How Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Went From Humble Beginnings to Billions

dwayne johnson and emily blunt jungle cruise
Credit: Disney

By now, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (full name: Dwayne Douglas Johnson) has become a household name, and nearly everyone knows who he is.

Whether you know him from his extensive acting career or his dazzling wrestling profession, there’s no doubt about it: you know him. And why wouldn’t you?

Everyone Knows Who “The Rock” Is!

Dwayne Johnson Provides “Historic” Donation to Sag-Aftra Foundation During Actor’s Strike

Credit: Disney/ Canva

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In a relatively short time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson went from humble beginnings to one of the highest-paid and highest-grossing actors in the world, with his films earning a whopping total of over 14 billion dollars.

Before he began acting, “The Rock” also played a massive role in the evolution and growth of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). During the late 1990s and early 2000s, World Wrestling Entertainment experienced a total industry boom due, in part, to Dwayne Johnson’s involvement.

From the WWE champion’s feud with John Cena to his friendship with Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson has undoubtedly come a long way. But he wasn’t always so successful, especially in the wrestling sphere…

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Wasn’t Always So Successful

Dwayne Johnson WWE

Credit: Flickr/ Megan Elice Meadows

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It’s no secret that Johnson is one of the wealthiest actors and entertainers of his time, but it wasn’t always so. The retired professional wrestler’s beginnings were humble. Unlike so many entertainers of today’s world, he climbed his way to the top of the ladder with nothing but determination, grit, and self-motivation.

That’s not the only thing setting Dwayne Johnson apart from other multi-millionaires; the former professional wrestler never set out with the goal of becoming an entertainment industry tycoon.

The Rock

Credit: Dwayne Johnson
via X

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To reiterate, it wasn’t millions of dollars motivating “The Rock,” but the sheer desire to make enough money to get by and live comfortably without struggling.

A recent report points out that when Dwayne Johnson first began wrestling, all he took home was $40 a day at a minimum. The WWE champion was recently featured on The Pivot Podcast, where he shared some of his earliest hustles:

So, this was before WWE…It was called the USWA…The guarantee every night was $40. Doesn’t matter where you’re at on the card, that was your guarantee…We’d go to what’s called the ‘Gimmick Table.’ And we’d have our Polaroid. So, if we were wrestling on the card, and say we already wrestled for the night, you get forty bucks, that’s guaranteed…We’d have our polaroids and anyone who wanted to take a Polaroid with you, you’d sign it [for] five bucks. Take it: five bucks, sign it: ten bucks. That’s how we made our additional money. So, on a good night, I could make maybe 80 bucks..

dwayne johnson jack black kevin hart jumanji

Credit: Warner Bros.

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A meager $40 to $80 a night isn’t enough to pay the bills, put food on the table, put gas in the car, or even have enough money left over for other living costs. So, “The Rock” knew he had to do more to create a better life for himself and his family, and he began working harder at his wrestling career:

My goal wasn’t to be here – in Hollywood, making movies… that was never my goal. And [to be] completely honest with you, my goal was just to not be broke…I think because I struggled a lot growing up […] and I saw what the end of the road was. So, for me, it was was: I cannot be broke. I don’t want that for them, and I don’t want that for my family

Considering the overlap between Johnson’s career as a professional wrestler and his career as an actor, we can see a correlation in how he followed the lucrative opportunities, steadily climbing the ladder.

From San Andreas (2015) to Red Notice (2021) to Fast X (2023), every Dwayne Johnson movie can be traced back to this go-getter attitude to rise above one’s station and pull oneself up by their bootstraps.

From One Industry Boom to Another…

dwayne johnson in the mummy returns

Credit: Universal

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Dwayne Johnson’s first appearance on the big screen was in none other than The Mummy Returns (2001), where he acted alongside Brendan Frasier, playing the role of Mathayus. Not long afterward, Johnson starred in The Scorpion King (2002), and thus, a new step in the wrestler’s career was made.

Suddenly, the WWE champion was appearing and starring in everything from family-friendly comedies to raunchy and irreverent adult comedies. The wrestler’s charm and sense of humor translated well onto the big screen, and it didn’t take long for “The Rock” to dazzle audiences.

Once the Fast and Furious series began, Dwayne Johnson’s place in Hollywood was all but secured…But all good things must come to an end.

Where Is Dwayne Johnson Now? What Happened to “The Rock” and His Empire?

Dwayne the rock johnson wrestling

Credit: Ododo George on Flickr

Related: Universal Studios Group Ends Contract with Actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Unfortunately, as the adage coined by Robert Frost goes, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and Johnson’s massive success began to stall.

While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is still a household name and one of the most successful entertainers of all time, his career has begun to peak, and we’re now witnessing the downhill slope.

the rocks black adam

Credit: DC

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We can’t pinpoint exactly where the film failures began, but some notable flops include Disney’s Jungle Cruise (2021), which also starred Emily Blunt, and DC Studios’s Black Adam (2022) adaptation.

Johnson must have noticed the trend associated with the average, modern-day ‘Dwayne Johnson movie,’ as he quickly signed on for a live-action adaptation of Moana (2016), a film that hasn’t even turned ten years old yet. It seems that this may be a desperate attempt to remain relevant and to once again pick up a stalling filmography.

Dwayne Johnson at Disney Parade

Credit: Stewart vs Stewart, Flickr

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As if that wasn’t bad enough, Johnson has recently found himself in hot water with the general public due to a recent scandal involving the Maui wildfires.

So, we ask ourselves: what’s next for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Will he once again pull himself up by his bootstraps and save his stalling career? Or will the entertainer find himself retiring soon after the live-action Moana remake? Only time will tell at this point.

What do you think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s next moves are? Let us know in the comments!

About Isabella Reimer

Isabella Reimer grew up visiting Walt Disney World and relocated to Central Florida to be even closer to The Most Magical Place on Earth. She earned her Bachelor’s from Florida State University, where she studied Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. Her biggest hobby is bonding with the ikran at Avatar Flight of Passage, and her retirement plan includes becoming the 1,000 Happy Haunt of the Haunted Mansion.