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Wrestler Rocky Johnson, WWE Hall of Famer and father of Dwayne, dies at 75

Sammi Silber

Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson, a former WWE wrestler and father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died at the age of 75, the WWE confirmed on Wednesday.

“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,” the WWE said in a statement, adding, “Johnson found his highest levels of success when he began his WWE tenure in 1983.”


A native of Nova Scotia, Canada, Johnson began his sports-entertainment career in the mid-1960s, when he went from boxing to wrestling after being trained by his future father-in-law, High Chief Peter Maivia. He made his pro wrestling debut in 1966 and competed in the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1970s before joining the ranks of the WWE in 1983.

“The physically imposing and wildly charismatic Johnson has several memorable rivalries with the likes of Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis,” the statement continued. He found the greatest success when he teamed up with Tony Atlas as the Soul Patrol. The two men became the first African-American World Tag Team Champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983.”

Although Johnson retired in 1991, he didn’t walk away from the ring; following his career, he went on to train Dwayne, which saw “The Rock” “become one of the biggest stars in the history of sports-entertainment and carried on his father’s legacy with pride,” the WWE added.

“To some, he’s known for being one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history; to others, he’s known for being the son-in-law of the famed High Chief or the father of The Rock. However, as a pioneer and the first African-American to win coveted World Tag Team gold, Rocky Johnson will always be known as a legend and a trailblazer,” his WWE bio reads.