Johnson was a promising football prospect and received offers from many Division I collegiate programs.
On April 20 at In Your House 14: Revenge of the 'Taker, he lost to Savio Vega by countout, retaining the title for the final time. During this time, he refused to acknowledge the Rocky Maivia name, instead referring to himself in the third person as The Rock, though he would still be billed as Rocky "The Rock" Maivia until 1998.
Audiences became increasingly hostile toward Maivia, with chants of "Die, Rocky, die! As The Rock, he insulted the audience in his promos as well as WWF television interviewers, once calling Kevin Kelly an "ugly hermaphrodite".
Johnson was a college football player for the University of Miami, where he won a national championship on the 1991 Miami Hurricanes team.
After being cut from the Calgary Stampeders of CFL two months into the 1995 season, he began training for a career in professional wrestling, following in the footsteps of various family members, including his grandfather Peter Maivia and his father Rocky Johnson, from whom he inherited Canadian citizenship in 2009.
The Rock then resumed his feud with Triple H, as the two had a two out of three falls match at Fully Loaded: In Your House for the Intercontinental title, which The Rock retained in controversial fashion.
At Breakdown: In Your House, The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock and Mankind in a triple threat steel cage match to become the number one contender for the WWF Championship.
On November 10, 2007, Johnson returned to the Miami Orange Bowl to participate in the festivities surrounding the University of Miami's last home football game at the stadium.
Like his father and grandfather, several of Johnson's other (non-blood) relatives are or were professional wrestlers, including his uncles, Afa and Sika Anoaʻi (The Wild Samoans) and his cousins, Rodney (Yokozuna), Solofa (Rikishi), Matt (Rosey) and Eddie (Umaga).
The Rock and The Nation then feuded with Triple H and D-Generation X (DX), with the two stable leaders first meeting in the quarter-final of the 1998 King of the Ring tournament, which The Rock won.