November 16, 2016 04:04 AM

This year’s Sexiest Man Alive Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may be the highest-paid movie star in the world now, but transitioning from being a WWE champ to a leading man on screen wasn’t easy.

The 44-year-old star says that on top of overcoming his wrestler persona — which he says was met with “skepticism and some cynicism” — there was nobody else like him in Hollywood.

“It was a little challenging because there wasn’t a blueprint for me to follow,” Johnson tells PEOPLE. “Because it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, there’s this half-Samoan, half-black wrestler and this is what he looks like and you just do it like him’ … I was kind of making my own way.”

For more from this year’s Sexiest Man Alive — and to see who else made the cut — pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

Johnson recalls spending years trying to figure out his place in the industry and wondering if a long-term acting career was in the cards, until he realized having no predecessors was actually an advantage.

Watch the full episode of Sexiest Men Alive: Through the Years, streaming now on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.

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“The aha moment was, ‘Well, it’s even better that no one did it before me. It’s even better that there’s not a blueprint. I’ve got to make up my own rules myself,’ ” he says.

Johnson continues, “And the aha moment came when I had a shift in my career and I was comfortable in who I was, comfortable that there wasn’t a blueprint and comfortable taking a swing and being cool with striking out.”

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