Rocky Johnson, WWE Hall of Famer known to longtime wrestling fans as the "Soul Man," has passed away. In addition to his time competing in the ring, Johnson is also well known as the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - one of pro wrestling's all-time most popular performers. The former wrestling superstar's passing was announced by WWE, though no details have been revealed about the circumstances of Johnson's death or a possible cause. He was 75 years old.
A native Nova Scotian, Johnson was born in 1944 as Wayde Douglas Bowles. As a teenager, Johnson worked as a wrestler in addition to driving trucks. He began training to become a boxer and even sparred with legends of the sport like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, but his calling would ultimately be in the wrestling business. By the time he was 20, Johnson fully embraced his career path as a professional wrestler, going so far as to legally change his name to his wrestling alias "Rocky Johnson." By 1969, he was competing in the World Wide Wrestling Federation, the promotion now better known as World Wrestling Entertainment.
In the '70s, Johnson competed primarily in the National Wrestling Alliance, making his eventual return to WWE in 1982. During his tenure with the company, he had notable feuds with many major stars of the era, including Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Adrian Adonis, Buddy Rose, and Don Muraco. Johnson would also find success in tag team wrestling when he partnered up with Tony Atlas to form The Soul Patrol. By defeating the Wild Samoans for the Tag Team Championship titles in 1983, Johnson and Atlas became the first black tag team to hold the tag titles in the company.
Johnson married into the famous Samoan wrestling family when he wed "High Chief" Peter Maivia's daughter Ata in 1970. The two would later have a son named Dwayane, who would also take an early interest in the wrestling business. With Johnson training him, Dwayne found early success as a pro wrestler, and when he made his own debut in WWE in 1996, he performed under the alias "Rocky Maivia" - combining the names of his wrestling father and grandfather. The character later shortened his name to "The Rock," and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rocky was also portrayed by his son Dwayne Johnson in a classic episode of the '90s sitcom That '70s Show, which took place at a wrestling event in the '70s. Backstage, Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and his father Red (Kurtwood Smith) meet Rocky and ask for autographs. Initially, Rocky's manager (Ernie Ladd) denies them the opportunity, though the wrestler insists on signing a program for Eric. "You know, I got a son, and one day, he's gonna become the most electrifying man in sports entertainment," Dwayne says as his father Rocky, referencing The Rock's WWE catch phrase.
Along with Peter Maivia, Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008 by his son Dwayne. Just last month, he also published a biographical graphic comic called The Soul Man Rocky Johnson and was named as a part of the Board of Directors of the International Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. Our thoughts are with Dwayne, the Johnson family, and everyone else affected by Johnson's passing. RIP. The man was a legend and he'll definitely be missed. This news comes to us from the official WWE.com website.