Everything You Need to Know About Rocky Johnson, the Rock’s Father

Published 02/17/2021, 9:15 AM EST


Dwayne Johnson belonged to a noble line of wrestlers, but none mattered more than his own father. ‘Soulman’ Rocky Johnson was an incredible talent and a true trailblazer in the industry. Apart from being an icon, he was one heck of a wrestler and lived up to the Samoan heritage he married into.

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Rocky Johnson debuted in 1964

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In 1964, Wayde Douglas Bowles legally changed his name to Rocky Johnson. He chose the name as a tribute to his favourite boxers; Rocky Marciano and Jack Johnson. Johnson traveled all around the world before settling in the NWA.

In the NWA, Johnson was a main event talent, but was mostly unsuccessful in unseating Harley Race or Terry Funk from the throne. Despite not winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Johnson remained determined and won many singles and tag team titles across America.

In 1983, Rocky Johnson came to WWE. He found a tag team partner in Mr. USA, Tony Atlas, and together they ruled the tag team division. Atlas and Johnson won the Wild Samoans (Sika and Afa) for the World Tag Team Championships. They labeled themselves ‘Soul Patrol’ after the win.

Their win would last six months, after which Johnson’s run with the WWE ended. He left WWE in 1985, after which he wrestled for several independent wrestling promotions in the States.

The incredible legacy left behind by the Soulman

Johnson and Atlas were the first African-American Tag Team Champions in WWE. This was a phenomenal feat, and one that etched their names in the annals of wrestling. He was a two-time Georgia Heavyweight Champion and a six-time Florida Heavyweight Champion.

He and Ata Maivia, the daughter of the legendary Peter Maivia, High Chief of the Anoa’i family, had a son who they named Dwayne. Dwayne Johnson would become one of the biggest wrestlers in the world, another trailblazer who blew past his father’s legacy; The Rock.

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Rocky Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008 by his son. He was inducted alongside his father-in-law, another legendary wrestler. The Soulman passed away in January 2020, with his son paying tribute to him on social media.

The Soulman left behind a legacy that paved the way for many wrestlers. From his son The Rock, to other African-American wrestlers like Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Bobby Lashley etc., the Soulman’s hard work and excellence has provided them with a platform to showcase their talent.

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Nathan Fulgado

848 articles

Nathan Fulgado is a WWE and AEW author at EssentiallySports. Having published close to 1000 professional wrestling articles, Nathan is currently pursuing his Journalism degree from Xavier's College. He has previously worked at Free Press Journal as a local journalist.

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