Happy Birthday Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson! Looking back, and forward, on his incredible career

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

In the past three years, Dwayne Johnson has been highest-paid actor in Hollywood, People's sexiest man alive, one of Time's 100 most influential people, and a frontrunner in the 2020 Presidential election polls (even though he's not running). But he didn't get here overnight. On his 47th birthday, Yahoo Entertainment takes a look at how "The Rock" made the jump from professional sports to favorite SNL guest to the most popular guy in the movies.

Even casual fans know that Johnson came to Hollywood via the WWE — but they may not realize that he started out in another sport entirely. The California-born wrestler played college football for the Miami Hurricanes, and briefly went pro with the Canadian Football League, before carrying on the family tradition of professional wrestling. Johnson originally entered the ring in 1996 as "Rocky Maivia," a name derived from both his father Rocky Johnson (a retired WWF and NWA wrestler) and his late maternal grandfather Peter Maivia (a legendary Samoan-American wrestler). He shortened his name to "The Rock" soon after, and took home his first WWE title in 1998.

Dwayne Johnson attends the Time 100 Gala, celebrating the 100 most influential people in the world, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Dwayne Johnson attends the Time 100 Gala, celebrating the 100 most influential people in the world, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Though Johnson continued to wrestle on and off through 2013, he began to reach a wider audience in 2000, when his memoir became a New York Times bestseller and an SNL hosting gig (the first of five so far) proved that he was much more than a one-trick pony. The actor made his film debut as the Scorpion King in 2001's blockbuster sequel The Mummy Returns, which he followed with a solo spin-off and a string of smaller action films.

Then in 2011, Johnson joined the Fast and Furious franchise as DSS agent Luke Hobbs. Fast Five was the first movie in the franchise to pass the 200 million mark, and Johnson's role got bigger with each subsequent film, culminating in this year's spin-off Hobbs and Shaw. More high-profile Hollywood roles followed in films like G.I. Joe: Retaliation, San Andreas, and his distinctive voice performance in Disney's Moana. They weren't all winners (remember Baywatch? How about Rampage?), but in 2017, Johnson had his highest-grossing film to date with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which made over 400 million at the box office (and gave Johnson top billing over Jack Black and Kevin Hart).

Dwayne Johnson, a cast member in the upcoming film "Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," speaks during the Universal Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Dwayne Johnson, a cast member in the upcoming film "Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," speaks during the Universal Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Today, Johnson is a mega-star, producer, and mogul, with his own Under Armour apparel, YouTube channel, and a tequila brand on the way. He's also a father of three, with countless film projects in the works, including Disney's Jungle Cruise, sequels to Jumanji and San Andreas, and the D.C. comic-book film Black Adam. And while he's not running for President in 2020, he's also "not ruling it out" for future races. Johnson may not have any experience in politics, but if his career has taught us anything, it's not to underestimate the number of things Dwayne Johnson can do very, very well.

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