The retired wrestler Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson recently passed away at the age of 75, which was announced by the WWE on Wednesday. But the organization didn’t mention the day or cause of death.
Rocky is the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who sent a heartfelt Instagram message about his dad on Friday, Jan. 17.
“I love you,” wrote Dwayne next to footage of his father fighting with his tag team partner Tony Atlas. “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. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who 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,” he added. “And my empathy turned to gratitude. 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. Im in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass.”
Rocky Johnson was born Wayde Bowles and was a boxer before becoming a wrestler, according to the WWE. His professional debut as a wrestler came in 1966, and in the 1970s he was employed by the National Wrestling Alliance.
He arrived at the WWE in 1983, where he and Atlas would be the first black wrestlers to win the World Tag Team Championship as The Soul Patrol. Rocky retired in 1991 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
“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,” read the final part of Dwayne’s message. “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.#ripsoulman #rockyjohnson 🐐.”
Many of Dwayne’s fans sent condolences afterwards and let him know what his dad meant to them.
“You’re father inspired many people in my city,” one person wrote on Instagram. “Great guy and will always be! Rest well Rocky!”
“Beautiful words from A Son to A father,” wrote someone else. “May you and your family get through these difficult times and see that he lives on In you.”