Former professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, the father of wrestler/actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, died Wednesday, the WWE announced on its website. He was 75.
The elder Johnson, an acrobatic performer nicknamed “Soul Man,” is a WWE Hall of Famer who starred for more than two decades, mostly with the National Wrestling Alliance.
WWE released a statement, noting the company was is “saddened” by Johnson’s passing and offering condolences to his family.
Johnson spent most of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance, winning several championships and emerging as a tag team specialist. He joined WWE in 1983 and won the tag team championships with Tony Atlas, becoming the first black tag team champions in WWE history.
Johnson, with his tight, short Afro, menacing look and sculpted body, was a fan favorite who dazzled audiences with his acrobatic moves, especially his dropkicks.
In his autobiography, “Soul Man: The Rocky Johnson Story,” published last year and co-written with veteran wrestling author Scott Teal, Johnson said that he worked more than 10,000 matches over 27 years. According to Bleacher Report, Johnson joined WWE in 1983 and won tag team championships with Tony Atlas, becoming the first black tag team champions in the circuit’s history.
Johnson was born Wayde Douglas Bowles on Aug. 24, 1944, and grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He debuted as a wrestler in July 1965 and changed his name to Rocky Johnson. He legally changed his name in 1986.
Johnson retired from the ring in 1991 and was inducted by his son into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, the WWE said on its website.