For a long stretch of time, around the late 1990s to early 2000s, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the biggest name in professional wrestling. Maybe only Stone Cold Steve Austin was bigger, but The Rock was an incredibly close second.
Johnson’s first leading film role was in The Scorpion King in 2002. Fast forward 15 years, and The Rock is one of the biggest A-List movie stars on the planet. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016. No one, probably not even The Rock himself, could have forecasted such a meteoric rise to the top of Hollywood.
Between his success in the ring and on the Silver Screen, we asked two editors to browse the resume of “The People’s Champion” and settle a debate: Was The Rock a better wrestler or actor?
The Rock Was A Better Wrestler
This is an easy case to make. In every entertainment profession there’s discussion of the “It Factor.” It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what “it” is, because it’s different each time, but, basically, it’s the idea that a person connects with an audience in an unexplainable way. It might be the way they look, the way they talk, the way they dominate a scene or a situation. It’s any quality about a person that makes an audience go, “I want to pay attention to this person.”
The Rock had “it,” with his good look and cool persona. And to top it all off, the guy could actually wrestle.
In wrestling, there’s only two people in the ring (most of the time) telling a story. They’re responsible for keeping the crowd involved. The Rock could do this with his wrestling, his moves and his facial and body expressions. In movies, there are hundreds of other factors that make The Rock interesting or uninteresting—like a script, the dialogue, the other actors, the special effects and countless other things that do most of the work. In the ring, it was just The Rock, an opponent, and body language.
The Rock learned to be a movie star in the ring.
And one more thing—there are hundreds of famous movie stars. Not just today, but all time. There are only a handful of wrestlers who transcended the sport and became household names. The Rock is the biggest of those few names.
The Rock Is A Better Actor
Alright Chris, I’ll admit that you’ve made a few good points—but there’s no way that The Rock was a better wrestler than he is an actor.
For one, the fact that you’re saying he’s a good wrestler proves my point in the first place. We all know that wrestling is fake, right? You don’t? Okay, well, wrestling is fake. If you don’t believe me, here’s all the proof in the world.
You can’t tell me you watched that with a straight face and thought “Man, these men are at the pinnacle of both physical fitness and fighting ability!” In order for The Rock to be a good wrestler, he had to be a good actor as well—how else would he be able to make all those fake punches and body slams look legit? He may be a more physical actor than most, but he’s still acting nonetheless.
If that wasn’t enough proof, let’s take a quick look at his highest rated films on Rotten Tomatoes:
Furious 7 – 80%
Hercules – 60%
Fast & Furious 6 – 69%
The Other Guys – 78%
The Rundown – 71%
All solid flicks, all starring The Rock. And don’t even get me started on his performance in the HBO series Ballers, which The Hollywood Reporter described as “magnetic.”
Clearly, The Rock’s acting chops far exceed his wrestling ones.