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This Day in Wrestling History (May 2): Happy Birthday Rock!

Today's TDIPWH is presented in two parts. The first part focused on the events of the day, including Randy Savage's final appearance for WCW, All Japan Wrestling's tribute to its founder Giant Baba, and Chris Jericho winning gold on Smackdown. This part will focus on the career and life of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who turns 44 today.


It's a happy 44th birthday to Dwayne Douglas Johnson. He also is best known to millions as The Rock.

Born in Hayward, California to wrestler Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson (nee Maivia), Johnson is a member of the Anoa'I wrestling family. His maternal grandfather and grandmother, "High Chief" Peter Maivia and Lia Maivia, were both involved in the wrestling business (Peter as a wrestler, Lia as a promoter). His cousin is also in the wrestling business (Savelina Fanene wrestles as Nia Jax in WWE's developmental property, NXT).

In his junior and senior years, Johnson was a three-sport athlete at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But it was his football playing that got him noticed by many top college football programs. Ultimately, he landed in the University of Miami, where he was a defensive tackle for the 1991 national championship Hurricanes. Injuries would force Johnson to the sidelines; he would be replaced by Warren Sapp, who would go on to have massive success both at the collegiate and NFL levels (Sapp was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013). While at "The U", he met future wife Dany Garcia, who would graduate from the school in 1992 and would later become a member of its Board of Trustees.

Johnson graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor's degree in criminology and physiology. Later that year, he joined the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders. He was a practice squad player, but was released about halfway through the season.

With his football career a bust, Johnson decided to join the family business: wrestling. Dwayne's father Rocky wasn't sold on the idea, but once he decided to train him, he warned Dwayne he would not take it easy on him. Through Pat Patterson, Dwayne got several tryout bouts with the WWF in early 1996, defeating The Brooklyn Brawler, but losing to Chris Candido and Owen Hart. He wrestled briefly for the United States Wrestling Association, wining their tag titles twice with Bart Sawyer as Flex Kavana. Johnson signed with the WWF late in the year and would receive additional training under Tom Pritchard. (In a bit of trivia, among Johnson's class were Achim Albrecht, who had a cup of coffee as Brakus, and Mark Henry).

Initially passing on the name, but ultimately okaying it after being persuaded by Jim Ross and Vince McMahon, Johnson became Rocky Maivia, WWF's third-generation wrestler. Touted as a blue-chip prospect, Johnson was heavily pushed despite his lack of in-ring experience. His television debut came as an unnamed member of Barry Windham's entourage in early November 1996, but his in-ring debut came later that month at Survivor Series. He was the sole survivor in his match, last eliminating Crush and Goldust.

Despite fans rejecting the clean-cut babyface, Maivia quickly moved up the ranks, capturing the Intercontinental Championship from Hunter Hearst Helmsley in February 1997, at the time making him the youngest man to hold the title. He successfully defended most notably against The Sultan at Wrestlemania 13, and Bret Hart later in the month. Despite his success, fans grew more and more hostile towards Maivia, with fans loudly chanting "Rocky sucks!" and "Die, Rocky, die!" He would lose the title to Owen Hart in late April 1997. Maivia suffered a knee injury later that spring in a bout against Mankind.

Maivia returned in August and would turn heel. He would join Faarooq, D-Lo Brown, and Kama as the Nation of Domination. He began to insult the audience, his adversaries, and television announcers, and called himself The Rock. He often referred to himself in the third person. His first significant feud as The Rock didn't come until late in the year. At D-Generation X: In Your House in December 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated The Rock to retain the Intercontinental Championship. The next night, Austin was ordered to defend the title against The Rock again. Austin refused, forfeiting the title to The Rock before hitting him with the Stone Cold Stunner. The Rock and Austin feuded into the new year, with Austin last eliminating The Rock to win the 1998 Royal Rumble match to end the feud. After feuding with Ken Shamrock through Wrestlemania XIV, The Rock overthrew Faarooq as The Nation of Domination's leader. The two feuded, with The Rock defeating Faarooq to retain the Intercontinental title at Over the Edge in May 1998.

The Rock's Nation would feud with Triple H's D-Generation X stable through the spring and summer; naturally, the factions' leaders would cross paths. The two met in a best of three falls match at Fully Loaded, with The Rock controversially retaining in a 30-minute draw. The Rock would lose the title the next month at Summerslam to Triple H in a ladder match. He became the #1 contender for the WWF Championship when he defeated Ken Shamrock and Mankind in a steel cage match at Breakdown, but The Rock would never get to cash it in as there would be no WWF Champion around that time.

