Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson sets his focus on WWE

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By DAN GELSTON
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 1:41 PM

-- For years, The Rock badgered his opponents to "know your role!"

The most electrifying man in sports entertainment knows his as he settles into his first extended run with World Wrestling Entertainment in seven years.

"I've got to put on the most entertaining Wrestlemania the crowd has ever seen," he said.

He shed his geological nickname for his real name, Dwayne Johnson, when he made the transition from the squared circle to the big screen. Now - finally! - The Rock has come back to the WWE.

As he would rhetorically ask, do you smell what The Rock is cooking? It has the scent of a comeback.

The Rock-and-wrestling connection was reborn when Johnson made his surprise return Feb. 14 to the WWE's flagship program, "RAW," to announce he was the guest host for Wrestlemania XXVII on April 3 in Atlanta. He won't wrestle in the company's signature event, but Johnson promised he'd be all over the Georgia Dome, interacting with wrestlers, fans and just maybe laying the smack down one more time if John Cena or The Miz step out of line.

Johnson was the biggest star in the company and already a mainstream success who published an autobiography and hosted "Saturday Night Live" when he quietly left to further his blossoming movie career at only 31.

"It was kind of like Jim Brown retiring or Barry Sanders retiring," said Cena, who emerged as the face of Vince McMahon's empire. "What are you doing, dude? You've got plenty more left in the tank. Why are you leaving?"

The answer was simple: He was a movie star. Hollywood beckoned and the chance to give up steel chairs to the head for tutus was too tempting to pass on. He was now judged on box office opening weekends, not Monday night cable ratings.

Johnson has mixed mostly action movies ("The Scorpion King") and family comedies ("Tooth Fairy") with rare dramatic leading roles ("Gridiron Gang") to the tune of $1.12 billion in domestic box-office grosses. The 38-year-old Johnson's biggest grosser in a starring role was 2008's "Get Smart" with $130.3 million.

Johnson's charisma and comedic chops made it a natural transition to movies. He was as much a standup comic as a brawler in the ring and with the raise of an eyebrow delivered the most famous arch not found in St. Louis.

His catch phrases like "smackdown" and "jabroni" have worked their way into the public lexicon. He popularized "The People's Champ," "The Rock says," and "it doesn't matter!" on his way to becoming the heavyweight champ of trash talk.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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