Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who became better known as the father and trainer of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died at his home in Florida at age 75.
WWE issued a statement on Johnson’s death Wednesday night. Johnson and Tony Atlas became the first black world tag team champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983.
The statement did not provide details on the cause Johnson’s death. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Johnson was living in Lutz, a Fla., outside Tampa Bay in a home his son purchased for him last year.
“A loss for every fan of @WWE, Rocky Johnson was a barrier-breaking performer. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” WWE executive and wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque tweeted.
Johnson later helped train his son, who adopted the Rocky moniker from his father. Johnson came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
I'm Saddened To Hear About The Passing Of The GREAT ROCKY JOHNSON! I Wrestled Him Many Times Throughout His Illustrious Career. His Physique And Conditioning Were Unparalleled! He Was So Proud Of His Son Dwayne! He Raised Him To Be The Rock!! RIP Rocky Johnson! pic.twitter.com/GiXXFQhGlE— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) January 16, 2020
Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for decades, and they still attended church together. Blair said Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness of late and had missed church that he went to with Blair and other former wrestlers. Blair said Johnson’s wife, Sheila, was distraught over her husband’s death.
“He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something,” Blair said by phone. “I said, ‘You, need to get checked out, Rocky.’ He said he’d be OK. Then he missed this Sunday, a few days ago. When I talked to him again, he said he still wasn’t feeling good and he still missed church. He still didn’t get checked out. I talked to Sheila and she said he was just being stubborn. He died at home, today.”
Johnson was born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Nova Scotia, Canada, and started his wrestling career in the mid-1960s. He spent the bulk of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance and later joined the then-World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He formed a tag team with Atlas known as “Soul Patrol” and became of one the popular teams of the era. Johnson retired in the early 1990s but helped introduce his son to officials at WWE.