Rocky Johnson, famed wrestler and father of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, dead at 75

Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson retired from WWE in 1991 but went on to train his son, who would become a wrestling legend and world famous actor.
Ata Johnson, Dwayne Johnson, Rocky Johnson
Rocky Johnson, right, with his ex-wife Ata Johnson and their son, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, at a ceremony honoring Dwayne Johnson at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on May 19, 2015.Eric Charbonneau / Invision for Warner Bros. file

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By Doha Madani and Diana Dasrath

Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson, a former professional wrestler who was the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has died at age 75.

The death of Rocky Johnson, whose real name was Wayde Bowles, was announced Wednesday in a statement by World Wrestling Entertainment. His manager confirmed the news to NBC News but did not share details on the cause of death.

Rocky Johnson began his career in the 1960s with the National Wrestling Alliance before becoming an athlete with WWE, then known as the Word Wrestling Federation, in 1983, according to the wrestling league's statement. He teamed up with fellow WWE wrestler Tony Atlas to form the duo The Soul Patrol, who would go on to defeat The Wild Samoans that year.

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The two men became the first African American world tag team champions in WWE history, the statement said.

"The 'Soul Man' retired from the ring in 1991, but his imprint continued to be felt on WWE for years to come," WWE said in its statement. "Post-retirement, Johnson had a hand in training his son, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson."

The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

Dwayne Johnson, 47, was one of wrestling's biggest stars in the 1990s and the early 2000s before he moved into acting, starring in blockbuster hits such as "San Andreas" and "Moana" and in multiple installments of the "Fast and Furious" and "Jumanji" franchises.

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He posted a heartfelt video to his Instagram in March discussing his father's emotional reaction to the actor's offer to buy him a house wherever he wants. Dwayne Johnson said his father was kicked out of his house on Christmas Day when he was just 13 and was forced to live on the streets.

"He's a weathered soul and like all weathered souls, there's often a harsh storied path that got them there," he captioned the video.

Dwayne Johnson went on to say that his father raised him with tough love that shaped him and helped him learn the value hard work and discipline.

"He raised me with that tough physical love and used to beat my a-- in the gyms and on wrestling mats," he wrote. "I hated it then as a little boy, but grateful for it today as a man."

A representative for Dwayne Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.