It's hard to turn on the television and not see Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Before his days as a Hollywood movie star and global icon, The Rock was a 10-time WWE World Champion as a professional wrestler and transcendent superstar. Known as "The People's Champ," Johnson's speed and power in the ring didn't just come from his days as a college football player with the Miami Hurricanes. In fact, Johnson credits much of his talent and training in pro wrestling to his Hall-of-Fame father.
Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Rocky Johnson debuted in the National Wrestling Alliance in 1964 and wrestled in the NWA promotion for two decades. In 1983, Johnson joined partner Tony Atlas to form the Soul Patrol and later won the WWF World Tag Team Championships — The duo were the first black tag team to win titles in wrestling's largest promotion. Johnson received induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008 alongside his father, World Wide Wrestling Federation icon "High Chief" Peter Maivia. Dwayne Johnson inducted both his father and grandfather.
The Cauliflower Alley Club first reported that Johnson died on January 15, 2020. He was 75 years old. His cause of death was not immediately known.
Rocky Johnson, Father of Dwayne Johnson, Dead at 75
"Horrible news to pass along. We just learned that Rocky Johnson passed away today at the age of 75. His accolades in this business, all the people he influenced, all his accomplishments, and we are so deeply sorry and wish his family nothing but the most love at this time"
WWE released a statement after the tragic news broke. It reads in part:
"WWE is saddened to learn that Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles), a WWE Hall of Famer, former World Tag Team Champion, and father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has passed away at age 75."
A few days later, Dwayne Johnson spoke out for the first time since his father's death, posting an old wrestling clip of his father and offering a heartfelt farewell to "Soulman" on his Instagram account.
The Rock Says Goodbye to Father
I love you.
You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world.
I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar.
The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am.
The boy you raised with the toughest of love.
The intense work.
The hard hand.
The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities.
Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood.
Son to father.
Man to man.
That's when my adoration turned to respect.
And my empathy turned to gratitude.
Grateful that you gave me life.
Grateful you gave me life's invaluable lessons.
Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side.
But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning.
Gone in an instant and no coming back.
Im in pain.
But we both know it's just pain and it'll pass.
Now I'll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it's time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish.
Finally, I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman.
Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease.
You lived a very full, very hard, barrier breaking life and left it all in the ring.
I love you dad and I'll always be your proud and grateful son.
Go rest high.
— The Rock, via Instagram
"The Soul Man" was one of the most notable WWE Hall of Famers to ever live, but more importantly, is part of an iconic wrestling family built on culture, values and unmatched work ethic. This is a sad day for the wrestling community, and our thoughts are with the Johnson family.
This post was originally published January 15, 2020.
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