The news was first announced by Cauliflower Alley Club. They tweeted, “Horrible news to pass along. We just learned that Rocky Johnson passed away today at the age of 75. His accolades in this business, all the people he influenced, all his accomplishments, and we are so deeply sorry and wish his family nothing but the most love at this time.”
Rocky is survived by his third wife, Dana Martin, whom he married in 2004. He was previously married to Ata Johnson, Dwayne’s mother, from 1978 to 2003, and Una Johnson from 1966 to 1978. A cause of death was not immediately given. The WWE says it is saddened to learn of his death and offered condolences to his family, friends and fans.
1. Rocky Johnson Was Part Of The WWWF’s First African-American Tag Team & Went on to Become a WWE Hall of Famer
Before his son became an international superstar, Rocky Johnson was a Canadian professional wrestler and was recognized as a true pioneer of the sport. During his own prolific career, which began in 1965, he earned the nickname “Soul Man.” Along with wrestler Tony Atlas, he was part of “The Soul Patrol,” the first African-American tag team champions in the WWWF (now WWE).
Rocky fought and appeared in wrestling arenas all around the world. Through the sport he traveled to Japan, Saudi Arabia, Samoa and Puerto Rico. He was the first African American to win the Southern Georgia and Florida heavyweight titles.
The WWE issued a statement on Johnson’s death:
Johnson’s sports-entertainment career began in the mid-1960s when he made a memorable impression in the National Wrestling Alliance. However, Johnson found his highest levels of success when he began his WWE tenure in 1983. The physically imposing and wildly charismatic Johnson had several memorable rivalries with the likes of Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis. He found his 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. The ‘Soul Man’ retired from the ring in 1991, but his imprint continued to be felt on WWE for years to come. Post-retirement, Johnson had a hand in training his son, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Rock would become one of the biggest stars in the history of sports-entertainment and carried on his father’s legacy with pride.
Rocky Johnson was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
2. ‘The Rock’ & Rocky Johnson Once Fought In The Same Ring
Dwayne held his father in the highest regard, and their father/son relationship was discussed during an interview on RAW. Rocky actually once surprised his son before a match and ended up jumping into the ring. Dwayne was in absolute shock. “When I looked up and saw my dad, I could not believe my eyes,” he said.
Rocky shared a tender moment in the RAW interview:
I bought my own ticket to get in the arena. I wanted to be there. This was so important to me. You carry the family name. You carry your grandfather’s name and I was so proud. When I saw those three guys jump you…any man that has feelings for his son is not going to stand out there watch three guys try to hurt you…. But I promise that I will never interfere in your matches again.”
3. Rocky Johnson Was Homeless Before Becoming A Professional Wrestler
Dwayne opened up his father’s tough upbringing on Instagram, proud of how far he fought to make a career for himself.
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.
4. ‘The Rock’ Bought His Dad a Car For Christmas In 2016
The Jumanji star dubbed himself ‘Dwanta Claus’ three years ago after purchasing a new whip for his Dad. He captioned the Instagram photo by explaining the full backstory as to why he bought his Dad such a huge present.
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!
5. Rocky Johnson Published His Memoir In October 2019
Just a few months before his death, Rocky published a book about his life and career entitled Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story. The biography follows his career from when he first started at age 14. He tells the story of how he came from nothing and not only turned into one of the most respected wrestlers in the world but helped train his son, who went on to become the highest-paid actor in Hollywood.