I first really noticed Dwayne Johnson – better known as The Rock – in the 2005 movie Be Cool, where he played a gay Samoan bodyguard. As I watched him play this role, I thought “This wrestler has something that makes him special enough to notice, and he doesn’t mind looking a bit – well, gay – to prove his acting chops.”
This week’s guest spot on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert reminds us that life wasn’t always so easy for The Rock. He certainly paid his dues. And, it reminded me that we sometimes forget how much some of the people who seem to have it made now must have endured to get where they are. Stephen Colbert, always the persistent host, pushed Johnson into conversation about a number of topics, from running for president to his being Samoan.
But, what caught my attention were Johnson’s stories about what his nascent wrestling career. In what must have been difficult work at the time, Johnson recalled some of the times he wrestled at flea markets and used car dealerships – anything for a payday, no matter how small.
Before his career took off, Johnson (and fellow wrestlers) lived like gypsies. He would wrestle for a guaranteed $40 per match every night, and of all places, he lived at the Waffle House and at all his meals there. Talk about carb-loading.
Monday nights were flea markets. Saturdays would be state fairs, and Johnson recalled he would wrestle almost every Saturday at a state fair. During the week, he wrestled at used car dealerships.
He told about they would set up rings at used car dealerships, and people would go to buy used cars and could see free wrestling matches. He told about changing into his wrestling clothes next to an office where a used car dealer was trying to make a sale. But, as The Rock noted, at that time, it’s what he did to make money. I’m guessing before he was The Rock he was The Pebble.
Colbert’s note – which is worth thinking about – is that these first wrestling gigs were probably what made Dwayne Johnson the kind of guy who does everything at 110 % – from movies, to TV shows, to wrestling in parking lots at used car dealerships.
I can’t disagree, and in an era where I seem to keep meeting people who give it about 50 % all the time, it is good to see someone whose work ethic was honed the hard way. As my father taught me, and I try to teach my own children – an ethic of hard work will get you into a lot of places other people can’t go. Good for you, Dwayne Johnson. I enjoy your movies.