Dwayne Johnson has posted a heartfelt tribute to his late father, professional wrestling hall of famer Rocky Johnson. “You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world,” The Rock wrote on Instagram before offering a poignant hope: “I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman.”
The W.W.E. announced Rocky Johnson’s death Wednesday, with no cause given. He was 75.
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Read Dwayne Johnson’s Instagram tribute below, which includes a vintage video snippet of Rocky Johnson in the ring and his adoring young son Dwayne watching from the seats. Among those offering condolences in the thread are Kevin Hart, Terry Crews and J.J. Watt.
Born Wayde Douglas Bowle in 1944, the young man from Toronto took up boxing and changed his name to Rocky Johnson in honor of boxing greats Rocky Marciano and Jack Johnson. His professional wrestling career began in the 1960s with the National Wrestling Alliance but reached peak popularity after he joined what is now the W.W.E. in 1983.
With his wrestling nickname Soul Man, Johnson paired in the ring with Tony Atlas, another black wrestler, and together they became the Soul Patrol, the W.W.E.’s first black world tag team champs.
When Dwayne expressed in going pro in the 1990s, Rocky helped him train and occasionally assisted him in on-camera wrestling matches.
In his first extended statement since his father’s passing, Dwayne Johnson writes today in the form of a letter to Rocky: “I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father.”
The tribute continues by noting that the son’s adoration eventually “turned to respect” and his empathy to gratitude his life and its invaluable lessons.
“Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side,” the Jumanji star writes. “But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back. I’m in pain.
But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass. Now I’ll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it’s time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish.”
The tribute ends with the younger Johnson telling his father “to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman. Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease.”
“You lived a very full, very hard, barrier breaking life and left it all in the ring,” Johnson writes. “I love you dad and I’ll always be your proud and grateful son.
Go rest high.”
Johnson recently announced that NBC had given his planned single-camera comedy Young Rock a straight-to-series order. The series will tell the story of the wrestler-turned-actor’s colorful early years.
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