Rocky Johnson, a WWE Hall of Famer and the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has died, the WWE announced Wednesday. He was 75.
The elder Johnson was best known for being the first African-American World Tag Team Champion in WWE history as a member of The Soul Patrol.
"A loss for every fan of @WWE, Rocky Johnson was a barrier-breaking performer. Our thoughts are with his family at this time," WWE executive and wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque tweeted.
Born and raised in Nova Scotia as Wade Douglas Bowles, Johnson started wrestling in 1964 in and around Toronto. His major success within the industry kicked off when joining the WWE in 1983. Johnson held infamous rivalries with fellow wrestlers Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis.
Known as the "Soul Man," Johnson retired from wrestling in 1991. His son, Dwayne, would continue his wrestling legacy. Dwayne honored his father in 2008 by inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for decades and they still went to church together in the Tampa, Florida area. Blair told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness of late and had missed church that he attended with Blair and other former wrestlers. Blair said Johnson's wife, Sheila, was distraught over her husband's death.
"He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something," Blair said by phone. "I said, 'You, need to get checked out, Rocky.' He said he'd be OK. Then he missed this Sunday, a few days ago. When I talked to him again, he said he still wasn't feeling good and he still missed church. He still didn't get checked out. I talked to Sheila and she said he was just being stubborn. He died at home, today."
A biopic on Johnson's life, titled Ring King, is in the works by indie filmmakers Jonathan and Justin Gajewski. The film would be produced by the Toronto-based twins via their JG Brothers production banner.
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson has passed away. https://t.co/9uxrICJKxb