Former professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, died Wednesday at age 75.
Johnson was the first African-American fighter to have the tag team title in the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) when he and Tony Atlas, fighting while the Soul Patrol won the tag team title in 1983.
In addition to being a professional fighter, Johnson served as a training partner for boxers like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Johnson incorporated boxing moves, such as Ali Shuffle, into his career path.
According to wrestling journalist and historian Dave Meltzer, “when Dwayne Johnson, a child wrestling fan who moved from one territory to another while growing up, was excluded from the Canadian Football League, he asked his father to will train for professional wrestling. Rocky Johnson was very negative about his son becoming a fighter, but finally he and Ron Slinker trained Johnson, and through Rocky Johnson’s friendship with Pat Patterson, they brought Patterson to a session.
“Patterson informed Vince McMahon that Dwayne Johnson had more potential to be a professional wrestling star than anyone he has ever seen, and recommended that they sign it.”
The rest is history.
Rocky Johnson is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
The WWE issued a statement stating Johnson’s death that said, in part, “Johnson’s sports entertainment career began in the mid-1960s when it made a memorable impression on the National Wrestling Alliance. However, Johnson found his levels highest success when he began his term at WWE in 1983.
“Johnson, physically imposing and charismatic, had several memorable rivalries with characters like Greg” The Hammer “Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis. He found his greatest success when he partnered with Tony Atlas as The Soul Patrol. The two men became the First African American World Label Team Champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on December 10, 1983.
“WWE extends its condolences to Johnson’s family, friends and fans.”