IN THE PUMPED-UP WORLD OF the World Wrestling Federation, The Rock, all pop-muscled, 6'4", 265 lbs. of him, struts, sneers and arches an eyebrow as he bashes opponents, bellowing threats in the third person such as, "Do you smell what The Rock is cookin'?"
Laugh if you will, but whatever it is, it's on the front burner. The Rock pulled in an estimated $3 million last year, got his picture on everything from lunch boxes to beach blankets and has legions of female fans swooning on the ropes. "It used to be that all the performers were fat and burly," says WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. "Now we have guys like The Rock, who have helped us cross over in terms of gender."
The Rock, a likable 27-year-old former University of Miami football player named Dwayne Johnson, sheepishly admits that his ring persona is a top-volume version of his teenage-dating moves. "I used the eyebrow thing in school a lot," says Johnson, whose maternal Samoan grandfather, "High Chief" Peter Maivia, and African-American father, Rocky Johnson, were also mat masters. "A few drinks and I'd give 'em the ol' look. The shallow ones fell for it."
Not Dany Garcia, who asked Johnson to dance at a college hangout in 1991. "I thought he was great, but he looked so arrogant," recalls Dany, 30, a Merrill Lynch associate vice president who became Mrs. Johnson in 1997. She soon found that The Rock is an old softy. "He is the kind of guy who'll sing to me when I'm not feeling well," she says. "He notices that you've changed your hair." Although he travels over 200 days a year, "it's like a honeymoon every week when I get home," says the wrestler, who stays rock hard with a low-fat diet and weight training and uses Oil of Olay for sensitive skin after a hard day in the ring.
He also knows better than to bring his work home with him. "He has a lot of self-confidence," says Dany, "but he doesn't ever give me an eyebrow or say things in the third person like, 'The Rock says, "Give me a kiss!" ' That wouldn't last very long."