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Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Father Dies at 75

Gettyimages | Kevin Winter
By Alyssa McCraw

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's father, Rocky Johnson, passed away on Wednesday, January 15th.

WWE released a statement this evening, just after 6pm EST. "[We] are saddened to learn that Rocky 'Soul Man' Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles), a WWE Hall of Famer, former World Tag Team Champion, and father of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, has passed away at age 75."

The cause of Mr. Johnson's death is unknown or not yet released. He was a professional wrestler for 23 years before joining the WWE organization.

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He began his tenure with the company in 1983. Much like his son, WWE's statement on his death describes him as "physically imposing and wildly charismatic." He and tag-team partner Tony Atlas later became the first ever African-American duo to win the World Tag Team Championship.

Although he retired eight years later (in 1991), "his imprint continued to be felt on WWE for years to come." His retirement allowed him to join forces with wrestling legend Pat Patterson to train his son.

Dwayne Johnson made his professional wrestling debut in 1996. His character remained a "heel" - that is, a disliked character - until his transformation into "The Rock" in 1998.

It was announced in 2018 that a biopic about Rocky Johnson was in the works. The Hollywood Reporter said at the time that "Toronto-based filmmakers Jonathan and Justin Gajewski are developing Ring King, a feature about the Canadian wrestling superstar and father of the top Hollywood action hero [Dwayne Johnson.]" It appears nothing came to fruition after the initial announcement in September of that year.

Gettyimages | Michael Tran

Check out The Rock's famous match against longtime rival Stone Cold Steve Austin from Wreslemania 17 here

Rocky Johnson joined the WWE Hall of Fame 12 years ago. The "Class of 2008" ceremony was held on March 28th in Orlando, Florida. Dwayne not only had the honor of inducting his father, but his late grandfather as well. "High Chief Peter Maivia" passed away in 1982 and was half of the inspiration for Dwayne's original ringname, "Rocky Maivia."

The website PWInsider republished their coverage of the induction ceremony in response to today's events. "Rocky Johnson gave a nice speech saying if you would have told him he would make history and be part of a dynasty, he would have said you were crazy," their 2008 report said. Rocky went on to thank his wife of (then) 35 years, and of course, his son Dwayne.

"Rocky said he'd like to be remembered for paving the road for not just black athletes, but all athletes."

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