Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson reflects on move that catapulted him to stardom: 'Hell of a risk'

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson reflects on move that catapulted him to stardom: 'Hell of a risk'

01/29/2021

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson launches tequila brand

Dwayne Johnson follows the celebrity liquor trend by distilling and branding his own tequila. FOX Business’ Deirdre Bolton with more.

Before Dwayne  “The Rock” Johnson became the world’s highest-paid actor, he was making $40 a match wrestling at flea markets and state fairs.

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“At that time I was 24 or 25-years-old, I infamously had $7 in my pocket many moons before the life I have now. I used to throw around 300-pound men for a living. To be honest, in terms of wealth or financial management, at that time I just didn’t want to be broke, and that was my only thing,” Johnson told FOX Business in a Zoom interview.

“I always look back on that time early on in my career very fondly when I was making no money. How did I make ends meet? It wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time at Waffle House. That’s where I would eat two or three times a day. I truly look back at that time with great reverence because that helped shape this ideology of a dollar,” Johnson says.

Johnson topped Forbes' list of highest-paid actors for the second year in a row in 2020, earning $87.5 million, including $23.5 million alone for his role in the upcoming Netflix comedy thriller “Red Notice” alongside Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot.

Off the big screen, Johnson runs Seven Bucks productions, named after the $7 he once had to his name back in the '90s. Under Seven Bucks, Johnson has produced films like Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and Disney’s “Jungle Cruise.”

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson reflects on his early days, and how they shaped the his current success. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

And he’s carved out a number of business opportunities, including a successful Project Rock clothing line with Under Armour, as well as his Teremana tequila brand and a new energy drink called ZOA, which will be distributed in partnership with Molson Coors this March.

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Johnson says taking major risks in business gave him the opportunity to build up his brand authentically, which helped catapult his career to the big screen and ultimately amass a large fan following for his various product launches. In the late '90s, when the WWE capitalized on “good guys vs. bad guy” storylines, Johnson pivoted from “good guy” to villain — a risk he says turned out to be vital to his career.

“When I was a good guy in the world of professional wrestling, I was a rookie. It was not going my way. I wasn’t connecting, and in that world of pro-wrestling, you have to connect with an audience. I did take a risk by becoming a bad guy… and that’s a hell of a risk to take when you think about that world, and that consumer base, largely made up of small children… What’s interesting about that risk is if that doesn’t work, if you don’t work as a good guy and then you don’t work as a bad guy, well then you just don’t work, and then you go look for another occupation.

"So the risk was great at the time, but it allowed me to be authentic and be myself in that world,” Johnson recalls.

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Johnson went on to become the face of the WWE, which became a launchpad for his Hollywood success.

“Now the risk was this: If you don't make it in Hollywood — and the odds were that I wasn’t going to have a career that was going to span, say more than three to five years — then I’d have to return [to wrestling]. It wound up paying off, but the first five or six years it was touch and go. and I was concerned because I wasn’t quite sure how everything was going to turn out for me. I had accomplished everything I could accomplish in the world of wrestling, I was so grateful, and I still am, today. I also wanted to try and elegantly transition, and those are two very loud worlds, the world of wrestling and the world of Hollywood. I’m happy to say that many, many, many moons later I can say it paid off in a pretty good way.”

Johnson’s journey to superstardom will be highlighted in NBC’s “Young Rock,” an autobiographical sitcom out Feb. 16. He told fans in a recent Instagram post that the show will highlight “some life lessons I’ve learned along the way.”

One of those lessons, Johnson says, is the hustle of hard work and being nice to people (he’s been called Hollywood’s nicest guy). Good vibes and positive energy are also the ethos behind his latest brand launch Zoa, which he co-founded with business partners Dany Garcia, strength coach Dave Rienzi, and John Shulman, the founder of Juggernaut Capital Partners private equity firm.

“I’m a big believer in being kind. I’m a big believer in being positive and being nice I think that’s important regardless. There’s a quote that I always love to share, I heard it when I was 15 years old I never forget it: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.'”

Johnson has exhibited that in a big way for his fans going through tough times during the pandemic and old friends. He bought a car for an old friend who took him in after he and his mom were evicted in Hawaii and went to live in Nashville when he was 15-years-old.

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“I always say that the hungry human being at times can be unstoppable. Once that human being starts to make a little bit of money — don’t be surprised if that hungry human being becomes even more hungry and protective of the wealth that they build and the moves that they make," Johnson says.

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