Behind Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s sensational return to WWE: From a spot on the board of directors to X-rated raves on live TV, how The Rock got back into the spotlight WrestleMania‎

Twenty years and a few months have passed since The Rock was a full-time WWE star. Dwayne Johnson, who got his nickname from something he used to do, is a Hollywood box office magnet for a whole generation.

the actor with the highest worldwide earnings over a number of calendar years. head of Seven Bucks, his own production firm. a man whose estimated net worth is £630 million. The most followed American man on social media in the world and thus, arguably the most famous man on the planet (he’s only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for men overall on Instagram).

That is The Rock’s past self and, for many, its present self. But he was the face of professional wrestling’s golden era at the turn of the millennium.

Now, at 51-years-old, The Great One has returned to WWE and is primed for his first match in 11 years (he had one that lasted six seconds eight years ago, we’re not going to count that).

He returned before, back in 2011. Two matches over two years with John Cena – complete with his 10th world title run – gave fans of the Attitude Era the piece of The Rock they’d been missing, but this time his return is different. He’s not just a wrestler on nostalgia trip or looking for a payday – he’s a boss.

The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin are the two biggest stars WWE have ever had

The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin are the two biggest stars WWE have ever had

But Dwayne Johnson returns 20 years after his 'prime' having conquered Hollywood

But Dwayne Johnson returns 20 years after his ‘prime’ having conquered Hollywood

So how did one of Hollywood’s leading men not only return to his wresting roots, but lay new foundations altogether as a member of the TKO board?

 

The most famous man in the world

The Rock has 397 million followers on Instagram.  WWE themselves only have 31.7 million. Someone might dare cry ‘no one man is bigger than the company’, but by this metric, Johnson is a shade over 10-times bigger.

Has The Rock made a bunch of action films that are dangerously similar? Yes. Did the vast majority of them all become smash hits at the box office? Also yes. Johnson has grossed £9.9 billion for his films, which puts him just outside the top 10 highest grossing actors ever. Drink that in for a second.

The Rock was 30-years-old when he had his WrestleMania match with Hulk Hogan in 2002. From that point onwards, he’d take sporadic sabbaticals to film different movies until it became clear he needed to dedicate himself to Hollywood full-time.

In May 2003, he did that. With the exception of a few special guest appearances, he did not reappear in WWE properly until his part-time run between 2011 and 2012. Then, save for a few surprise promos as has become tradition, The Rock didn’t return until the first show of 2024.

The Rock has made sporadic appearances with WWE during his Hollywood domination

Even though his battles with John Cena were well-attended, the performances did not receive positive reviews.

 

When The Rock initially departed the company, he was in a bracket alongside Roman Reigns, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and now John Cena. a former professional wrestler. A wrestler who had pushed the business forward, garnered unprecedented pay-per-view and TV ratings, and already had a Hall of Fame spot waiting for him was a man worthy of Mount Rushmore.

 

He was more than just a performance when he came back. He was able to secure a seat at the top table because of his immense renown and wealth.

 

 

In the board

 

Johnson was named to the board of TKO, the conglomerate that WWE and UFC’s parent company Endeavor formed in late January of this year in an effort to bring the two organizations together.

 

The agreement included the rare entire ownership of the WWE-owned “The Rock” trademark going to the legendary wrestler. Additionally, a business announcement states that Johnson has inked a new services and merchandising contract with WWE “that provides for his promotional, licensing, and other services.”

 

A few days ago, the UFC and WWE decided to combine to create a new publicly traded business that would be governed by Endeavor Group.

 

Endeavor, who has owned the UFC since 2016, owns 51% of the merged business, with WWE owners owning the other 49%. Among those shareholders is the former chairman of WWE, but that’s all he is these days after he was compelled to leave the firm amid sex trafficking accusations and an inquiry.

 

Based on the agreement, TKO was valued at over $21.4 billion (£17.3 billion), while UFC was valued at $12.1 billion (£9.8 billion) and WWE at $9.3 billion (£7.5 billion). When The Rock joined the board, he received stock valued at about £23.7 million.

The Rock is on TKO's board of directors and has a big say in what WWE does and does not do

The Rock is on TKO’s board of directors and has a big say in what WWE does and does not do

He was originally meant to face his cousin Roman Reigns, but now Rock is teaming with him

Although Rock is now partnering with him, the original plan was for him to battle his cousin Roman Reigns.

Why add The Rock to the team, and why did he do so when his film career was still booming? First off, The Rock was raised in the professional wrestling industry.

