Wayde Douglas Bowles, the man known to generations of wrestling fans as the powerful and charismatic Rocky Johnson, passed away Wednesday from currently undisclosed causes.
Johnson was 75 years old.
The father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson began his wrestling career in 1964 in eastern Canada. Johnson was a star throughout the NWA territories, winning tag team gold in Florida, Detroit, Georgia, and San Francisco, among other territories. Championship partners included Pat Patterson, Pedro Morales, and Jerry Brisco, to name a few.
Johnson was also a challenger for the NWA World Heavyweight title throughout the seventies, taking on titleholders the likes of Terry Funk and Harley Race.
He was also a regular in Memphis, where he memorably feuded with Jerry “The King” Lawler in the 1970s, where they battled over the NWA Southern Heavyweight belt, and Johnson even managed to win Lawler’s crown on one occasion.
Though he had brief spells in New York earlier in his career, Johnson’s most well-known foray into WWE began in 1982. On November 15, 1983, Johnson teamed with Soul Patrol partner Tony Atlas to defeat The Wild Samoans for the WWE World Tag Team belts in Allentown, PA. They reigned with the titles for five months, losing them to Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch.
Johnson finished with WWE in the spring of 1985. He retired from the ring in 1991.
He married into the prolific Anoa’i wrestling family through his marriage to Ata, the daughter of “High Chief” Peter Maivia. Together, they had their son Dwayne in 1972, whom Johnson trained to become a professional wrestler in the mid-nineties. Johnson also had two children from a prior marriage.
Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, on the same night as his father-in-law.