Johnson in 1975
|Birth name||Wayde Douglas Bowles|
|Born||August 24, 1944|
Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada
|Died||January 15, 2020 (aged 75)|
Lutz, Florida, United States
Sheila Northern (m.
|Children||3, including Dwayne Johnson|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Sweet Ebony Diamond|
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||260 lb (120 kg; 18 st 8 lb)|
|Billed from||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
Washington, D.C., United States
|Trained by||Peter Maivia|
Kurt Von Steiger
Rocky Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles; August 24, 1944 – January 15, 2020) was a Canadian professional wrestler. Among many National Wrestling Alliance titles, he was the first black Georgia Heavyweight Champion. He won the World Tag Team Championship, along with his partner Tony Atlas, in 1983 to become the first black champions in WWE history.
He was the father of actor and former WWE wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
1 Early life
2 Professional wrestling career
2.1 National Wrestling Alliance (1964–1982)
2.2 World Wrestling Federation (1982–1985)
3 Personal life
4 In popular culture
5 Championships and accomplishments
7 Further reading
8 External links
Rocky Johnson was born Wayde Douglas Bowles in Amherst, Nova Scotia, where he was raised, the fourth of five sons of Lillian (née Gay; 1919–1996) and James Henry Bowles (1888–1957). A Black Nova Scotian, he was descended from Black Loyalists who immigrated to Nova Scotia after escaping from a southern plantation in the United States after the American Revolutionary War. At the age of 16, Johnson moved to Toronto where he began wrestling and worked as a truck driver. Initially, he trained to be a boxer and eventually sparred with greats such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, but he was always fascinated by wrestling.
Professional wrestling career
National Wrestling Alliance (1964–1982)
Johnson began his career as a professional wrestler in 1964, in Southern Ontario; soon after his debut, he legally changed his name to his "Rocky Johnson" moniker. He chose the name Rocky Johnson as a tribute to two of his favorite boxing greats: Rocky Marciano and Jack Johnson, the latter being the first black heavyweight boxing champion.
He was a top contender in the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1970s, receiving title matches against then-World Champions Terry Funk and Harley Race. He was well-suited for tag team wrestling, winning several regional tag team championships in the NWA. Johnson wrestled off and on in the Memphis promotion, often feuding with Jerry Lawler, winning Lawler's crown at one point. He also wrestled under a mask as "Sweet Ebony Diamond" in the Mid-Atlantic area.
World Wrestling Federation (1982–1985)
In 1982, Johnson feuded with Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Mike Sharpe, Buddy Rose, and Adrian Adonis. He was then paired with Tony Atlas as a tag team. They defeated the Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika) for the Tag Team Championship on the December 10, 1983 episode of Championship Wrestling (taped November 15). They were the first black men to hold a WWF championship. Together, they were billed as "The Soul Patrol".
After retiring in 1991, Johnson along with Pat Patterson, trained his son Dwayne to wrestle. While he initially resisted his son's entry into what he knew to be an extremely difficult business, Johnson agreed to train him on the condition that he wouldn't go easy on him. Johnson was instrumental in getting Dwayne (later dubbed "Rocky Maivia" after both Rocky Johnson's and Peter Maivia's ring names) signed to a WWF developmental deal. Initially, Johnson had an on-camera presence at his son's matches, and jumped into the ring on his behalf after he was attacked by The Sultan and The Iron Sheik at WrestleMania 13. Johnson was not seen on-camera again after the Rocky Maivia character flopped, and soon Dwayne achieved crossover popularity as a cocky heel, The Rock.
In early 2003, Johnson was hired as a trainer for the WWE developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, but was let go in May. He made a return to the ring, and defeated Mabel in a boxing match at Memphis Wrestling on November 29, 2003. On February 25, 2008, Johnson was announced as an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame along with his father-in-law, "High Chief" Peter Maivia. Both Johnson and his father-in-law were inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 29, 2008 by his son, The Rock.
