Wrestler Rocky Johnson, a WWE Hall of Famer and the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died. He was 75.
”WWE is saddened to learn that Rocky ‘Soul Man’ Johnson…has passed away,” World Wrestling Entertainment announced on Wednesday. “WWE extends its condolences to Johnson’s family, friends and fans.”
USA TODAY reached out to Dwayne Johnson’s rep for comment.
Rocky — born in Nova Scotia, Canada, as Wayde Douglas Bowles — started his professional wrestling career in 1964 with the National Wrestling Alliance, but he achieved much success after joining the WWE in 1983.
He’s best known for becoming the first black tag team champion in WWE history with partner Tony Atlas as The Soul Patrol in 1983.
Rocky retired from wrestling in 1991, but his family’s prized wrestling legacy continued after Johnson followed in his famous father’s footsteps as “The Rock” before going on to become one of the highest-paid actors ever.
“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,” Johnson posted to Instagram in 2018. “It’s made me who I am today. Grateful to the original Rock.”
Things came full circle in 2008 when Johnson inducted his father and grandfather, wrestler “High Chief” Peter Maivia, into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, alongside ”The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Johnson has previously opened up about his father’s “hard life,” revealing that Rocky was homeless at age 13 after his mother kicked him out over a dispute with her boyfriend.
”Every Christmas, I always think about that story and my dad having every odd stacked against him at 13, but he fought thru it and still made something of himself,” Johnson said in a 2016 Instagram post. “Makes me appreciate his struggle and hard work. Also, makes me appreciate the fun times he would beat my ass in the gym so bad when I was 13… I hated it then, but I embrace it now. Made a man outta me.”
In March, Johnson shared a touching video about how much it meant to hear his father, who he describes as ”an old-school tough guy,” tell him that he’s proud of him.
”So about two, three weeks ago, I called my dad and I said, ‘Look, you’re probably happy where you’re at, but I want to do something for you. I want to buy you a brand new home – wherever you want to live, you can live,’ “ Johnson said.
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Great chat with my old man. Felt good to my cold to hear him express his love. He’s a weathered soul and like all weathered souls, there’s often a harsh storied path that got them there. Well for my pops that path started at 13yrs old when his mom kicked him out of his house on Christmas day and forced him to live on the streets (very true and fucked up story) so his reality of compassion and love was forged thru pain and toughness. He raised me with that tough physical love and used to beat my ass in the gyms and on wrestling mats. I hated it then as a little boy, but grateful for it today as a man. It’s shaped my DNA and helped inform how I raise my own babies (minus the ass kickings;) but always instilling the value of hard work and discipline. For that I’m grateful and this one felt good. Crazy how full circle life can come. Enjoy your new house pop - what a storied path and thanks for the ass kickings #weathered
“He couldn’t believe it, he was speechless. … He goes, ‘I’m so excited. I’m also so nervous,’ “ the actor continued. ”I said, ‘What the hell are you nervous about?’ And he said … ‘No one ever called to tell me they were gonna buy me a house before and the fact that it’s you, it’s my son, I’m so proud of you and I love you so much.’ “
Johnson continued: “I never heard my dad talk like that. It felt good to me and it felt good to my heart. … It just felt good to kind of give back to the ones who raised you. So, love you, too, Pop.”
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