The Rock's entertaining promos made him a hit with the audience, essentially turning him face. Calling himself "the people's champion", he feuded with Mr. McMahon, who "had a problem with the people". The face turn was brief; at Survivor Series in November, The Rock defeated Mankind in the final match of the Deadly Game tournament for the WWF Championship in a Montreal Screwjob-like finish. He aligned with Vince and Shane Mcmahon as the crown jewel of The Corporation. The win made The Rock, at the time just 27, the youngest WWF Champion in company history.

The Rock retained the WWF Championship controversially at Rock Bottom despite losing to Mankind; Vince McMahon declared that as Mankind won by knockout and not pinfall or submission, the title could not change hands. In the following two months, the rivals would trade the title with one another; Mankind won the title on the January 4, 1999 RAW, The Rock regained it later in the month at the Royal Rumble event in an I Quit match (though Mankind never explicitly said "I quit!"), Mankind would win it back in an empty arena match at Halftime Heat, and the two fought to a draw in a last man standing match at St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The next night, The Rock defeated Mankind in a ladder match to win the title for the third time.

The Rock resumed his feud with Steve Austin, with Austin defeating The Rock for the title at Wrestlemania XV and retaining it a month later at Backlash. Though The Rock was a heel, fans warmed up to him thanks to his superior promo ability. Naturally, he was turned face when Shane McMahon betrayed The Rock. He would feud with Triple H, the Undertaker, and the Corporate Ministry. During that time, he became the top contender to the WWF Championship, but would be defeated by The Undertaker at King of the Ring. He would feud with ex-D-Generation X members Triple H and Mr. Ass in the summer, losing to Triple H in a #1 contender's strap match at Fully Loaded, then defeating Mr. Ass in a "Kiss My Ass" match at Summerslam.

Late in the year, he formed a somewhat reluctant alliance with Mankind. Dubbed the Rock ‘n Sock Connection by Mankind, the duo won the WWF Tag Team Championship three times in the late summer and fall. They would also make history with a nearly half-hour long promo segment, "This Is Your Life" on a RAW is WAR in September 1999; the segment drew an 8.4 rating, one of the highest quarter-hours in the show's history.

In January 2000, The Rock won the Royal Rumble match, last eliminating The Big Show. However, replays showed in the final elimination, The Rock's feet hit the floor first. The original decision could not be reversed; instead a #1 contender's match was commissioned between The Rock and Big Show. With help from Shane McMahon, Big Show won the match and The Rock's spot in the main event of Wrestlemania. The Rock would win it back two weeks later on RAW, defeating Big Show. After Triple H retained the title in a triple threat match a week later, Linda McMahon commissioned a fatal-four way elimination match for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania, with a McMahon in every corner. Triple H would have his storyline wife Stephanie, Shane with Big Show, Vince would be paired with The Rock, and Linda had the returning Mick Foley. At Wrestlemania, Vince turned on The Rock, allowing Triple H to retain the title.

The Rock's feud with Triple H intensified through the spring; The Rock would win the WWF title back at Backlash in April when the returning Steve Austin interfered. Triple H would win it back a few weeks later, defeating The Rock 6-5 in a one-hour Ironman match at Judgment Day. He would win it back in June at King of the Ring, scoring the winning fall in a six-man tag team match.  The win gave The Rock five WWF Championships, joining only Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart as five-time champions. The Rock would have successful PPV defenses against Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Triple H, Kane, and The Undertaker before losing the title to Kurt Angle at No Mercy in October.

He briefly feuded with Rikishi, as he pointed the finger in having a hand in Steve Austin being ran down at the previous year's Survivor Series. The Rock would go on to defeat Rikishi at Survivor Series. At Armageddon the next month, he was one of five challengers for the WWF Championship in a hell in a cell match, but Kurt Angle retained. Just over a week later, The Rock and one of the other challengers in the match, The Undertaker, defeated Edge & Christian for the WWF Tag Team Championship. They would lose them back to Edge & Christian the next night. In February 2001, The Rock would become the WWF's first six-time champion when he defeated Angle for the title at No Way Out.

The win put him in the crosshairs of Royal Rumble winner Steve Austin. The two met at Wrestlemania X-Seven, with Austin winning, shockingly with assistance from Austin's long-time nemesis Mr. McMahon. The alliance was confirmed the next night when the two along with Triple H, assaulted The Rock in a steel cage. Austin and Triple H would form the Two-Man Power Trip. The attack was a write-off for The Rock, as he was set to appear in The Mummy Returns.

