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‘Lil Dewey’? How True To Dwayne Johnson’s Real Life Is ‘Young Rock’?

News, Scripted

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has fans from all different entertainment venues, from wrestling rings to movie theaters. Now he is taking over the small screen with a biography-slash-sitcom on NBC. Young Rock tells the story of how “Lil’ Dewey” became a world-renowned wrestler and actor, “The Rock.” 

While the premise of the show is tales from The Rock’s life, how much of it is actually true? 

Was The Rock’s Dad a Famous Wrestler?

Young Rock premieres to a vast audience on Tuesday, February 16. The show demolished ratings harder than The Rock drops his signature People’s Elbow. More than 5 million people tuned in for the highly-anticipated premiere. 

Much of the premiere – and the show – revolves around the wrestling world of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Wrestling fans saw the depiction of several familiar names – Iron Sheik, Junkyard Dog, Andre the Giant – and “Soulman” Rocky Jonhson (played by Joseph Lee Anderson.) Yes, The Rock comes from a long line of professional wrestlers, including his maternal grandfather, Peter Maivia.

During the premiere, viewers saw The Rock’s dad as a struggling up-and-coming wrestler. While the “Soulman” did find moderate success, it was nowhere near the level his son would later reach. 

The struggle spawns a phrase that pops up often during the first episode: “working the gimmick.” Or in modern terms, “fake it ‘til you make it.” And that’s exactly what both father and son did. 

But did the President of the United States really call his dad? Unlikely. That was something his mom, Ata (played by Stacey Leilua,) told him as a reason why his dad wasn’t around much. 

The WWE (formerly WWF) shared a clip on Twitter of Rocky Johnson coming to help The Rock during his first appearance at Wrestlemania. 

History of Petty Crime

The set-up of Young Rock is Dwayne Johnson running for President in 2032. Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) plays himself… kind of. He plays himself as a retired-actor-turned-news-show-host interviewing the Presidential candidate. Under fire for being out-of-touch with voters, candidate Johnson goes on Randall Park’s show to connect with viewers. 

In an effort to connect, he begins telling viewers his own version of “working the gimmick.” That included shoplifting clothes as a teenager to help his image at a new school. 

This is 100% true. In fact, The Rock” was arrested for petty theft several times as a teen. Bradley Constant plays teenage Rock.

Football Scholarship to University of Miami 

Before was a wrestling star, The Rock had dreams of being a professional football player. Viewers are introduced to college-age Rock (played by Uli Latukefu) when he shows up to University of Miami on a football scholarship. 

The Rock’s time at “The U” will likely feature in future episodes. Including how he got from football to becoming arguably one of the most famous wrestlers in the world. 

Did a Homeless Man Named Waffle Die in Car Rock Bought For $103? 

“Working the gimmick” for a teenage Rock includes hustling for a car. He manages to buy a Thunderbird for $103. It was the eighties, so that could absolutely be true.

But was there really a homeless man named Waffle living in the backseat? Surprisingly, that is a true story. CinemaBlend found an old interview with The Rock about his “first car.” However, in the interview, nothing was said about the fate of Waffle. 

As Randall Park promises at the end of the episode, other questions will be answered. Including if The Rock is really planning to run for President someday. 

And yes, The Rock’s nickname as a kid was ‘lil Dewey.’

Young Rock airs Tuesdays on NBC. You can watch the premiere episode (and future episodes) for free on NBC’s website.

Jennifer Havener
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