Before he began his blockbuster movie career Dwayne Johnson was, of course, best known at The Rock, taking the professional wrestling world by storm with his particular brand of athletic prowess and considerable charisma. But there was a time when he was starting to make the transition to the screen, getting some smaller parts in order to flash the skills he’d hone over the next couple of decades. One of those first chances was in The 70s Show all the way back in 1999. What he did for his cameo was pretty darn close to what he was doing at that time in the ring.
The episode of That 70s Show was titled “That Wrestling Show” and it involved the gang going to a local wrestling event. Kurtwood Smith’s Red Foreman and Topher Grace’s Eric get backstage afterward to try and score an autograph from Dwayne Johnson who is afro-ed up in a very 70s way. In this one, he’s playing Rocky Johnson (he’s credited as The Rock) and has dreams that his son will one day become, well, the version of Dwayne Johnson we would soon know as, “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment.” Check out Dwayne Johnson in That 70s Show and watch as Eric and Red argue over the dude’s autograph.
Perfect. “That Wrestling Show” was the 15th episode of That 70s Show’s first season. We were still early on in this one though the series was pulling in decent numbers even then. Whether because it was just steadily gaining popularity on its own, or whether the addition of Dwayne Johnson brought a few more eyeballs, this episode was the most viewed up until that point of the series. It ended up being the second-most-watched episode of the whole first season, and it was the fourth-most viewed episode of the entire series.
As for Dwayne Johnson, this was really one of his first credited acting appearances that didn’t involve his work with the WWE. He had been wrestling for years of course, but the true move to the screen in scripted roles was just starting. He’d have a small credit later that year in The Net. That show only lasted a single season. And he made an appearance on Star Trek: Voyager as well, playing, you guessed it, a wrestler (this one was an alien). It was in 2001 when things really started kicking into high gear when he starred in The Mummy Returns and then in The Scorpion King a year later.
Of course, these days Dwayne Johnson is about as big as it gets. He’s essentially a blockbuster movie machine with some of the most-watched flicks over the last few years. His Netflix movie Red Notice ended up being the streamer’s most-viewed movie ever for its first 28 days window. There is a planned sequel that will bring back Johnson along with Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. And of course, this summer he’s set to join the comic book movie world when Black Adam hits screens in the DC Extended Universe. That movie could end up being the biggest one ever for the franchise.