best efforts, things just didn’t work out and he had to rely on mom and dad for a while longer. The bank of mom and dad was open for Johnson after college, and he used it – not that he wanted to do so, of course, but he needed some help getting back on his feet. This is a fairly common phenomenon today, but still a low point for The Rock.
9 The End Of His Football Career
Throughout his teens and early 20s, Johnson was working towards one thing and one thing only – doing whatever it took to become a professional football player. His sole ambition in life was to make it big in the NFL. He thought he was on the right track when he got into Miami on a football scholarship, thought he was a step closer when he got picked up by the Calgary Stampeders, but his stint in the pros ended in bitter disappointment. After just two months he was cut from the team and his stint in the CFL was over. In that single moment, everything Johnson had been working towards for as long as he could remember was over in a flash. The accumulation of years of hard work was for nothing, his sole dream, his lifelong ambition, dashed.
He was left broke and after taking a flight back to Florida, he called his dad from a payphone, asking for a lift back home and on the phone, he told his dad he no longer wanted to pursue football.
This was a serious low point in Johnson’s life as he had no clue what he was going to do. Thankfully – for us and millions of other fans around the world – he decided to go down the wrestling route and hasn’t looked back since.
8 Suffered From Depression
As a result of all these setbacks at still a young age, even a man as tough as Johnson is likely to feel the effects of blow after blow, and he certainly did. He went into a downwards spiral several times during his teenage years and early 20s, which all started at 14 when he found the eviction notice on his front door. That was the first time he felt really depressed, but the feeling just got worse and he ended up in a full-blown depression.
During those days, depression was deemed a very different thing to what it is now. Not much was known about the mental disorder and there wasn’t really any medication for it. “Snap out of it” was the term commonly said to people who thought they had depression. Johnson self-medicated, using the gym as his hospital and the weights as his medicine. “Releasing a lot of blood, sweat and respect--that was my medication,” Johnson’s said.
Johnson’s now as tough as nails, but it just goes to show that life’s hardships can bring anyone down, even the strongest.
7 Broke At 23
This is the kind of rags to riches story that captures the imagination. At the age of 23, Johnson had come to the realization that his football career was going nowhere, he had a degree but didn’t really have any prospects and didn’t have a clue what he was going to do.
At 23, most people have just left college and are full of enthusiasm, striving to get into a career and start earning a decent wage, but Johnson only had $7 to his name and was seriously broke. His finances had never been in great order – one of the reasons he resorted to stealing as a teenager. Instead of letting it destroy him, however, he used this financial destitution to fuel the fire, fuel that burning desire in him on his way to rule supreme in the wrestling and acting industries.
Recalling this incident, Johnson has said: “I looked in my pocket, and I had seven bucks and I knew two things: I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.” Fast-forward 21 years and I think it’s safe to say that he’s now financially set for life.
Dwayne Johnson suffered depression many times in his life, and each time he used the iron to overcome it and keep moving forward. However, in 2008 he fell into seriously deep depression following his divorce to Dany Garcia; 10 years of marriage were over in a flash and their young daughter was left in the middle, something that Johnson found hard to take.
The couple met and had been together since their university days in Miami. As college sweethearts, Garcia was the first woman who Johnson had really ever loved, and when they married and their daughter was born, he thought his family was complete. Mulling over the possible effects of the divorce on his daughter is what got Johnson down. “What kind of a dad does this make me? What kind of a man will I now become? Divorce was a heavy thing and had a special way of knocking me on the ass,” Johnson reflects.
5 Initial Tryout Matches With WWE
After his football career was all but over, Johnson made the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and get into the wrestling industry. He kind of did it on a whim, had no clue what to do and just wanted to get over the heartache of his short-lived pro football career ending just as soon as it had started.
When Johnson announced to his family that he was going down the wrestling route, they tried to talk him out of it. After much persuading, Johnson eventually talked his father around, and he agreed to train him while warning him it was going to be a tough road ahead. Those initial days were just that and left Johnson questioning whether he had made the right career choice.
