Birthday: August 24, 1944
Died At Age: 75
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Wayde Douglas Bowles
Born Country: Canada
Born in: Amherst, Canada
Famous as: Professional wrestler
Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Dana Martin (m. 2004), Ata Johnson (m. 1978–2003), Una Johnson (m. 1966–1978)
father: James Henry Bowles
mother: Lillian Bowles
children: Curtis Bowles, Dwayne Johnson, Wanda Bowles
Died on: January 15, 2020
place of death: Lutz, Florida, United States
Ancestry: Irish Canadians, Canadian Americans
Grouping of People: Black Wrestler
Cause of Death: Pulmonary Embolism
Who was Rocky Johnson?
Rocky Johnson was a Canadian former professional wrestler. While some know him as a great superstar in WWE history, others know him as the son-in-law of the famous High Chief Peter Maivia, and still others acknowledge him as the father of the Rock Dwayne Johnson. He was the first person of African-American descent to win World Tag Team Championship, a NWA Southern Heavyweight Memphis Champion, and a National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) Georgia Champion. He retired from the ring in 1991, but didn't stay away from wrestling, as he began training his son, who is a popular wrestler who keeps his father going. After been recruited by World Wrestling Federation (WWF), he feuded with champions like Mike Sharpe, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Buddy Rose, and Adrian Adonis. He made a tag team with Tony Atlas, and they were the first black tag team to hold the Tag Team Championship title. His son inducted him into the 2008 class of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Rocky Johnson was born as Wayde Douglas Bowles on August 24, 1944, in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada. Son of Lillian and James Henry Bowles, he is a descendant of the Black Loyalists who immigrated to Canada after escaping from US after the American Revolutionary War. He has four brothers.
He was 13 when his father died. His mother turned him out of the house over a tiff he had with her boyfriend. Homeless at such a young age, he braved all challenges and worked hard to survive. At 16, he moved to Toronto and worked as a truck driver. He also began wrestling around this time.
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Initially Rocky Johnson was trained in boxing and he sparred with great boxers like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. However, he was more fascinated by wrestling, and eventually took it up as a career.
He started his professional wrestling career in 1964, in Southern Ontario. Around the same time, he legally changed his name to Rocky Johnson. The legendary High Chief Peter Maivia was his trainer; he would later become his father-in-law.
Rocky Johnson competed all around the world before he joined National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). By the 1970s he had become a top contender in NWA, having won several regional NWA singles and tag team titles. He also fought title matches against World Champions Harley Race and Terry Funk, but could never unseat either of them from the NWA World Championship.
He was well adapted to tag team wrestling, and won a number of regional tag team championships in NWA. For some years, he wrestled in the Memphis promotion, and fought matches with Jerry Lawler, and won Lawler's crown as well. For some time, he wrestled under a mask as ‘Sweet Ebony Diamond’ in the Mid-Atlantic area.
In 1983, World Wrestling Federation (WWF) hired him, and he fought matches with Don Muraco, Mike Sharpe, Greg Valentine, Buddy Rose, and Adrian Adonis. He was paired with Tony Atlas as a tag team. They were the first black tag team, and were known as ‘The Soul Patrol’.
In a significant Tag Team Championship on November 15, 1983, ‘The Soul Patrol’ defeated Afa and Sika, also known as the Wild Samoans, and became the first person of African-American descent to win the World Tag Team Championship. However, their tag team lasted only for six months. Soon Rocky left WWE after he and Atlas lost the gold. In wrestling, he was an expert in Boston crab and Dropkick.
After Rocky Johnson retired from professional wrestling in 1991, he trained his son Dwayne to wrestle. He had a strong influence in getting Dwayne, also known as ‘Rocky Maivia’ (after Rocky Johnson's and Peter Maivia's ring names) signed to a WWF developmental deal.
Initially, he always had an on-camera presence at his son's matches, and once he had jumped into the ring to save his son from been attacked by The Sultan and The Iron Sheik at WrestleMania 13. However, he was never seen on-camera again after Rocky Maivia character flopped in WWF.
In 2003, Rocky Johnson was hired as a trainer for WWE developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, for a few months, till May. In 2008, he was inducted into the 2008 class of the WWE Hall of Fame along with High Chief Peter Maivia. His son, The Rock, inducted both them into the Hall of Fame on March 29, 2008.
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Awards & Achievements
Rocky Johnson won the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship thrice, the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship twice, and NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship twice.
He is also the one-time winner of the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship, NWA Florida Tag Team Championship, and NWA Florida Television Championship.
He was ranked No. 211 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the ‘PWI Years’ in 2003.
In 1962, Rocky Johnson married Una, whom he divorced in 1968. They have a son Curtis, and a daughter Wanda.
In 1970, he married Ata Maivia, the daughter of Samoan professional wrestler, Peter Maivia, who belonged to the Anoa'i family of professional wrestlers who originated from American Samoa.
Rocky first met Ata when he was teamed with her father in a match. Peter Maivia initially disapproved the relationship, as he knew how hard it was for a wrestler’s family to stay at home while the wrestler himself moved from place to place. The couple got married despite his disapproval.
Their son, Dwayne Douglas Johnson, born on May 2, 1972, is today an actor, producer and professional wrestler. Initially Rocky didn’t want his son to take up wrestling as a profession, as it is an extremely difficult line of work. Later, he agreed to train him on the condition that he would be very tough with him.
Rocky and Ata divorced in 2003. He married Dana Martin on January 15, 2004. He now lives in Davie, Florida.
He was the first non-Samoan to be named the ‘High Chief’. He was given the title ‘High Chief Tafiaiafi’.
Rocky Johnson died on January 15, 2020, at the age of 75, at his home in Lutz, Florida.