The world of pro wrestling has lost one of its trailblazers, with reports emerging on Wednesday that Rocky Johnson has passed away.
Johnson, father of wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was 75.
The WWE has confirmed the sad news that Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson – born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Nova Scotia – has died.
A WWE Hall of Famer and former World Tag Team Champion, Johnson’s pro wrestling career began in the mid-1960s with the National Wrestling Alliance. The Canadian wrestler’s success grew when he joined the WWE (then WWF) in 1983.
As WWE recalls, Johnson “had several memorable rivalries with the likes of Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis. However, alongside Tony Atlas, Johnson is best remembered for being the first African-American World Tag Team Champions in WWE history as a member of The Soul Patrol.”
Johnson retired from wrestling in 1991, but was active in training his son, and shared the ring knowledge that led Dwayne Johnson to become one of the biggest stars in the history of the WWE.
Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008. Last year, he published his autobiography, Soul Man: The Rocky Johnson Story.
In a 2019 interview, Rocky Johnson revealed he wasn’t sure about his son following him into a career in the ring.
“I didn’t want him to go through what I had gone through,” Johnson said, referencing the racism he experienced during his ring career.
“I discouraged him because I didn’t know there would be such a big change as there is now,” he added. “I said I’ll train you, but I’ll train you 150 per cent. I trained him and the rest is history.”
As he trained his son, Johnson was impressed by how hard Dwayne worked. “Every night we’d hear a crash and we’d go into his room. He’d be on the dresser doing backflips from the dresser to the bed, breaking the bed every night,” he recalled.
The Rock posted a touching tribute to his father On Instagram on Father’s Day in 2018:
View this post on Instagram
Happy Father’s Day to this hardly ever smiling OG bad ass. Little boys by nature, look up to and idolize their old man. They want to be just like em, do whatever they do and are always looking for their approval. Funny thing is the day I stopped looking for that approval was the day I understood what it meant to be man and more importantly, a father. That shift lifted me to a new level of gratitude for the tough love he always gave. Years later as a man and father of three girls, I know that tough love, is a helluva lot better than no love at all. I’ll take it. It’s made me who I am today. Grateful to the original Rock. #HappyFathersDay #KingStache #RockyJohnson
Rocky Johnson is trending worldwide on Twitter. See some of the tributes below: