Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, former WWE champion and now-Hollywood actor with more than two decades on the big screen, seems to have come to an impasse in his career, as many of his recent film projects have underperformed, and his television series was just canceled.
After playing college football at the University of Miami and earning his Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in Criminology and Physiology in 1995, Johnson began his wrestling, rising to super-stardom in World Wrestling Entertainment almost immediately. Johnson, known in the wrestling world first as Rocky Maivia and then as The Rock, came to be known as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, joining the ring with pro wrestler Steve Austin and others and routinely adding awards and championship wins to his resume, including being named a ten-time world champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion, a 2000 Royal Rumble winner, and the WWE’s sixth Triple Crown Champion. His eldest daughter, Ava Raine, has followed in Johnson’s footsteps.
“The Rock” stepped out of the ring in 2004, just three years after he played the role of the Scorpion King opposite actor Brendan Fraser in The Mummy Returns (2001). He then reprised his role in the spinoff film, The Scorpion King (2002). The two Mummy franchise films served as Johnson’s springboard into the acting world, and for the majority of his career, the wrestler-turned-actor has enjoyed wild success at the box office.
Some of Hollywood’s most lucrative films and franchises star Dwayne Johnson, including The Fast and the Furious franchise, in which he plays Luke Hobbs, and Black Adam, in which he plays the title character. Johnson has also had several Disney roles, including the films Game Plan (2007), Race to Witch Mountain (2009), Moana (2016), The Jungle Cruise (2021), acting alongside actress Emily Blunt, and others. He recently announced a new film project for Disney–the live-action take-two of Moana, in which he’ll play the role of the demigod Maui and also work in the role of co-producer with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia.
In 2022, Johnson was the fifth-highest-paid actor in Hollywood, earning $22.5 million for his role in DC’s Black Adam film, in which he played the antihero himself. But that wasn’t the extent of the actor’s salary. As the film’s co-producer, Johnson also earned a percentage of the film’s net profits. But Black Adam cost $260 million to make and only grossed $390 million, meaning Johnson’s cut was much less than the star might have projected.
So far, 2023 has dealt Johnson several harsh blows, but none so harsh as the actor being named in a ridiculous $3 billion lawsuit filed by a lesser-known former female wrestler known as Rhaka Khan, who alleges that Johnson and several others conspired to have her and her children kidnapped. Her complaint is nearly 50 pages in length, but the majority of those pages merely comprise a massive list of alleged defendants, including Dwayne Johnson, as well as Home Depot, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, the State of Texas, several cities in New Mexico, the El Paso, Texas Police Department, and a myriad of others.
The suit is laughable, and the fact that a sitting judge allowed the case to proceed is egregious. But some believe that the lawsuit, as crazy as it is, has had a bearing on Johnson’s acting career. As news of the suit came out, rumors immediately followed–rumors that depict Johnson as a washed-up has-been that Hollywood has all but deserted, similar to Disney’s divorce with Johnny Depp.
But FandomWire says Johnson is on “his last stand,” pointing out that the actor has “often appeared in franchises and has been working on franchise starters for the past few years,” but that as he has failed “to perform well in film sequels, the 51-year-old appears to be taking his last chance with his upcoming 2023 franchise starter.”
Johnson will star in Red One, a Christmas-themed action-adventure film that is written as the first in a series of films. The goal is for the first film to give way to more, creating a holiday film franchise. The film stars Dwayne Johnson and Chris Evans in the lead roles and features Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Liu, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, J. K. Simmons, Nick Kroll, and Kristofer Hivju in supporting roles. Johnson also wears a producer’s hat in the film. But if the franchise doesn’t take off, some in the film industry say it could be curtains for The Rock in Hollywood.
In a recent podcast episode of The Hot Mic, hosts Jeff Sneider and John Rocha discuss Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming holiday flick, as well as his repeated franchise bombs. The duo says that Johnson appears to only be working on franchise starters while making fans wait around for the sequels. After a string of poorly-performing films, including Red Notice (2021) and Black Adam (2022), the former wrestler looks as though he’s attempting to right the ship with Red One.
Although Dwayne Johnson’s entertainment career has been marked with incredible blockbusters, his recent few films are struggling to find success at the box office. Failing to create an impression with DC’s Black Adam, and his franchise starter Red Notice, Johnson appears to trying and rectifying it with his upcoming Red One, which alleges to compete against the Fast & Furious franchise, and that sounds like a tall order all the way around.
To make matters worse, Johnson’s television series, Young Rock, was just canceled by NBC after just three seasons.
Is the former professional wrestler setting himself up for failure? And if his string of failed films continues, could the former heavyweight champ become a box office lightweight?