After his father took him as far as he could, Pat Patterson came on board and used his connections to get Johnson several tryout matches with WWE. He lost to Chris Candido and Owen Hart, and again thought his career would be over before it had really started, but we all know what happened from then on.
4 The Rocky Maivia Gimmick
Johnson may have been a jobber in those tryout matches, but even then, at the age of 24, Johnson had something about him; the wrestling skills, mic skills, and charisma were evident and were certainly noticed by the WWE, who knew they had a star on their hands. They finalized their new relationship in 1996 when Johnson signed the contract.
He then made his foray into the wrestling industry as Rocky Maivia. Despite just a year of experience under his belt, Vince McMahon pushed him to the front right from the start and gave him plenty of opportunities which put Johnson into the limelight. Vince had obviously noticed that Johnson had star quality and wanted the wrestling fans to know everything about this new kid on the block. This meant people came to know more about Johnson, but also more about Rocky Maivia – today, considered to be one of the worst ever gimmicks. Rocky Maivia was a real cheesy character and there were a lot of cringe-worthy moments in those early days. The crowd rejected him and on more than one occasion, could be heard chanting, “Die, Rocky, Die” and “Rocky Sucks,” a seriously low moment for Johnson who was just getting back on his feet.
3 His Involvement In Halftime Heat
The Rock was just beginning to be accepted by the fans and the Johnson fan base was steadily growing, but his involvement in one of Vince McMahon’s crazy concoctions knocked him back a peg or two.
In 1999, Vince decided to get in on the action and nab some of the viewers from the NFL Super Bowl’s halftime show. He was smart enough not to try and compete with the Super Bowl, so he tried to spice up the often dull halftime show instead.
It was a match that took place in the empty America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The wrestlers were essentially left to their own devices, left to run riot in the empty stadium, using whatever instruments they could get their hands on to inflict pain on one another.
Aptly named Halftime Heat, the event flopped on an epic level; Mick Foley and Dwayne Johnson were the two unfortunate guys who were involved, and because of their involvement, they were ridiculed. Needless to say the concept didn’t last and we never saw another Halftime Heat again. Side note; it actually is an entertaining match if you accept it for what it is.
2 Tooth Fairy
This is something that Johnson has never lived down – God knows why he agreed to the role when he saw the movie script. Perhaps he wanted to test himself as an actor, and show that he was versatile and able to take on different roles. He did it alright, but it proved to be one of the most humiliating moments in his acting career, probably even his life.
The 2010 movie, Tooth Fairy, actually did pretty well at the box office, so in that respect it was actually a success. That’s probably because of the movie’s star cast, led by Johnson. But Johnson, a 260 lb tattooed macho man who made his name destroying people in the ring, playing the Tooth Fairy? Come on guys, it was a tad ridiculous. That’s actually one of the reasons it did so well – it was ridiculous but many found it hilarious and hugely entertaining as well.
But after that movie, Johnson was ridiculed by the general public and by those in the wrestling industry. Abuse was hurled his way and references to his attire in the movie are still being made in wrestling promos, such as John Cena’s promo for WrestleMania XXVIII.
1 Getting Booed And Hated On For Celebrating With Roman Reigns
Since returning to the WWE in 2011, The Rock was never booed for any appearance, always getting a hero's welcome. At least until he was booed for celebrating with his cousin, Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns is another one who’s never been the most popular of guys in the industry. Fans thought - and still do – that he hadn’t earned his opportunities, that he was being pushed along the road to stardom at the expense of other more deserving wrestlers. Still, Vince wanted his next big thing to be loved by the fans, so at the 2015 Royal Rumble event, he roped in The Rock to celebrate with his cousin. In 2015, The Rock had already cemented his place as a legend in the industry, so it was a real surprise and a shock when the fans began jeering both of them. In fact, they actually booed harder when The Rock entered the ring; he was somewhat taken aback as their reaction was totally unexpected.
It proved to be a great source of embarrassment for The Rock and definitely more than a little bit of a downer.