How Dwayne Johnson's Dad, Wrestler Rocky Johnson, Paved the Way for His Famous Son
Years before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took the WWE — and then the world — by storm, his dad Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson paved the way.
Rocky died on Wednesday at 75, almost 40 years after he made his WWE debut in 1983 and quickly became a popular mainstay. Teaming up with fellow wrestler Tony Atlas, the two became the first African-Americans to become the World Tag Team Champions in WWE history in December 1983, just months after Rocky’s debut.
The wrestler would go on to have a wildly popular career before retiring in 1991 — and quickly started training his young son to take over the family business and carry his legacy.
In 2018, Dwayne, 47, talked about how hard the training was in revealing he’d gifted his father a new car after the former wrestler went through hip replacement surgery.
“Hey my old man was a tough MF on me. He’d kick my ass from one side of the gym to the other for years. I hated it when I was a kid, but grateful for it as a man. Im lucky I could do this and thanks for the ass kickins,” Dwayne wrote.
Thanks to the training and the charisma he inherited from his “old man,” Dwayne went on to have one of the most successful careers in sports-entertainment before transitioning to a still-skyrocketing movie career.
And the proud son got to pay his dad back in the sweetest way in 2008, when he helped induct Rocky into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Rocky was born in Nova Scotia, Canada as Wayde Douglas Bowles and began wrestling at the age of 16. He started his career in 1964 and later became a National Wrestling Alliance Georgia Champion and won several other championships throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
Rocky married Ata Maivia in 1970 and he two welcomed their son, Dwayne, in 1972. They later divorced in 2003. In Dwayne’s first acting job, he portrayed his father in a 1999 episode of That ‘70s Show titled “That Wrestling Show.”
In a sweet Instagram post in June 2018, Dwayne acknowledged how Rocky helped shape him into a man — and a loving father.
“Happy Father’s Day to this hardly ever smiling OG badass. Little boys by nature, look up to and idolize their old man. They want to be just like em, do whatever they do and are always looking for their approval. Funny thing is the day I stopped looking for that approval was the day I understood what it meant to be man and more importantly, a father,” Dwayne wrote.
“That shift lifted me to a new level of gratitude for the tough love he always gave. Years later as a man and father of three girls, I know that tough love, is a helluva lot better than no love at all. I’ll take it. It’s made me who I am today. Grateful to the original Rock. #HappyFathersDay #KingStache #RockyJohnson,” he concluded.