Rocky Johnson was a sports legend in his own right, and was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Learn more about The Rock’s dad who sadly died at the age of 75.
Rocky Johnson has passed away at the age of 75, the WWE announced on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Known to younger generations as the dad of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, 47, Rocky — nicknamed the”Soul Man” — was a wrestling legend in his own right. “WWE is saddened to learn that Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles), a WWE Hall of Famer and former World Tag Team Champion, has passed away at age 75,” the WWE’s official statement read, adding that he “retired from the ring in 1991, but his imprint would continue to be felt on WWE for years to come.” His cause of death is currently unknown.
While The Rock has yet to address his father’s passing himself, he has shared touching posts about Rocky in the past. “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,” Dwayne shared in an emotional post on Instagram, captioning a 2016 photo of a him and his dad with a new car. “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,” he shared, also thanking his dad for shaping him into “the man I am today.” Here are 5 things to know about Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson.
1. He broke records. As one-half of the “Soul Patrol” alongside Tony Atlas, Rocky was the first African-American World Tag Team Champion in WWE history. The duo were unstoppable when they claimed the title back in 1983 against the The Wild Samoans, and held onto the golden belts for five months before being defeated in April 1984.
2. He was from Canada. Rocky was born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Amherst, Nova Scotia on Aug. 20, 1944 and was the fourth of five sons to Lillian and James Henry Bowles. The future wrestling champ moved to Toronto, Ontario at the age of 16 where he began training. He eventually went pro in 1964 — while still living in Ontario — legally changing his name to Rocky Johnson.
3. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Rocky was inducted by proud son Dwayne back in 2008, 17 years after his 1991 retirement. “[Rocky] will be forever enshrined as one of sports-entertainment’s most influential performers,” the WWE’s official statement read, noting that the Hall of Fame is the “highest honor in sports-entertainment.” Rocky originally joined the WWE back in 1983, and was well-known for his rivalries with Don Muraco, Adrian Adonis and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.
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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🎅🏾
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4. He trained his son. Rocky was instrumental in getting his son Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson involved in the wrestling world, and trained him alongside friend and pro Pat Patterson. Dwayne signed to the WWE — then known as the WWF — back in 1996. Originally going by Rocky Maivia, The Rock made history as the first third-generation pro wrestler after his dad and grandfather Peter Maivia. Eventually, Dwayne went onto become a highly successful entertainer in film and television.
5. He was a dad of three. In addition to Dwayne, Rocky was the father of two other children with ex-wife Una Johnson: Wanda Bowles and Curtis Bowles. The wrestling pro had a close connection with his kids, but wasn’t always an easy parent growing up. “You know, my dad used to beat my ass, tough love, and I hated it back then but I’m so grateful for it now,” Dwayne said on his Instagram story last year. “It just felt good to kind of give back to the ones who raised you, so love you too, Pop.”