But there’s at least one man turning the tide: the larger-than-life Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Having started his career as a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) wrestler, he transitioned into movies around the turn of the millennium. Since making his lead role debut with The Scorpion King in 2002, for which he was paid $5.5 million – a record for an actor in his first leading role – Johnson has become a veritable superstar whose the films have grossed over $10 billion worldwide. As Charles Gant, box office pundit and editor of Screen International, puts it, “very few stars are considered bankable these days. [and] Dwayne Johnson tops this short list.” It’s something Gant attributes to the fact that his “charisma, versatility, appeal to everyone, and credibility in action roles make for a unique combination.” Johnson for box office gold is Disney’s comedy Jungle Cruise, out worldwide this week, and is another exhilarating family adventure that matches Johnson’s previous hits such as the films Jumanji and Race to Witch Mountain. is a period story that sees Johnson play Frank Wolff, a hard-nosed but noble early 20th-century steamboat captain ferrying a British scientist (Emily Blunt) down the Amazon River in search of the mythical Tree of Life. .
However, if Johnson bucked the trends, he may have started one too – so far, he’s not the only former WWE Superstar making waves in Tinseltown. Indeed, three of the most recognizable male actors in Hollywood today used to eat powerbombs and bodyslams. John Cena, former in-ring nemesis and successor to Johnson as the face of WWE wrestling, starred in two of the summer’s biggest blockbusters: he played Vin Diesel’s mean younger brother, Jakob, in the recent Fast & Furious 9, and this week will also be seen as the bloodthirsty anti-hero Peacemaker in the DC comic book movie The Suicide Squad. And rounding out the trio of wrestlers-turned-movie-stars is the hard-edged slab of tattooed muscle that is Dave Bautista. He was recently seen as the lead in Netflix’s outlandish zombie heist extravaganza, Army of the Dead, and is also one of the stars of the long-awaited upcoming remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
So what’s it about the wrestlers who’ve skyrocketed their ratings in blockbuster 21st century cinema? Bryan Alvarez, preeminent wrestling journalist and editor of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter, certainly says that in Cena and Johnson’s case, there was one quality they had that always made them suitable for Hollywood: “absolutely from the first day, [they] came across as guys who could become gigantic superstars.”
The root of Johnson’s success
In his past life as a wrestler, Johnson, then better known as The Rock, followed in the footsteps of his father, trailblazer Rocky Johnson, who, along with partner Tony Atlas, was the first black champion in history. of WWE when the duo became Tag Team Champions. in 1983. His son then made his WWE debut in 1996 and quit wrestling full-time in 2004 as his film career took off, although he continued to return on and off. His last notable match was against Cena at WrestleMania 29 before announcing his official retirement from the sport in 2019.
It was here, in the squared circle – as a member of the menagerie that is pro wrestling, wearing nothing but a pair of black speedos emblazoned with a bull on his bum – that he began his journey. to become a global superstar. Apart from an early spell as a rookie where he struggled to win over WWE fans, he was always a crowd favorite, eventually becoming the most popular wrestling star ever, appearing in the most-watched segment ever alongside Mick Foley, and twice headlined record-breaking Pay-Per-View events.