He would return in late July and align with the WWF against the Alliance, a group of ECW and WCW wrestlers that had invaded the WWF while he was away. He defeated Booker T for the WCW Championship at Summerslam, but lost it two months later to Chris Jericho at No Mercy. The rivals would team up and briefly hold the WWF Tag Team Championship. The Rock would defeat Jericho in a return match for the WCW title in early November, with The Rock winning. Later that month at Survivor Series, he would get the deciding fall in the winner-take-all elimination tag match when Kurt Angle hit Steve Austin with the WWF title belt, despite the fact that The Rock was nearly eliminated following an attack by Chris Jericho.

The Rock's feud with Chris Jericho extended a bit into 2002. At Vengeance in December 2001, The Rock lost the renamed World Championship to Jericho, who would go on to win the WWF Championship later in the evening when he defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event. The Rock challenged for the Undisputed WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble, with Jericho retaining. In February, The Rock and Jericho headlined a tour of Asia. A show in Yokohama, Japan sold out an 18,000 seat arena in just an hour; Jericho said in his autobiography Undisputed that the reaction was "one of the loudest I'd ever heard in my career. It was as if Elvis had joined The Beatles and all of them were wearing Godzilla costumes."

After briefly feuding with The Undertaker, The Rock's attention was turned to the reborn New World Order, more specifically, the group's leader Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The Rock would challenge Hogan to a bout, with Hogan accepting. The "icon versus icon" bout, with Hogan and The Rock representing the WWF's most successful eras, would be won by The Rock. The rest of the nWo, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, turned on Hogan post-match, and The Rock came to his rescue. The two aligned briefly before The Rock took a sabbatical from wrestling.

Shortly after his return, The Rock won his seventh WWF Championship (now called the Undisputed WWE Championship thanks to a court order in Great Brittan), defeating Kurt Angle and The Undertaker. The Rock—and his youngest WWE Champion ever record—would be taken down by 25-year old Brock Lesnar at Summerslam in August. Following the loss, The Rock publicly declared that he would always be the People's Champion regardless of crowd reaction. After declaring "sing-a-long with The Rock" was over, he took another sabbatical, this time to focus on his burgeoning film career.

The Rock returned in January 2003, criticizing Hulk Hogan and declaring WWE was no longer a priority for him. This turned him heel and set him up in a feud with Hogan. In a return bout from Wrestlemania X8, The Rock defeated Hogan again at No Way Out. He briefly feuded with The Hurricane and performed "Rock Concerts", where he would mock the city the show was in and play on his acoustic guitar.

The Rock next feuded a returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had recently been voted the Superstar of the Decade from RAW's first ten years. The two longtime rivals met at Wrestlemania XIX, with The Rock defeating Austin after back-to-back-to-back Rock Bottoms. It would be the final match for Austin. The next night, The Rock intended to retire on his "appreciation night", but would be speared by a debuting Goldberg. That led to a feud between the two, with Goldberg winning. Following the bout, The Rock left WWE to focus on his film career.  The Rock would make sporadic appearances over the next year and a half, and even reunited with Mick Foley as The Rock ‘n Sock Connection for a handicap match against Evolution at Wrestlemania XX (Evolution would win that bout). Johnson's contract would expire at the end of the year, but he would continue to use the trademarked name The Rock as he had dual ownership of the name with WWE.

Even after his contract expired, Johnson continued to make sporadic appearances for the company, usually in pre-taped segments. In March 2008, he inducted his father Rocky Johnson and grandfather Peter Maivia into the WWE Hall of Fame.

It would be nearly seven years before The Rock made a live appearance on RAW again. He returned on February 14, 2011 as the guest host for Wrestlemania XXVII. He ran down Michael Cole and John Cena, whom he called "a big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles", inspiring a popular crowd chant, sign, and in a bit of irony, an endorsement deal for Fruity Pebbles with Cena. The exchanges between The Rock and Cena began to escalate via sattelite and over Twitter over the next few weeks, then turn physical the Monday before Wrestlemania when Cena gave The Rock an Attitude Adjustment.

The Rock cut a show-opening promo at Wrestlemania XXVII, appeared in a few backstage segments, and restarted the show's main event when The Miz and Cena went to a double countout. The Rock gave Cena a Rock Bottom as retaliation for the Attitude Adjustment a week earlier, and The Miz would go on to retain the WWE Championship. But it would be The Rock that stood tall at the end of the night after he gave The Miz the People's Elbow. The next night, Cena challenged The Rock to a match at Wrestlemania XXVIII, which The Rock would accept. The two would fend off an attack by The Corre shortly after the announcement.

