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How Dwayne Johnson Came Up with The Rock Eyebrow Signature


To say that Dwayne Johnson was bred for professional wrestling would be an understatement. This third-generation WWE Superstar not only embraces the spectacle that is sports entertainment, he embodies it. Since his Madison Square Garden WWE debut in 1996, this People’s Champion has proven his charisma. His ability to “get things over” is second to none and, thanks to The Rock, objects like elbows, pie, and even eyebrows have all been given the golden rub of the Great One.


How, though, does one man make an eyebrow into a t-shirt? It’s a riddle that Rocky has been telling for decades. Say a word, you get a reaction. Make a motion and trend worldwide. Raise an eyebrow, the people all raise them along with you. You can smell it. That’s Hollywood, baby.

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To get such an innocuous movement over with wrestling’s rabid crowd isn’t easy. Johnson had to make sure everything was right. Just when he had his persona, career, and villainous ways hitting on all cylinders, he raised that eyebrow high — and made history.


The Dawn of Rock

Before he was The Rock, Johnson was Flex Kavana in the USWA. A washed-out version of the arrogant superstar he would later become, Johnson used this time in Memphis Wrestling to hone his craft and tap into the people. It would later be these “people” who would be both his blessing and his curse.

Upon debuting in WWE (WWF at the time), Johnson was rebranded “Rocky Maivia.” His father, Rocky Johnson, was a beloved future WWE Hall of Famer with a massive fanbase that never seemed to dissipate. Alongside Tony Atlas, the two had captured tag team gold and held it with pride. Everyone loved Rocky Johnson. His maternal grandfather, Peter Maivia, was wrestling’s High Chief. This beloved superstar had name recognition for decades and no one could rile a crowd quite as he could. By the time his grandson was fighting, people still remembered him. Everyone loved Peter Maivia.

No one loved Rocky Maivia. Sad to say, but it’s true. By the time Rocky came bopping out at the Survivor Series 1996, people were already over him. He had streamers around his neck for some reason. It was a mess. This mix of the two names with a TV spot was seen as yet another Vince McMahon-creation. He was promptly booed and dismissed for being “shoved down the throats” of the audience. Fans chanted “Rocky Sucks” and held up signs proclaiming “Die, Rocky, Die.” The entire scene was disheartening as the future Great One had to smile through it all. His hair was bouncy and his teeth were shining. Inside, though, The Rock could smell something cooking.

Related: Dwayne Johnson’s 8 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time

Eyebrow of Domination

The Rock Recalls Trying to Make Stone Cold Steve Austin Laugh During Their WWE Matches

It was the August 11, 1997 edition of WWE Monday Night Raw that saw the People’s Champion break out of his shell. Rocky returned and gave Bryan “Crush” Adams (not the same guy as Summer of ’69) a “Rock Bottom.” It was his entrance into the hard-edged Nation of Domination stable. Rocky was back from injury and addressed the crowd as only he could.

“I got three words. Die, Rocky, Die. That’s the gratitude I get from you pieces of crap? For all my blood, sweat, and tears?” From there, Maivia would skyrocket. It was a tear that would see him rechristened “The Rock”, The People’s Champion, and eventually the incoming-leader of the Nation of Domination. Before long, he was acting above the rest of the members. He had his sights set on taking over the very group he had just joined.

In hindsight, Ron “Faaroq” Simmons should have seen it coming. Pro wrestling rules of logic state that hot new bad guys always take out the outgoing grew. It’s all very Game of Thrones, and when The Rock took control of the team, his true persona was born. Many credit that moment as the birth of The People’s Eyebrow. This upturned motion with the hair above his eyes gave Rocky a hidden power. People loved it. Just before attacking his former leader, Johnson flashed the ol’ eyebrow to all of us at home.

Related: Dwayne Johnson’s Best Non-Action Roles, Ranked

The eyebrow, though, seems to have been a motion he was doing long before then. Was it an intentional choice? It seems that a bit of digging leads us to former Polynesian Pro Wrestling competitor Gil Hayes for inspiration. This was the group with which Johnson’s family had heavy involvement. Hayes did the classic move himself and his part in the early days of a young Rock is hard to dispute.

“(Dwayne Jonnson) used to sit with me and we used to watch Gil do his interviews,” Shelly Paulson, Gil’s widow told Slam Wrestling. “The Rock’s eyebrow (move) came from Gil, I’ll bet my life on it…They used to put the camera right on Gil’s face with that damn eyebrow sticking up and up sitting there.” However, in the world of professional wrestling, everything is a remix. Even if taken from the inspiration of Gil Hayes, Rocky made it famous. Today’s fan immediately knows who you mean without saying a word. That’s the goal of every successful wrestling star.

The Great One

BlackAdamDwayneTheRockJohnson
Warner Bros. Pictures

Today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has exploded. From the early days in Memphis to the current days in Hollywood, the former WWE Champion has made a mark outside the company few can ever touch. The massive success that he’s had from the day he signed on to do The Scorpion King all the way to this year’s Black Adam is nothing short of amazing.

Dubbed the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment, Johnson has returned to WWE for appearances in the years following his departure. A memorable three-year storyline arc saw the People’s Champ return to face the Doctor of Thuganomics in back-to-back WrestleMania main events (via Cinema Blend). It’s a chance for him to give back to the family business that gave him so much to start,

The tale between the two made wrestling history as it was one of the few times that a match was booked and promoted one year in advance. The real-life issues between Cena and Johnson were hard to tell from the on-air story. It created a sense of anticipation and a feeling of true surprise over the match outcomes. In the end, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will always hold professional wrestling deep in his heart. Not only does he have a very large family with bloodlines all spread throughout the industry, but Johnson has a world of respect for the sport of kings. He never saw Hollywood as a way out. He saw it as yet another thing to conquer. So, raise an eyebrow for the Great One. Raise the other one for Gil Hayes. Either way, the People have spoken.



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