“My dad, Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, and my grandfather, “High Chief” Peter Maivia, would never have imagined this day would come,” Johnson stated in a statement upon the announcement of his selection.

“For this reason, I feel incredibly humbled to be seated at a table that holds decades’ worth of memories and familial heritage for me. A table built with assistance from my family.”

It would be wise for the TKO to capitalize on his status as a third-generation superstar and his ability to attract audiences at a caliber that very few others can match, but he has also shown himself to be an extremely successful businessman and entrepreneur. More than anything, his widespread renown and influence add value.

Greater than an actor, greater than a wrestler
The Rock is more interested in and successful than wrestling mats and silver screens combined.

Whether it’s his TV and film company Seven Bucks Productions, Teremana Tequila, Zoa Energy, or Project Rock, the Under Armour clothing line that has an agreement with the UFC for fighters’ fight-week footwear, he’s been busy since his time in the WWE. Along with being a partner in the newly formed United Football League, Johnson acquired the XFL from McMahon for £11.85 million.

Although The Rock’s ownership stake in Teremana is unknown, the company is valued at approximately £2.8 billion. After reaching an agreement with Costo in late 2023, Zoa Energy’s valuation—which is expected to increase—was £9 million.

For £19.8 million, he inked a contract with Under Armour in 2016. £3.7 billion of his astounding total wealth is attributable to his production firm, Seven Bucks (imagine if Black Adam had been a hit!). He’s doing alright, I think.

The Rock on stage wearing his signature cow print sleeveless top in 1999The Rock sporting the same trademark outfit earlier this year

The Rock in cow print, separated by about 24 years. A major contributing factor to Dwayne Johnson’s ascent to WWE superstardom has been his longevity.

Throughout all of his endeavors, Johnson has maintained ties to TKO’s holdings. He is set to play UFC veteran and MMA great Mark Kerr in the 2025 film ‘The Smashing Machine’. He is an ardent and devoted UFC supporter. He gave the original BMF belt to Jorge Masvidal.

As super agents in Hollywood, Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel and WWE President Nick Khan both achieved success. Emmanuel was the inspiration for Ari Gold, the popular television character on Entourage. For the previous 20 years, even before they joined WWE, Rock was well-known to both of them.

Nick Khan’s sister Nahnatchka was the showrunner and executive producer of Johnson’s “Young Rock.” The connections were stronger than most people think and date back a long time.

 

Training

Johnson is a massive man, much more powerful than the skinny 250-pound athlete who wrestled until he was thirty years old. Although wrestling weights and heights are frequently overstated, he was billed as 275 pounds back then. He now resembles the 6’5″, 300 pound beast he has grown into.

He’s followed a strict exercise regimen to get his amazing physique. working on movies, he frequently gets up at three in the morning to ensure he works out for two hours before getting ready to go to the set. There’s no excuses for The Rock; he packs up an 18-wheel trailer worth of gym equipment and sets up a gym called The Iron Paradise wherever he is in the world.

That’s what he had to pay to become the highest-paid action star in movie history. Though it may appear larger than life, that doesn’t always convert into a fantastic in-ring package.

Fans bemoaned the fact that The Rock frequently appeared out of breath during his matches and required “rest holds,” or submissions, in order to stay up when he previously made a comeback. During his second match against John Cena, he also had a significant injury that delayed the filming of Hercules. He tore his abdomen and adductor muscles off the bone.

The Rock's dedication to the gym is common knowledge and the results are jaw-dropping

The Rock’s dedication to the gym is common knowledge and the results are jaw-dropping

Working out in front of his daughter in his mobile gym, The Iron Paradise

Working out in front of his daughter in his mobile gym, The Iron Paradise

Never miss a day! The Rock packs up his gym and takes it with him all over the globe

Never overlook a day! The Rock travels the world with his gym packed up and portable.

The Brahma Bull is not going to spare any detail this time. WWE made accommodations for Johnson by giving him two rings—one in Los Angeles and another in Hawaii, where he has a family home—when he began training in the first week of February.

WWE sent the Scottish trio Gallus—Wolfgang, Mark, and Joe Coffey—to assist him in LA since they knew he was getting ready for a tag team match. Johnson, according to ESPN, prepared by himself in Hawaii.

He gets plenty of weight training from his normal routine, so the 12-week program hasn’t really been about that. Despite the criticism of his previous race, he hasn’t done much strength and conditioning either.

He has changed his diet to get in shape for WrestleMania, but he has also done this since he will be filming the MMA movie “The Smashing Machine” immediately following the event. Inside the squared circle, he is thinking about time and responding to different situations.

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