But it was not always so for the gentle giant.
An only child, Johnson was born in Hayward, California, but spent his childhood moving all over the world. Thanks to his dad’s career as a championship wrestler, The Rock spent time in places as far flung as New Zealand and Texas.
Life was hard for his family, as pro wrestling did not pay so well in the 1970’s. It had not yet grown beyond regional characters and leagues, and would not enjoy global success as sports entertainment for almost a decade.
While living in Honolulu, Hawaii with his mother, Johnson came home one day to find an eviction notice on their front door. His mother, who worked as housekeeping in the hotel business could not afford the rent on their small studio apartment. Broke and without any other options, the pair travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to live with his father, who was wrestling at the time.
Looking back on it Johnson says “It broke my heart. I remember saying to myself, ‘I will do anything and everything I possibly can to make sure we never get evicted again.”
But the difficulties did not end there, as shortly after moving to Nashville, his mother tried to commit suicide by walking into traffic. Luckily, the 15 year old boy was able to run after her and pull her to safety. That moment was traumatic, but life changing.
“My heart stopped, horns were blowing and cars were swerving out of the way,” Johnson revealed. “In that moment, one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned was how precious life is and how in an instant it can all go away.”
Up till that point, Johnson had been aimless and difficult “When I was 16-years-old, that was the last time that I was arrested,” he said. “At that time, we were at an all-time low, I think, with our family.”
In and out of schools as his family followed the pro wrestling circuit, the six foot four inch, two hundred and twenty five pound boy did not make friends easily.
Johnson relates a story from that period in his life, when he used the bathroom in the teacher’s lounge without permission.
“A teacher comes in. His name is Jody Cwik. Tough guy. He says, ‘Hey. You can’t be in here.’ I kind of pause, look over my shoulder. ‘OK. I’ll leave when I’m done.’ And I continued to wash my hands. He was fuming.”
Regretting his behavior, the next day “I said, ‘I just want to apologize for how I acted yesterday. And I’m sorry.’ And I stuck my hand out. He looked at my hand, looked at me, looked at my hand again. And he shook my hand. I’ll never forget that shake, he wouldn’t let it go.”
Johnson was asked to join the school football team and fell in love with the sport.
“My grades got better, and I started getting recruited from every college across the country. My thought process started to change. That’s when I started thinking about goals and what I wanted to accomplish,” Johnson said.
After playing college football and considering a career in the NFL, he moved to the family business and became a professional wrestler, and then a world-wide star of stage and screen.
“At that time, I was 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 shared. “I have my own special relationship with God, you know, and I certainly feel very blessed. I count my blessings every day,” Johnson revealed.
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