Dwayne Johnson surprises friend who took him in as a homeless teen with new pickup truckBy Mustafa Gatollari
Jan. 4 2021, Updated 10:26 a.m. ET
There are tons of celebrity success stories that have a "rags to riches" element to them, and while it's difficult to imagine a time when The Rock was struggling, he didn't really have much money to his name prior to joining the WWE and becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Becoming the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, launching his own production company, a successful tequila brand and tons of other deals seemed like a dream that was far away from "the people's champ" when he was a teen.
The Rock's passion as a young man was actually pro football, and he played Defensive Tackle for the University of Miami. However, the success that he attained in the world of entertainment, both in-ring and on-screen, wasn't mimicked on the football field. After playing on a deep roster of talent, including Warren Sapp who is considered one of the greatest defensive tacklers of all time.
His inability to outshine the competition on the field, coupled with some injuries, cut The Rock's NFL dreams short. He did, however, use his lifelong connections to the world of pro-wrestling to his advantage and when he was welcomed into the WWE (then WWF) in 1996, he was the first third-generation wrassler to enter the organization.
His grandfather, Peter Maivia and his dad, Rocky Johnson made names for themselves, but in-ring sports entertainers back in the day weren't exactly making the big bucks, and Dwayne wasn't imparted with a ton of familial monetary wealth for their efforts, either.
Which is where Bruno comes in, or as the owner of Seven Bucks Productions calls him, "Downtown Bruno."
The Rock's been a lifelong friend of the man who took him in when he was a homeless teenager. When the Rock and his mother were evicted off the Island of Hawaii, it was arranged that he would go and live with his dad in Nashville, Tennessee. But, as the Rock writes, "When I landed in Nashville, I quickly found out I wasn’t gonna live with my dad. S**t happens, plans change and that’s the way it goes. Instead, I told I was gonna live with a guy named Bruno. Who at the time lived in a tiny room at a spot called the Alamo Plaza motel."
The Rock continued, "Bruno could’ve (and should’ve) said hell no, I’m not takin’ in some kid who I don’t know. But he didn’t. He took this punk kid in and we became lifelong friends."
This was when The Rock was 15 years old, before Dwayne headed to college and had his dreams dashed of becoming a pro baller. Some 9 years later when he committed to recovering from his injuries and make it in the WWE, Bruno was there yet again.
"Then ironically - about 9 years later when I had the infamous '$7 Bucks' in my pocket - I started my wrestling career in Memphis, Tennessee and AGAIN - had no place to live and Bruno took me and let me shake up in his trailer, til I could get on my feet."
In order to repay his lifetime friend for all his kindness, The Rock decided to get him a car, but as it turns out, the significance of purchasing an automobile extends beyond The Rock just being grateful for Bruno's hospitality and friendship.
It had something to do with a "crackhead hustle" as well: "And hell, when I was 15yrs old, Bruno even gave me his last $40 bucks so I could hustle a crackhead out of his car one night at a honky tonk in Nashville. But the hustle was on me, because when I took off down the road there was a SECOND CRACKHEAD passed out on the floor in the back! Wild times at 15yrs old."
The Rock continued, "Merry Christmas, Bruno and since you helped me “buy” my first car - I figured I could return the favor and buy you one that 100% does NOT have a crackhead in the back seat. I love you, brother. Your kindness and heart - helped change my life’s trajectory. And when you’re ready to retire from “the business” you just say the word. I got you covered. We’ll go 'downtown'. Enjoy your new ride and give Walls, Mississippi my love and gratitude."
The Rock posted a video clip of him gifting a grateful Bruno the whip on Instagram while on set for his upcoming production of the TV series Young Rock. Bruno worked as a wrestling manager, referee, and sometimes wrestler whose title was "Harvey Wippleman". He'd sometimes also go by "Downtown Bruno." Anyone who knows anything about the business will recognize Bruno/Harvey's name, and he's been deeply entrenched in the business for decades.