Rocky Johnson, a WWE Hall of Famer and the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has died, the WWE announced Wednesday. He was 75.
Dwayne revealed in an Instagram video posted Sunday that his father died of a "massive heart attack" from deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot in his leg that traveled up to his chest, after battling a cold and an infection.
The elder Johnson was best known for being the first African-American World Tag Team Champion in WWE history as a member of The Soul Patrol.
Dwayne on Friday morning posted a vintage video of his father on Instagram, along with a touching post dedicated to him.
"I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world. I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love," he wrote.
Dwayne added how growing up, he "wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father. Man to man. That’s when my adoration turned to respect."
"My empathy turned to gratitude," the actor added. "Grateful that you gave me life. Grateful you gave me life’s invaluable lessons. Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side. But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back."
Dwayne concluded the tribute post by writing, "I'm in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass. Now I’ll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it’s time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish. Finally, I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman. Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease. 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. Go rest high."
In his Sunday Instagram video, Dwayne said that his dad had been in pain for many years, so he was glad that, according to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, his father "went quick. "There's no more pain," the younger Johnson added, "which makes me happy."
In the nearly eight-minute video, Dwayne profusely thanked those who reached out in the wake of his father's death for their love, support, condolences and well wishes and expressed his regrets that he didn't get a chance to say goodbye. He urged his fans to hug their loved ones and shared that his father's funeral would be held Tuesday and that he's writing the eulogy.
"A loss for every fan of @WWE, Rocky Johnson was a barrier-breaking performer. Our thoughts are with his family at this time," WWE executive and wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque tweeted.
Born and raised in Nova Scotia as Wade Douglas Bowles, Johnson started wrestling in 1964 in and around Toronto. His major success within the industry kicked off when joining the WWE in 1983. Johnson held infamous rivalries with fellow wrestlers Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Don Muraco and Adrian Adonis.
Known as the "Soul Man," Johnson retired from wrestling in 1991. His son, Dwayne, would continue his wrestling legacy. Dwayne honored his father in 2008 by inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for decades and they still went to church together in the Tampa, Florida, area. Blair told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness of late and had missed church that he attended with Blair and other former wrestlers. Blair said Johnson's wife, Sheila, was distraught over her husband's death.
"He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something," Blair said by phone. "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."
A biopic on Johnson's life, titled Ring King, is in the works by indie filmmakers Jonathan and Justin Gajewski. The film would be produced by the Toronto-based twins via their JG Brothers production banner.
Jan. 20, 10 a.m. This story has been updated with Dwayne Johnson's Sunday Instagram post revealing his father's cause of death.