Rocky Johnson passes away at age 75.
The majority of the world knows of Rocky Johnson as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s father, but he was so much more than that. Johnson was a trailblazer in the pro wrestling industry. He was born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Ontario, Canada, but soon after his debut in 1964 he legally changed his name to Rocky Johnson. He worked in Canada for a few years before joining NWA, working against the best in Terry Funk and Harley Race.
In 1982 he joined the WWF and had spectacular matches against even more greats in Don Muraco, Buddy Rose, and Adrian Adonis before teaming with Tony Atlas. In 1983 they became the first black WWF Tag Team Champions. November 15, The Soul Patrol defeated The Wild Samoans to win the championships and etch their names in the history books.
During his time in the late 1960s while on the indie scene Johnson worked a tag match with High Chief Peter Maivia. After the match Maivia found out Johnson was sleeping in his car, so he was invited into Maivia’s home for a home-cooked meal and a bed to sleep in. The Maivia’s never wanted their daughter Ata to get involved with a wrestler, but she and the then-divorced Johnson quickly fell in love. She moved out of her parent’s home and they became estranged for a couple of years. Ata and Rocky married in 1970. Dwayne was born in 1972 and that’s when the Maivias realized that if they wanted to be in the life of their only grandchild they needed to work things out with Ata and Rocky, which they did.
Johnson retired in 1991 and then, along with Pat Patterson, trained Dwayne to wrestle. On March 29, 2008 Rocky Johnson and High Chief Peter Maivia were both inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Dwayne Johnson.
QD – I have to admit I’m quite choked up writing this. Dwayne and I are of an age and even thinking about losing a parent at our still fairly young age is hitting me hard. I am also kicking myself that I’ve never asked Atlas about his work with Rocky, even though I’ve had many conversations with him. I didn’t want him to feel like I was more interested in Dwayne than either Johnson or Atlas and now I don’t want him to feel like I’m only asking because he’s passed. Rocky really faded into the background for his son to shine and that’s a beautiful thing, but he should be celebrated in his own right because he was a trailblazer in his day. Funny enough that talking backstage about Johnson, Dre’s stepfather and I both have signed pics of Atlas and Johnson in the ring together. I’ve always cherished mine, and it means that much more to me now.
From all of us at WR, our heart go out to the family, friends, and fans of Johnson. He will be remembered as the trailblazer he was.