NEW YORK – Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler best known as the father of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died. He was 75 years old.
WWE made a statement on Johnson’s death on Wednesday evening. Johnson and Tony Atlas became the first black world champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on December 10, 1983.
The statement contained no details of the cause or location of Johnson’s death.
“Rocky Johnson was a loss for every @ WWE fan and a groundbreaking artist. Our thoughts are with his family during this time, ”tweeted WWE manager and wrestler Paul“ Triple H ”Levesque.
Johnson later helped raise his son, who took the nickname Rocky from his father. Johnson came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock introduced his father to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, had been friends with Johnson for decades and they still went to church in Tampa, Florida together. Blair told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson has recently complained of an unspecified illness and has missed the church he attended with Blair and other former wrestlers. Blair said Johnson’s wife Sheila was upset about her husband’s death.
“He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something,” Blair said over the phone. “I said,” You have to be checked out, Rocky. “He said he would be fine. Then he missed this Sunday a few days ago. When I spoke to him again, he said he still doesn’t feel well and he still misses the church. He still did not checked out. I spoke to Sheila and she said he was just stubborn. He died at home today. “
Johnson was born Wayde Douglas Bowles and started his wrestling career in the mid-1960s. He spent most of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance and later joined the then World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He founded a tag team known as “Soul Patrol” with Atlas and became one of the most popular teams of the era. Johnson retired in the early 1990s but helped introduce his son to WWE officials.