7:33 PM ET
Marc RaimondiMid American Herald Staff Writer
Rocky Johnson, father of “The Rock” and a legendary professional wrestler in his own right, has died at the age of 75, WWE announced Wednesday.
Johnson, born in Nova Scotia, Canada, held several National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) singles titles across the United States and Canada during a career that spanned from 1964 to 1991. He was a part of the first black tag team to win the WWF world tag team title with Tony Atlas in 1983.
Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008. He was inducted into the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame in the same year.
No cause of death was released.
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 recently had complained of an unspecified illness and had missed church, which he usually 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.”
Johnson, nicknamed “Soul Man,” extended his legacy in the family business by helping to train his son Dwayne, who went on to become “The Rock” — one of the biggest stars in WWE history and now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.
“The Rock” nickname came from Dwayne Johnson’s original WWE ring name, Rocky Maivia. The “Rocky” part was taken from his father and the “Maivia” was borrowed from “High Chief” Peter Maivia, Dwayne Johnson’s grandfather on his mother’s side, who was also a wrestling great.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.