On December 20, 2019, Johnson joined the Board of Directors of the International Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
See also: Anoa'i family
Johnson recounts in his autobiography Soulman that he met his first wife Una Sparks at a dance while he was training to become a boxer. Una was from Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia and a devout Jehovah's Witness. They had two children, Curtis and Wanda, whom he introduced at his 2008 Hall of Fame induction. While married to Una, he became romantically-involved with Ata Maivia, daughter of wrestling legend "High Chief" Peter Maivia. Ata met Rocky after Maivia and Johnson were tag team partners in a match on the independent circuit. Maivia disapproved of the relationship—not because of anything personal against Johnson, but because of his chosen profession, as he knew first hand how hard it was for wrestlers' families who were at home while they were constantly on the road. Their son Dwayne was born May 2, 1972. In order to provide for his two families, he adopted a frugal lifestyle while on the road, subsisting on beer, sliced cheese, and bologna, "and unlike most of the other boys, I wasn't a partier". He does not reveal if Una knew about Ata and Dwayne, but states that she gave him an ultimatum to quit wrestling or "we would have to go our separate ways" as Jehovah's Witnesses "didn't believe in blood sport". Johnson states that he and Una parted amicably, and "we're good friends". He obtained a divorce in Texas, then filed for a marriage license in Florida a few days later on December 21, 1978 to marry Ata; they divorced in 2003. He was married to a woman named Sheila at the time of his death.
On January 15, 2020 at the age of 75 in his Lutz, Florida home, Johnson died from sequalae of Cardiac arrest secondary to pulmonary embolism i.e. blood clots lodged in his pulmonary artery (blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the lungs), which had traveled up from legs aka Deep Venous Thombosis (DVT). When large enough, the pulmonary embolus prevents normal circulation for gaseous exchange between the heart and lungs... which then results in heart failure or cardiac arrest His son Dwayne paid tribute, stating "I'm in pain" and “You lived a very full, very hard, barrier breaking life and left it all in the ring. I love you dad and I’ll always be your proud and grateful son.” Hulk Hogan tweeted condolences, describing Rocky as "a great man, great friend" and "one of only a few that was kind and helpful when I first broke in."
In popular culture
In his first television acting job, Dwayne Johnson portrayed his father in a season 1 (1999) episode of That '70s Show titled "That Wrestling Show".
Championships and accomplishments
Big Time Wrestling
NWA World Tag Team Championship (4 time) – with Ben Justice
Championship Wrestling from Florida
NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Florida version) (1 time)
NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship (6 times)
NWA Florida Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Pedro Morales
NWA Florida Television Championship (1 time)
Continental Wrestling Association
AWA Southern Tag Team Championship (4 times) – with Jimmy Valiant (1) and Soul Train Jones (1)
Georgia Championship Wrestling
NWA Georgia Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jerry Brisco
NWA Macon Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Danny Little Bear
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
NWA Television Championship (2 times)
NWA All-Star Wrestling
NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) (1 time) – with Don Leo Jonathan
NWA Big Time Wrestling
NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (Texas version) (1 time)
NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
NWA Texas Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jose Lothario
NWA Hollywood Wrestling
NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
NWA Americas Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Earl Maynard
NWA "Beat the Champ" Television Championship (2 times)
NWA Mid-America / Continental Wrestling Association
CWA/AWA International Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Bill Dundee
NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (Memphis version) (1 time)
NWA San Francisco
NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (San Francisco version) (1 time)
NWA World Tag Team Championship (San Francisco version) (4 times) – with Pat Patterson (3) and Pepper Gomez (1)
NWA Polynesian Wrestling
NWA Polynesian Pacific Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Ricky Johnson
Pacific Northwest Wrestling
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Brett Sawyer (1) and Iceman Parsons (1)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
Ranked No. 211 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
(Class of 2008)
World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment
WWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Tony Atlas
WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2008)
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