The Rock's Father, Trailblazing Wrestler Rocky Johnson, Passes Away At 75
Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas became the WWE's first African American tag team champions.
January 16, 2020 at 5:23 am
WWE Hall Of Fame member and trailblazing Black wrestler Rocky Johnson has passed away at the age of 75 reports WWE.
In a decorated career that spanned decades, Johnson was part of a duo that became the first Black World Tag Team Champions in WWE history. In his later years, he helped train and build his son, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, into the sport's biggest star.
The WWE described him as “one of the greatest African-American pioneers inside the squared circle."
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Bought my dad a Christmas gift and surprised him. He's had a hard life. This one felt good. My dad, Rocky Johnson is a minimalist. Always has been. Never asks me for much and over the years his needs are always the barest. Crazy story, my dad's dad died when he was 13yrs old. That Christmas, my dad's mom had her new boyfriend over for Christmas dinner. Her boyfriend got drunk and pissed on the turkey. My dad went outside, got a shovel, drew a line in the snow and said if you cross that line I'll kill you. The drunk crossed it and my dad laid him out cold as a block of ice. Cops were called. They told my dad's mom that when her boyfriend regains consciousness, he's gonna kill your son so one of them has got to go. In front of the entire family, my dad's mom looked at him and said get out. He was 13yrs old and now homeless. That f*cked up true story happened in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1954. He needed the bare minimum then, just like does now. Over the years, I've moved him into a big home, got him trucks to drive – which he'll literally drive into the ground until I get him something else. Hell, I'll get him anything he wants, but the SOB just won't ask;). 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. 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 and say "If you're gonna throw up, go outside.. and if you're gonna cry, then go home to your mother". I hated it then, but I embrace it now. Made a man outta me. Without pissing on my turkey. ????????????. Just a small way of saying thank you dad and Merry Christmas! #DwantaClaus????????
Born Wayde Douglas Bowles in 1944, the Nova Scotia native was a descendant of Black slaves who settled in Canada after fleeing a southern plantation. He got his start wrestling in Toronto and dabbled in boxing before officially starting his professional career in 1964.
Johnson spent the 60s and 70s wrestling for the National Wrestling Alliance, eventually working his way up to major title bouts against legends like Terry Funk and Harley Race.
Sad to hear the news of Rocky Johnson passing away. In 1969 within his first month in Los Angeles he held 3 titles at the same time, the Americas heavyweight, the Americas tag (with Earl Maynard), & the Beat the Champ TV title. He also won the 1st annual LA 22-man battle royal pic.twitter.com/1jVafXagmt
— SoCal UNCENSORED (@socaluncensored) January 15, 2020
Johnson was trained primarily by his father-in-law and legendary Samoan wrestler Peter Maivia, who supported him as he made the switch over to the World Wrestling Federation. After joining the WWE, he struck up a friendship with wrestler Tony Atlas, and the two created "The Soul Patrol."
In November 1983, Atlas and Johnson were in the Tag Team Championship, where they defeated "The Wild Samoans" to become the first Black tag team to hold the title.
He continued to wrestle through the 80s and retired in 1991, deciding to focus his efforts on working with Dwayne as he prepared to join the sport full time.
With Johnson's help, Dwayne quickly became The Rock and took over the sport, eventually surpassing it entirely to become a global action movie star.
Oh man… Rest in Power Rocky Johnson. So much more than Dwayne Johnson's dad. So much more than a pro wrestler. True trailblazer. True champion. pic.twitter.com/MQFjO0hUjL
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) January 15, 2020
The Rock even got a chance to play his dad in an episode of That 70s Show.
Rest In Peace, Rocky Johnson
As a small tribute, here's the cameo from That 70's Show where The Rock actually played his own father. Hope you are in a better place. pic.twitter.com/rZJBJYWoOt
— Elvis Dutan (@the_snickman) January 15, 2020
"In 2008, Johnson achieved the highest honor in sports-entertainment when he was inducted by The Rock into the WWE Hall of Fame where he will be forever enshrined as one of sports entertainment’s most influential performers," the WWE said.
"WWE extends its condolences to Johnson’s family, friends and fans," they added.