Can't Stop The Rock
The air in Miami is burning, the heat close and oppressive. Fireworks light up the hazy Florida sky. The response from the crowd is white-hot and electric, seemingly powering the lights of Sun Life Stadium all on its own. A lone figure stands upon the ramp, feet firmly planted, fists clenched, head turned back to peer at the teeming sea of humanity calling out his name. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, an eyebrow begins to rise, the lip following suit, curling into a smile that exudes total confidence. The Rock has done it again.
The Return Of The Great One
The Rock’s epic defeat of John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII was huge, to be sure, but it’s only with the benefit of a year’s hindsight that we can step back and fully appreciate just how huge it was. It elevated his already lofty WWE status into the rarified air of icons, proving irrefutably that his return wasn’t a one-and-done flash in the pan. It was proof positive that, even after seven years out of the game, The Great One hasn’t lost a step. The only question now is, what’s next? The idea of topping something so momentous is daunting. But The Rock remains unfazed. “It would be incredibly daunting, if I put that type of pressure on myself in terms of achieving success,” he says. “So I try not to. I work hard and hopefully make movies and create entertainment that people enjoy. And if we can inspire some people around the world along the way to achieve their own greatness — then that’s a cool and beautiful thing, too.”
The Year of the Rock
It’s been 16 years since a streamer-draped Superstar named Rocky Maivia first bounded into the ring at Survivor Series. To look at pictures from that night is to gaze into a different time, a different era — and see a remarkably different man. The Rock broke out from the shackles of that persona to become a Superstar who defined a time in WWE that may never be experienced again.
Reinvention is the key to longevity, however, which is why the Superstar the WWE Universe now sees isn’t a facsimile from those ’90s glory days, hobbling out to the ring to cock an eyebrow and remind us to know our roles and shut our mouths. Now, almost two decades into a career that reshaped the WWE landscape time and again, The Rock seems more focused than ever before. He contested a WrestleMania match that obliterated all expectations, and his movie career has landed in that sweet spot between bankability and respectability.
As proof, this year alone, we have four Rock films to look forward to. First up is “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” which pairs The Great One with PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive, Channing Tatum. The flick, a sequel to 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” was originally due for release this past summer, but recently it went in for a 3-D conversion. After battling Cobra baddies, The Great One returns to the world of go-for-broke street racing and daredevil heists in “Fast Six,” the follow-up to 2011’s wildly successful “Fast Five.” In April, he stars in “Pain and Gain,” a crime thriller from blockbuster director Michael Bay, in which he portrays a bodybuilder who becomes involved in a kidnapping scheme that goes every which way but right. Starring alongside The People’s Champ are Mark Wahlberg and Ed Harris, a pair of Academy Award–nominated actors.
The proof is right there: The Rock can easily hold his own with anyone in the ring or on the silver screen.
It seems he has his pick of projects from that point on. There have been rumblings about comic-book adaptations, a possible Hercules movie, a third “Journey to the Center of the Earth” film. The People’s Champion has come a long way from his 2001 cinematic debut in “The Mummy Returns,” a summer blockbuster that saw him spend the final act with his head attached to a CG scorpion.
But for The Rock, it’s all gone just the way he wanted. “Honestly,” he says, “if I could start my Hollywood career over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every success and failure, every love and heartbreak, it’s all led me down the path I’m on. This will be my 13th year of acting on the big screen, and I’m lucky to be enjoying the Hollywood career I have these days — but I also wake up every morning with the mindset that there is no substitute for hard work, and there’s no amount of sweat I won’t drop to achieve my goals.”
No one can doubt that The Rock will be dominating the multiplexes for years to come, but before he can shoot another foot of celluloid, before all the accolades, acclaim and autographs, he has one major goal to accomplish.
The Road to Greatness
The Rock has enjoyed unparalleled success, but it seems that this year, the pieces are falling into place more perfectly than ever before, and whatever The People’s Champ wants may well be his for the taking. “ ‘What’s the key to success?’ is something I’m asked every single day,” The Rock says. “I don’t believe there’s only one ‘key to success.’ But what I do believe in is hard work, and daily, focused commitment and sacrifice. I believe in being gracious with your successes, and humbled by your failures. I trust my gut and always keep my family close. I live in optimism and faith. When I grab opportunity and success by the throat, I don’t let go.”
It all begins now, at the Royal Rumble. Just as in days of old, The Rock’s palm is open — only this time, he’s just waiting for the world to be dropped into it.
To read more from this exclusive Rock interview, pick up the February issue — featuring The Great One himself — or SUBSCRIBE HERE and save 70 percent off the newsstand sales price.