Tall Boy

In the ring and on the screen, the Rock is Walking like he talks it

Beyond that, there's the video game adaptation Spy Hunter (of his role, he says simply, "It's a hunter of spies, hence the title") and the Hawaiian historical epic King Kamehameha, which he describes as a more violent version of Braveheart, and a change of pace from the PG-13 fare he generally tries to stick to so as not to disappoint his younger fans. In between projects, he hopes to return to the ring as time allows. "A lot of my [acting] buddies, they go back to theater and I understand that, because they go back to get that live interaction. The ring is my stage, and I always have a lot of fun."

If and when he goes back to Vince McMahon's arena, he won't be going unprepared. The Rock keeps up on current ring events, and maintains sufficient attachment to the storylines that when this reporter tells him that former archrival Triple-H will not be traded from the Monday-night Raw show to the Thursday-night Smackdown show as promised, he dramatically knocks an empty bottle off the table. "I bet the Raw guys are throwing a celebration now," he adds sarcastically, apparently displeased.

With the Rock off making movies, and Stone Cold Steve Austin forcibly retired from repeated injuries, wrestling is undoubtedly suffering. Minnesota behemoth Brock Lesnar was officially dubbed "The Next Big Thing," only to quit last month to try out for the NFL ("It's a ballsy move, and I admire that," says the Rock). So does the People's Champ see a potential successor on the horizon? "If there is, I haven't seen him yet, to be honest with you, and it sucks to say, because I love the business. But I think someone will surface. I believe that. It might be someone who's already there, like it happened with me, because I was on my way out as a babyface [good guy]. I was teaming with Flash Funk, fighting the Headbangers, I was doing jobs [losing matches], I was done. Then all of a sudden I turn heel [become a villain]: Boom, boom, bang!" He notes that new Smackdown champion "Latino Heat" Eddie Guerrero, whose career followed a similar arc, might have some mainstream crossover potential.

Asked to finish the interview with his latest catch phrase, Dwayne Johnson pauses. The newest phrase, he explains, is always slightly improvised depending upon the situation. "Hold on.... Okay, this is off the cuff. If I get through this, it's gonna be awesome." He inhales deeply, as if smelling someone's imaginary cooking. Then he lets fly. "It's the jabroni-beatin', pie-eatin', trail blazin', eyebrow raisin', not small, always walking tall, teamed with Mick, carried a big-ass stick, People's Champ the Rock!" Then he busts up laughing at himself -- that the chuckles come so easily is a big part of why he is, indeed, the Great One.

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