Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is one of the most famous faces on the planet.

The former WWE drawcard turned Hollywood superstar was the highest paid actor in the world in 2016 according to Forbes, reportedly earning $NZD89 million to more than double his 2015 pay packet.

But it could have been oh so different for the 44-year-old.

A college football player in Miami, he joined the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League after graduating in 1995. He was on the practice squad, but was cut during the season.


Legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross revealed his role in turning Johnson from penniless football reject to global phenomenon in his capacity as the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWE.

"He was out of work, cut from the Calvary Stampeders practice squad, had $7 in his pocket and I signed him to a WWE deal worth $100,000. I did have some leverage in that deal because we had the money and he didn't," Ross said on Fox Sports radio.
Ross said WWE boss Vince McMahon questioned the decision to sign him, but he was confident he'd made the right call.

"I said, 'Well here's the deal, we have 90-day outs in the contract. That means we can release him for any reason or no reason with 90 days notice, so he basically has a three-month contract with us, and we have a three-year contract with him.'"

Along with Johnson, Ross also played a vital role in getting "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - himself a former college football player - into the ring. He nominated those two as the biggest crowd pullers during his time in wrestling.

"I connected with them on the recruiting visit, they got in my head and I got in theirs, I found out what their goals were and that they were a different breed of cats," Ross said.

"Both guys were chosen to be a star, 'the' star, and in that world, even though it's show business, you still want competition for the top spots.

"Those guys were very competitive. Austin played linebacker at North Texas State and defensive end and Rock played some football in Miami and was on the national championship team.

"I knew what their motives were so their motives impressed me, and then they had the 'it' factor. I felt that those guys were going to be big."

He would have been feeling comfortable with his gut decision to pick up Johnson judging by the reaction he got when the two went out in public together.

"I took The Rock to lunch and every woman wanted to come past and see if we needed more tea," Ross said. "People who didn't even work there wanted to come by and see if we were alright. They just wanted to be near that big stallion.

"He had a great exotic look, he was 6'5 (1.96m), he was 275 pounds (125kg) at the time, he had a college degree, and this is going to sound really funky, but he had great teeth ... he just melted those women.

"And the guys, they looked up to him. He's a big stud man, gosh look at him.

"He was 'it', he had 'it' and there's some things ... you just feel, it's a feel thing."

The Rock's long wrestling career certainly justified Ross' call. He debuted in the WWF in 1996 under the moniker Rocky Maivia, but started referring to himself as "The Rock" when he joined The Nation of Domination shortly after.

Austin developed into one of his biggest rivals, along with Triple H, and he won eight WWE championships.

He officially departed the wrestling scene in 2004, but made a return years later after numerous guest spots. He continues to appear sporadically in the promotion.

Johnson's Hollywood career has been just as successful. He's appeared in films like The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King, Central Intelligence and San Andreas. He's also done TV work and is a co-star in the HBO series Ballers.