Most people, especially the young wrestling fans are tempted to call it a “slip” when the name Rocky Johnson is mentioned. They are quick to point out that it is probably a mistaken reference to former wrestling champion Dwayne Johnson was popularly known as The Rock. But you can forgive their ignorance of not knowing that there was “Rocky” before there was “The Rock”.
Talking about The Rock, fans of both WWE and Hollywood are in awe of the seemingly easy way the former WWE superstar transited from the WWE to become a highly sought-after movie star who has proven himself as having the ability to fit into any role thrown at him. Be it comedy, science fiction, epic, crime, action movies, Dwayne has done it all in a little space of time. But for the record, Dwayne Johnson is the son of Rocky Johnson.
Wayde Douglas Bowles is his birth name but he is widely known as Rocky Johnson. He was, like his son, a professional wrestler before he retired. Johnson was born on the 24th of August 1943 in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada. His parents were James Henry and Linda Bowles who had five sons and Johnson was their fourth child.
Life became tough for young Johnson when his father passed on when he was thirteen years old. He was forced to leave the house as his mother chose her boyfriend over him. Having grown up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, he moved around homeless and destitute for three years until he moved to Toronto, Ontario as a 16-year-old boy to find opportunities for himself.
In Toronto, he secured a job as a truck driver and also got involved in local wrestling. He was fascinated by the sports and had initially wanted to be a boxer when he came in contact with renowned boxers of that time such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman at a gym, even becoming their sparring partner as they trained. However, his love for wrestling took prevalence and went for it.
At age 21, Rocky Johnson had already gone pro, wrestling professionally in Southern Ontario and was on course to chart a new path for himself. He began by dropping his birth name ‘Wayde Douglas Bowles’ and legally registering a new name – Rocky Johnson. He joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and rose to become one of the premium fighters in the Alliance having been trained by the legendary High Chief Peter Maivia himself.
Before joining NWA in 1970, his wrestling career had seen him take on champions from around the world. At NWA, he won many regional titles but could not dethrone the World Champion title holders to become World Champion at two attempts – first against Terry Funk and then against Harley Race. He wore a mask in his fights in the NWA and bore the ring name “Sweet Ebony Diamond”.
He made the transition to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) now dubbed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 1983 and had a rewarding tag-team partnership with Tony Atlas known as the “Soul Patrol”. Together they won the 1983 Tag Team Championship as the first black wrestlers to ever do so after defeating the Wild Samoans. His time in the WWF also saw him have feuds with other wrestlers such as Greg Valentine, Adrian Adonis, Mike Sharpe, etc.
Rocky Johnson retired from active wrestling in 1991 and turned his attention towards raising another ‘Rocky Johnson’ in the shape of his son, Dwayne. He enlisted the help of his friend and fellow wrestler, Pat Patterson to help mold young Dwayne. He was later hired to work with the WWE developmental program in 2003 and was later released.
Family Life – Wife, Son
Johnson’s first marriage was to a lady named Una. The date of their marriage seems to be conflicting from sources online, however, they were married in the 1960s and had two children together before they were divorced in 1968. The names of the children are Curtis, a son, and a daughter named Wanda.
His relationship with the legendary High Chief Peter Maivia transited form mentor and trainer to in-law when he married his daughter, Ata Maivia in December 1970 (Her full name is Feagaimaleta Fitisemanu Maiva). Her family hails from the prolific Anoa’i wrestling family who have a long list of notable wrestlers in their bloodline. However, her father, Peter, did not approve her relationship with Rocky Johnson because he felt his daughter needed a man that will be there for her, knowing the challenging career of wrestlers.
The marriage would hold anyway and it produced a son – Dwayne Johnson who was born on May 2, 1972. Their marriage lasted over three decades but soon hit the rocks in February 2003. One year after his divorce from Ata Maivia Johnson, he was back to the marriage equation, this time with Dana Martin in 2004.
Is Rocky Johnson Dead – Where is He Now?
Rocky Johnson is not dead but retired from active wrestling. And even though he did that a bit early, he now lives in Davie, Florida with his wife, Dana Martin. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008 and presently, a project is underway that will capture his life and career in a biopic. The idea for the project was developed by filmmakers Jonathan and Justin Gajewski who are best known as JG Brothers. The title of the film will be Ring King.
Placing the pictures of Rocky Johnson (in his wrestling days) and his son, Dwayne, side by side will show you that the man was a hunk of a man. His body was well built to take in the punches while delivering powerful blows and kicks that were aimed and crushing the opponents. Johnson stands at a height of 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) and weighs 120 kg (260 pounds).