In the interim, The Rock had an edition of RAW dedicated to him for his 39th birthday in his hometown of Miami. In September, WWE announced he would participate in a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series match at the show's event, but in October, Cena announced that The Rock would be his partner against The Awesome Truth (The Miz and R-Truth) in a standard tag match, which The Rock would accept the next week. The dream team of The Rock and Cena would coexist just long enough to defeat Awesome Truth at Survivor Series that November, but following the bout, The Rock gave Cena a Rock Bottom.

The verbal confrontations between The Rock and Cena escalated once again, with The Rock even proceeding to mock Cena in song with his "Rock concert" segments. At Wrestlemania XXVIII, in the show's main event, dubbed "Once in a Lifetime", The Rock defeated Cena when an overconfident Cena had his People's Elbow reversed into a Rock Bottom. The Rock praised Cena the next night, saying it was an honor to fight him. He also declared the next night his intention to become WWE Champion again.

The Rock would not appear again until RAW 1000 in July, when he declared he would face the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble event. Late in the show, The Rock saved Cena from an assault by Big Show, only to be taken out by CM Punk.

The Rock would not return until January 2013 when he confronted CM Punk, still the WWE Champion at the time of the attack six months earlier. He appeared on both RAW and Smackdown that week, something he hadn't done in about a decade. The Rock and CM Punk would come to blows on a pair of occasions, and on the Monday before the Royal Rumble, The Shield attacked The Rock. Vince McMahon warned Punk that if they did it again, Punk would be stripped of the WWE Championship. At the Royal Rumble event, The Shield attacked The Rock again. Punk was to be stripped of the title, but The Rock insisted on a restart. The gamble worked; The Rock would go on to win the match and his eighth WWE Championship, ending CM Punk's title reign at 434 days, the longest since Hulk Hogan's four-year run in the 1980s. Punk would get a return match at Elimination Chamber, with the caveat that he could win the title on a countout or disqualification. The Rock retained when he pinned Punk. The next night, The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship belt, with the company logo front and center and his Brahama Bull logo on the side plates.

With John Cena winning the Royal Rumble match and he retaining his #1 contender status the night after Elimination Chamber on RAW, the stage was set for a second Rock-Cena bout at Wrestlemania 29. Cena blamed his personal and professional troubles on his loss to The Rock the previous year. Cena would defeat The Rock at Wrestlemania 29 to regain the WWE Championship. During the bout, The Rock tore his abdominal and adductor tendons from the pelvis. Despite being advertised for RAW the next night, Johnson would have to undergo surgery to reattach the tendons. That summer in an interview with The Province, Dwayne hinted at retirement, but left the door open to return.

The Rock continues to make sporadic appearances for the company, appearing in each of the last three Wrestlemanias (At XXX, he appeared in the show-opening segment with Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin; at 31, he appeared alongside MMA fighter Ronda Rousey in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon; at 32, he announced that the show had broken the all-time Wrestlemania attendance record, then fended off an attack by The Wyatt Family alongside John Cena; he would also defeat one of its members, Erick Rowan, in six seconds, a Wrestlemania record). He also appeared at the 2015 Royal Rumble event where he helped Roman Reigns fend off Big Show and Kane; the crowd in Philadelphia showered him with boos.

The Rock Monologue  WWF Stars Stop By... by mdclxvi

Dwayne Johnson's in-ring popularity has allowed him to crossover into mainstream media. He has appeared on the cover of many magazines, most notably Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and Newsweek. He appeared in a music video for Wyclef Jean ("It Doesn't Matter" in 2000) and first appeared on Saturday Night Live the night before Wrestlemania 2000 with Triple H, The Big Show, and Mick Foley. Johnson has stated in interviews it was the success of that episode that got his foot in the door in Hollywood. He's also appeared on Star Trek: Voyager and That 70's Show as his father, Rocky Johnson.

Johnson's motion picture debut came as The Scorpion King in the opening sequence of The Mummy Returns in 2001. Though he only appeared briefly, the movie would make over $28.5 million in its first day of wide release, at the time, the highest-grossing single day for any film ever (the movie went on to gross over $433 million). Naturally, that led him to a leading role, The Scorpion King, a spin-off of The Mummy series. He received $5.5 million for his starring role, a Guinness World Record for an actor's first starring role.

He's scored numerous television and film roles since. In 2007, he starred as cocky football player Joe Kingman in The Game Plan, in 2008, he was Agent 23 in the movie version of Get Smart. He appeared on several episodes of Saturday Night Live as The Rock Obama, a spoof of President Barack Obama and The Hulk. He appeared in Race to Witch Mountain in 2009, and in 2010 starred in The Tooth Fairy He also has an uncredited role in Why Did I Get Married Too? that year.

