We’re sending love to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his whole family following reports that his father, Rocky Johnson, has died. On Wednesday, January 15, news broke that the famed wrestler passed away at the age of 75. The star was remembered on social media by fans, friends and many wrestling organizations, including the WWE. “WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson has passed away,” the company shared in a tweet.
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson has passed away. https://t.co/9uxrICJKxb
— WWE (@WWE) January 15, 2020
Known as Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson, the wrestler’s birth name was Wayde Douglas Bowles. Together, he and partner Tony Atlas made up the Soul Patrol, the first African-American World Tag Team Champions in WWE history. According to WWE, he made his debut in the ring in 1983 and retired in 1991, but stayed involved with the sport as he coached his son. In 2008, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Over the years, son Dwayne, 47, shared all kinds of tributes to his old man. In December 2016, after gifting his dad a car, the Fast and Furious star told the story of his father’s austere adolescence. Revealing that Rocky was kicked out of his mother’s house in 1954 at age 13, he paid homage to his Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada upbringing. “My dad, Rocky Johnson, is a minimalist. Always has been,” he wrote on Instagram at the time. “Never asks me for much and, over the years, his needs are always the barest. … 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. ;)”
To make up for it, he made sure his dad had what he needed. But he also honored his story. “Every Christmas, I always think about that story and my dad having every odd stacked against him at 13, but he fought [through] it and still made something of himself,” he wrote. “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.”
In May 2019, the San Andreas actor shared another photo a fan had found of him and his father back when he was only a kid. “Wow, what a pic,” he wrote on Twitter. “[This was] back when my dad (along [with Tony Atlas]) became WWE’s first Black Tag Team Champions. I adored my old man here at 11 [years] old and clearly couldn’t wait to start hitting the gym.”