Rocky Johnson

Professional Wrestling Athlete

“…Like you said Frank, you name it I’ll claim it. I’ve been around the world once in some places twice but Tuesday night what it is; you got two wild animals sitting on that fence, two big cats and when it’s all over there’s only going to be one left.”

Rocky Johnson, also known by the nickname “Soulman”, is a Canadian retired professional wrestler who made his professional wrestling debut with the National Wrestling Alliance in 1964 and went on to win several championships, including the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship.

While part of one of the most famous and influential families in sports-entertainment history, “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson is just as famous and influential on his own. Known to different generations of our fans for different reasons, Johnson is one of the greatest African-American pioneers inside the squared circle.

Rocky Johnson

A former boxer, Johnson turned to a career in sports-entertainment in the mid-1960s. He was trained by a man who would later become his father-in-law ‐‐ the legendary High Chief Peter Maivia. The High Chief was himself a “blood brother” of the even more legendary Anoa’i Samoan wrestling dynasty, so when Johnson married Peter's daughter, Ata Maivia, he became a part of that dynasty.

Johnson debuted in 1966 and competed all around the world before settling in the NWA in the 1970s. He won several regional NWA singles and tag team titles in his tenure there, but was unable to unseat either Harley Race or Terry Funk for the NWA World Championship.

In 1983, Johnson came to WWE where he struck up a partnership with “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas. Together, the pair made an immediate impact. On Nov. 15, 1983, they made history by defeating two members of Johnson's “family” ‐‐ Afa & Sika, the Wild Samoans ‐‐ and becoming the first African-Americans to win the World Tag Team Championship. Their reign may have only lasted six months, but the significance of their victory will live on forever.

Johnson left WWE shortly after he and Atlas lost the gold, but that would not be the end of the Johnson/Maivia dynasty. In 1972, Rocky and Ata Johnson had a son, Dwayne, who would go on to become the Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment, The Rock!

Rocky Johnson

Rocky Johnson had a hand in training his son to follow in his footsteps and was often seen by The Rock's side after his late-1996 WWE debut. If things got hairy enough, Johnson wasn't afraid to jump in the ring and help his third-generation progeny fend off attacks from multiple foes. A few years later, Johnson also helped train other future Superstars during a short stint working for WWE.

In 2008, The Rock was able to give something back to his father, helping to recognize his accomplishments in sports-entertainment by inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame.

To some, he's known for being one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history; to others, he's known for being the son-in-law of the famed High Chief or the father of The Rock. However, as a pioneer and the first African-American to win coveted World Tag Team gold, Rocky Johnson will always be known as a legend and a trailblazer.

Quick Facts

Birth Date:
August 24, 1944

Death Date:
January 15, 2020

  • Rocky Johnson
  • Rocky Johnson
  • Rocky Johnson


BIO: +
PHOTO: IMDB + WWE + YouTube + CNN + NYTimes

Last Updated

January 2021

Original Published Date

April 2020

Similar Entries

Arthur Ashe Sports

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe Jr. was an American professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles. Ashe was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.

Read More
Rod Carew Sports

Rod Carew

Rodney Carew is a former Major League Baseball first baseman, second baseman and coach of Panamanian descent. He played from 1967 to 1985 for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels and was elected to the All-Star game every season except his last.

Read More
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson Sports

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is an American retired professional basketball player and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons.

Read More
Michael Jordan Sports

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, also known by his initials MJ, is an American former professional basketball player and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Read More
Florence Griffith Joyner Sports

Florence Griffith Joyner

Florence Griffith Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, was an American track and field athlete. She is considered the fastest woman of all time based on the fact that the world records she set in 1988 for both the 100m and 200m still stand.

Read More
Booker T. Washington Civil Rights

Booker T. Washington

Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community.

Read More