The Rock used his award acceptance speech to shine the light on a Make-a-Wish recipient.
As Today reported, the award is meant to reflect the winner’s contributions to the entertainment industry, entrepreneurial endeavors, and commitment to supporting children and families in need through multiple philanthropic partnerships.
But instead of listing off all his accomplishments, Johnson went into a story about what the term “people’s champion” means to him.
Johnson told a personal tale of meeting his hero, the original people’s champion, boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
“I first met Muhammad when I was a little boy,” Johnson recalled, “and he was so cool to me, he was so kind and funny, he made me laugh… He was always wonderful to me.”
“Then I had this whole other life in the past,” he continued, “where I usd to throw around 300 pound men for a living. And as a bad guy in the WWE… I used to call myself ‘the people’s champion.’”
One night, Muhmmad Ali and his family came to see Johnson wrestle in Louisville, KY -- Ali’s hometown -- and Johnson got to meet the Champ again backstage. Johnson told Ali's wife, “I call myself the people’s champion out of respect. If he doesn’t like it, I will not do it. She told me, ‘He told me to tell you, you are the people’s champion, you’ve earned it, you take that title.’”
So by getting this particular award, Johnson admitted, “this irony is not lost on me. Because I realize that what it means to be the people’s champion is so much bigger than me, because what it means to be the people’s champion -- champion of the people -- is you treat people good, You treat people kind, you take care of people, you’re inclusive of people, all people, all colors, doesn’t matter.”
The speech then took an even more heartwarming turn, as Johnson explained the last time he saw Ali was at a Make-a-Wish event -- the non-profit foundation that The Rock has worked with for years. Their goal is to realize the wishes of young critically sick patients.
He then pointed out a teen fan in the crowd who’s wish was to be at the People’s Choice Awards. He asked her to stand and offered the award to her.
“I met her earlier,” Johnson explained. “I told her how inspired I was by her story. She is a survivor. She has fought literally for her life. She has inspired her family, her friends, now you guys here -- now the world that is watching.”
The teen was genuinely shocked, as she exclaimed that she didn’t expect this surprise at all. “This is crazy,” she said. “Thank you so much to you and to Make-a-Wish. You represent everything that it means to be a people’s champion.”
Before this end of the night surprise, The Rock was all over the PCAs, as he was also named Comedy Movie Star of 2021 and Male Movie Star of 2021.
Johnson is really in the season of giving mood these days. He recently gifted a Navy veteran with a customized pickup truck.
Johnson ended his six-minute PCAs presentation with words he first heard when he was 15, and have stuck with him ever since: “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”