In 2011, he joined the Fast and the Furious film franchise as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent assigned to hunt down the series' protagonists. Fast Five went on to gross $86 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for an April release ever. Johnson has also appeared in a few films based on true stories in 2013: Snitch, Pain & Gain, and Empire State. That year, he got in the reality show business, hosting and producing reality competition The Hero. The next year, he hosted another reality show for TNT, Wake Up Call, which lended a hand to people facing enormous challenges in their every day lives. Johnson also began producing and starring in Ballers, a comedy-drama series about athletes living in Miami.

Forbes named Johnson the top grossing actor in the world in 2013, crediting his role in Fast and Furious 6 (which made nearly $800 million worldwide) to his place at the top of the list (his films grossed $1.3 billion overall).

Next year, Johnson will co-star with Kevin Hart in the action comedy Central Intelligence, lend his voice for the Disney animated film, Moana, appear in the eighth Fast and Furious movie, the Baywatch movie, Rampage (based on the 80s video game of the same name) and a Jumanji remake.

Johnson's in-ring legacy is very much secure; he is often called the biggest superstar in the history of the business, a sentiment shared by fellow wrestlers including Hulk Hogan, John Cena, and Diamond Dallas Page.

He's main evented the most-purchased PPV in WWE history both domestically (Wrestlemania XXVII) and worldwide (Wrestlemania XXVIII), as well as the second highest attended event in WWE history (Wrestlemania 29). The Rock has also main evented the highest-rated RAW segment and show (in fact, the nine most-watched RAWs in history all have him in the main event), as well as 10 of the 15 most-watched Smackdown episodes ever, as well as the most-watched segment of WWF programming in 2001. He also has the most-watched televised wrestling match of the 21st century, a steel cage match between he and Shane McMahon on May 1, 2000 did an 8.3 rating, with the overrun doing a 9.1.

His return to RAW in 2011 contributed to 4.7 million people watching on average that night, but the average was helped very much by his appearance; his promo alone got 7.4 million viewers. The Rock's appearance at the 2013 Royal Rumble event helped generate 512,000 PPV buys, the most for a non-Wrestlemania in seven years, and the highest for any WWE show in four years.

The Rock currently holds the record for most RAW main events and Smackdown main events in a single year (38 and 36 respectively in 2000; Stone Cold Steve Austin matched the Smackdown record in 2001). Speaking of Smackdown, his catchphrase "lay the smackdown" would spawn a television series of the same name; it has become television's second longest weekly episodic series. It would also spawn a series of video games by the same name, with The Rock appearing on the cover of the first three games of the series. The second game in the series, Smackdown 2: Know Your Role, would sell 3.2 million copies, the most for a combat sports game on a single format (Sony Playstation).

Johnson married Dany Garcia in May 1997. The couple have one child together, Simone Alexandra, age 14. The couple divorced in 2007 shortly after their tenth anniversary; the two have remained friends. Johnson began dating Lauren Hashian, daughter of Boston drummer Sib Hasian. The couple announced in September 2015 they were expecting their first child; Lauren gave birth thiree months later.

In 2006, Johnson founded the Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation, a charity working with at-risk and terminally ill children. In 2007, Johnson and Garcia donated $1 million to the University of Miami to support renovation of the football facilities at the university. It is the largest donation ever by former students to the school; the school's locker room would be named in Johnson's honor in 2014.

In 2015, Johnson set another Guinness World Record: he took 105 selfies in three minutes during the premiere of San Andreas in London. For the record, a second San Andreas is in the works.

So... a list of accomplishments for the most elecritfying man in sports entertainment... entertainment... sports. Here goes.

  • 8-time WWE Champion (one of only three men to win the championship in three different decades; the other two are Hulk Hogan and Triple H)

  • 2-time WWF Intercontinental Champion

  • 2-time WCW Champion

  • 5-time WWF Tag Team Champion

  • 2000 Royal Rumble Winner

  • 8-time Slammy Award Winner (including LOL Moments of the Year in 2012 and 2013)

  • 2-time USWA Tag Team Champion

From Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

  • 3-time Best Box Office Draw (2000, 2011, 2012)

  • 1999 Best Gimmick

  • 2-time Best on Interviews (1999 and 2000)

  • 6-time Most Charismatic (1999-2002, 2011, 2012)

  • Most Improved Wrestler of 1998

  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame Class of 2007

From Pro Wrestling Illustrated:

  • 2-time Match of the Year Winner (1999 vs. Mankind, I Quit match at Royal Rumble; 2002 vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania X8)

  • 2-time Most Popular Wrestler (1999 and 2000)

  • #2 singles wrestler in the world in 2000

  • #76 singles wrestler of the PWI Years in 2003

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