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Wrestler Rocky Johnson, father of actor the Rock, dies at 75

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Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who became better known as the father of the actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, has died. He was 75.

World Wrestling Entertainment issued a statement about his death on Wednesday night. Johnson and Tony Atlas became the first black world tag-team champions in WWE history when they defeated the Wild Samoans on 10 December 1983. WWE did not give details on the cause or location of Johnson’s death.

“A loss for every fan of @WWE, Rocky Johnson was a barrier-breaking performer. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” tweeted the WWE executive and wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque.

Johnson helped to train his son, the Rock, who adopted the moniker from his father. Johnson came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

The former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for many years and they still went to church together in Tampa, Florida. Blair said that Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness and lately had missed church. Blair said Johnson’s wife, Sheila, was distraught over her husband’s death.

Blair said: “He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something. 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 was born Wayde Douglas Bowles and began his wrestling career in the mid-1960s. He spent the majority of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance and later joined the then World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He formed a tag team with Atlas, known as “Soul Patrol”, and became one of the popular teams of the era. Johnson retired in the early 1990s, but helped introduce his son to officials at WWE.

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