Courtesy of WWE
Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson, an African-American pioneer in the wrestling industry and father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, died on January 15th. The WWE Hall of Famer, whose real name was Wayde Bowles, was 75 years old.
Known as "The Soul Man", Johnson began his career with the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1960s before signing with Vince McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1983. His death was announced on the WWE website.
He and his colleague Tony Atlas from the WWE Hall of Famer became the first Black World Tag Team champions in the WWE later this year by defeating the Wild Samoans. The Rock inducted his father into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 1991, he retired from the ring campaign and spent years helping train his son, who would later become one of the most successful WWE stars of all time. It was Johnson who introduced The Rock to the weight room, a place where the Hollywood juggernaut now spends a lot of time.
"Other fathers brought their children to the playground," Johnson said once to Muscle & Fitness. "Mine took me to the gym and the gyms he led me to were very hardcore. Gyms? Really? But it was an important time for us, and I learned there at a very young age that there was no substitute hard work."
The Rock always kept his father close to him. His original ring name was Rocky Maivia – a combination of his father's name and his maternal grandfather's name, High Chief Peter Maivia.
The Rock has yet to comment on his father's death. But he often posted about him on his Instagram page. On Father's Day 2018, he published a retrospective picture of himself and "The Original Rock" and spoke about the hard love that his old man gave out.
"Years later, as the husband and father of three girls, I know that hard love is much better than no love at all," he wrote. "I accept it. It made me who I am today."
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Happy Father's Day to this barely ever smiling OG ass. Little boys by nature look up to their old man and adore him. They want to be exactly what they are, do what they do, and are always looking for their approval. Funny is the day I stopped looking for this permit, the day I understood what it meant to be a man and, more importantly, to be a father. This shift raised me to a new level of gratitude for the hard love he always gave. Years later, as the husband and father of three girls, I know that hard love is much better than no love at all. I accept it. It made me who I am today. Thankful for the original rock. #HappyFathersDay #KingStache #RockyJohnson