Saturday, 10 January 2009

DWAYNE not just the ROCK Johnson - through the years soaring still...

"The Rock" slammed, smashed, and double-leg-takedown-spinebuster'ed his way fame and fortune as a WWE superstar before hitting the silver screen. Though the critics haven't always been kind to his movies, his chiseled features, buff bod, arched eyebrow, and easy charisma have made him a natural for movie stardom. Now he's left his wrestling name behind, and with this weekend's release of the sci-fi family adventure "Race to Witch Mountain," he's betting that audiences will still turn out to smell what Dwayne Johnson is cookin'.

Johnson was born on May 2, 1972 to a family of professional wrestlers. His Samoan-born grandfather was "High Chief" Peter Maivia, who appeared in the ring with bare feet and tribal tattoos (and was a bad guy in the James Bond movie, "You Only Live Twice"). His Afro-Canadian dad was "Soulman" Rocky Johnson, one of the first black WWF wrestling stars. Dwayne would later play his father Rocky in an episode of "That 70's Show." His grandmother Leah Maivia, one of the industry's very few female wrestling promoters, ran Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling in the mid-80s. You can say that The Rock was literally born to wrestle.

Yet Johnson's first choice to channel his natural prowess was not in the ring, but on the gridiron. He helped lead the University of Miami to the national championship along side future NFL star Warren Sapp. But when injuries and bad luck cut his football career short, he begged his father to teach him the finer points of the family business. Rocky reluctantly agreed.

Johnson made his debut in the WWF in 1996 under the moniker Rocky Maivia -- combining his father's and grandfather's names -- wrestling under a "goody two-shoes" persona. After some initial popularity, the crowds grew bored of him, chanting "Die Rocky Die" during matches. So in 1997, he rebranded himself as a hectoring, sarcastic villain called The Rock. The persona stuck and soon Johnson rocketed into wrestling superstardom.

Called "the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment," The Rock quickly became so popular that he was christened "The People's Champion." In 2000, he wrote a memoir -- "The Rock Says..." -- which was a surprise New York Times best seller, staying on the list for 20 weeks. Clearly, his fame had reached critical mass; he was ready for the big screen.