How The Rock Got Xbox Cooking

The Rock original Xbox
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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has always had a very public fondness for Xbox — or maybe it’s the other way around. And this isn’t a new thing either; The Rock and Xbox have been working together ever since the first Xbox console reveal in 2001, in what was potentially the most early 2000s appearance in gaming history.

The Rock then went on from revealing consoles to games to other partnerships. If Bill Gates wasn’t involved, there’s a good chance The Rock would practically be the face of Xbox itself — you know, apart from Master Chief or maybe Galleon.

But why do The Rock and Xbox seem to like checking in to the Smackdown Hotel together? Take a deep dive into the history of this seemingly random duo.


The Rock Announces The Xbox

On January 6, 2001, during the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft was ready to reveal its answer to Sony’s growing presence in the video game industry: the first Xbox console.

The presentation started simple enough. Bill Gates, then-chairman of Microsoft, talked about the specs and capabilities of the new console. He also discussed other aspects of the one-time DirectX Box, like why they chose that specific design for the console and its controllers. Gates didn’t even show any games since the Xbox didn’t really even have anything to show off just yet.

As boring as that sounds, the presentation became one of the most iconic console reveals ever when The Rock suddenly stepped in dressed hilariously and awkwardly with a tacky outfit and shades. You couldn’t have asked for a bigger opposite to Gates, but the odd couple worked. Gates’ croaky, high-pitched voice and uncomfortable mannerisms matched with The Rock’s incredible charisma made the three minutes of shared stage time pretty interesting in its cringiness.

The Rock spoke in the third person, just like this (and just like he does now back in WWE), and with a rhythm that made his speech sound incredibly scripted. Probably because it was. He also blurted out buzzwords like symmetric multiprocessing and multithreading nonstop, as if they were common words even toddlers would know. The presentation was a bit dry and technical with just Gates up there on the stage, but when The Rock got involved, telling the richest man on the planet that it didn’t matter what he thought, it became legitimately entertaining.

Microsoft certainly achieved its goal of making people know the Xbox was coming, and the press conference is now iconic in its own right.


Why The Rock?

The Rock 1999
The Rock 1999

The original Xbox was intended to rival the PlayStation 2, but with Sony already very well established, Microsoft needed something more to really get the word out. They needed a presenter that would not only appeal to the gaming community but draw in people from other crowds.

You might think that Johnson and Gates were already close buddies during that time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That was probably either the first time they met, or they were new acquaintances prior to the reveal. The two now seem to be fairly close, with The Rock possibly joking that: “Bill and I have been broad banning, twinning and tequila drinking ever since.”

Back then, Johnson’s acting career had barely just begun. His first major acting role as The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns wasn’t due for a few more months. He was known more for his wrestling career with the WWE, which, at the time, was still named WWF.

Gaming wasn’t as big of an industry then as it is now, either. People who liked video games were still commonly teased as nerds and geeks. So, what better way to make gaming look “cool” than to get a wrestling superstar as your spokesperson?

And although it wasn’t a known fact back then, The Rock is a gamer. In an interview with MTV back in 2017, he said that his favorite video game is Mortal Kombat and that he also loved the 1986 arcade game Rampage, which he later starred in a movie adaptation of. So he’s likely been playing games long before the Xbox even existed, but the chances of coming across him in your Halo lobby are pretty low.

The Rock’s Other Team-Ups With Xbox

The Rock didn’t just help announce consoles; he was there for numerous Xbox game reveals, charities, and other events. He also has roles in a couple of games like SpyHunter: Nowhere To Run and practically every WWE game, although these aren’t Xbox exclusives.

Interestingly, though, The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian, the video game adaptation of The Rock’s first major leading role, never released on Xbox.

The relationship isn’t all one-sided too. Xbox has helped Dwayne Johnson promote his own products as well. Here are some of the biggest team-ups between The Rock and Xbox throughout the years.


Exclusive Xbox One Consoles For Make-A-Wish

During Winter 2017, Dwayne Johnson turned into Dwanta Claus, a persona he created that fused Santa Claus with himself. His goal? To bring some joy to three Make-A-Wish children by taking them on a VIP tour of the set of his current film project, Skyscraper.

The kids got personalized director chairs and exotic car rides, but perhaps the most special gifts they received were the special edition Xbox Ones. The consoles were given to them a week before they came out worldwide. They featured Johnson’s golden Brahma Bull logo and uniquely styled controllers. To top it all off, they even got to play games from the Xbox Game Pass selection with The Rock.


The Rock’s Custom Xbox Series X, And Gamers Outreach

The original Xbox isn’t the only console The Rock helped launch. He was there for the Xbox Series X too.

To commemorate the launch on November 10, 2020, Microsoft gave The Rock a special edition of the Xbox Series X. Like the special edition Xbox One, it has a golden Brahma Bull logo and a message engraved in the bottom reading “Keep smiling and have fun. Love, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson” followed by his signature.

The special edition console has sadly not been made for sale to the public, but others are out there.

Microsoft and Xbox also chose Johnson as their representative in announcing their partnership with Gamers Outreach, a charity dedicated to providing video games to hospitalized children.

The partnership led to 20 children’s hospitals across the US receiving custom Xbox Series X consoles and Gamers Outreach Karts.


Free Xbox Series S Consoles

After once again donning his Dwanta Claus persona, Dwayne and Netflix partnered with Xbox in November 2021 to celebrate their new film, Red Notice.

This time, Dwanta gave away Xbox Series S consoles, Halo Master Chief Helmets, and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions. No special editions this time, but still pretty cool.


The Xbox Vault

Also related to Red Notice is the Xbox Vault, announced and hosted by none other than The Rock.

But what is the Xbox Vault, you ask? It was a limited-time interactive gaming experience based on the film Red Notice. You were placed in a vault with 27 artifacts you could interact with. The Rock would then ask you a question relating to that artifact. The more answers you got right, the higher your chances of winning a prize from Xbox.

These “artifacts” were items from various games and some were even real-world objects that related to Xbox’s history. Among the artifacts were the Dragonborn Helmet from Skyrim, a statue of Master Chief from Halo, and an Xbox controller.


The Rock’s Zoa Energy Drinks x The Xbox Mini Fridge

An example of Microsoft helping The Rock is when they used the Xbox Mini Fridge to showcase Johnson’s line of Zoa energy drinks. An ad for Zoa included a mini fridge designed to look like a giant Xbox Series X console.

The Rock and Xbox teamed up once again to give away a special edition of the mini fridge with a golden Zoa logo on it.

This happened in March 2021 when the Xbox Mini Fridge wasn’t even technically a thing yet. They treated the ad as more of a proof of concept to see if the public even wanted the product. Luckily for them, the ad was a success, and the Xbox Mini Fridge became an official product in December of that year. What goes around comes around.

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