By Steven Lahood —
Before he became Hollywood’s most bankable movie star, Dwayne Johnson got smacked-down by life — arrests, evictions, family suicide attempts, football failure, divorce — and the concurrent depression drove him to God.
“I have my own special relationship with God, you know, and I certainly, I feel very blessed. I count my blessings, every day,” the retired WWF wrestler told the Gospel Herald.
The monikored “Rock” has learned to rely on the Real Rock.
Both his dad and maternal grandfather were wrestlers. Dwayne Johnson grew up in Hawaii, son to a black Canadian father, Rocky Johnson, and a Samoan mother. There was instability in his home, and he was getting arrested over and over — for fighting, theft, and check forgery. Then his mom got evicted, and mom and son were forced to leave Hawaii.
The rude awakening injected in him a measure of sobriety. He decided to turn his life around and turned to football. Working hard, he earned a scholarship as a defensive tackle at the University of Miami. He eventually graduated with a degree in criminology, but his dream was NFL stardom.
After going undrafted, he moved to Canada and tried out for the Calgary Stampeders and slept on a stained mattress he found in the trash outside a sex motel. He subsisted on Ramen noodles for two months into the season.
“The first ‘rock bottom’ that I hit was out of college where I worked for 10 years from the time I started playing football at 14 years old to the time I was 23…and did not get drafted,” he told the Tribune News Service. “I played in the CFL (Canadian Football League) for approximately 200 bucks a week Canadian. I got cut from the team a couple of months later, and I had to close that chapter in my life.
Having to face the death of a dream, with $7 left in his pocket, he returned to his father’s house in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s a tough experience when you have to move back in with your parents. And at that time, my parents — we never lived in a home, they had a little small apartment in Tampa, Fla., and I had to move in with them. And then you go through the challenges of that. You hit depression.”
Against the wishes of his dad, who struggled to provide for the family as a journeyman wrestler, Dwayne launched a career as a professional wrestler. Unlike his dad, he was a blockbuster success as a trash talker with an ebullient personality. The audiences of the late 1990s and early 2000s loved him, and “The Rock” raked in huge ratings, earnings and championships for WWF.
After eight years, he turned to acting with a big splash in The Scorpion King in 2002. He followed up the initial modest success with a string of career-killing family movies. What was happening to the Herculean action movie hero?
“My career was a little shaky – really shaky,” he told Rolling Stone.
A return to wrestling was an unthinkable admission of failure.
“What the ____ did I do with my career?” he wondered at the time.
In 2007, the always confident action man lost the confidence of his beloved wife, and the couple divorced. He submerged again into depression.
“Around 2008, 2009, I was going through a lot of personal ____ that was really _______ me up,” he told People magazine. “I was just struggling, man. Struggling to figure out what kind of dad am I gonna be. Realizing I’d done a piss-poor job of cultivating relationships, and a lot of my friends had fallen by the wayside. I was just scared.”
Out of the darkness, he found God’s light.
“I was a little unsure of what was actually gonna happen, you know, so I just have to, you know, put my faith in God and continue to work hard and hopefully good things will happen,” Johnson says in the Gospel Herald.
As it turns out, Dwayne reinvented himself. Dropping the embarrassing family flicks, he cast himself as an affable, vulnerable, tough guy and a bowled a series of strikes: Jumanji II, Fast and Furious, Rampage, Hercules, and San Andreas. Right now, his Hobbs and Shaw is in theaters. The happy ending is trademark Dwayne Johnson. The man with the mind-boggling biceps is valued at $280 million.
“In 1995, I had $7 bucks in my pocket and knew two things: I’m broke and one day I won’t be.”
He’s learned to turn his losses into lessons. His ex-wife is now his manager and with his girlfriend, he has a new child. Along the road, he’s taking God along.
Steven Lahood studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.