World Wrestling Entertainment confirmed the news on their website, writing, “WWE is saddened to learn that Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles), a WWE Hall of Famer, former World Tag Team Champion, and father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has passed away at age 75.”
A rep for the actor did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Sports journalist and editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Dave Meltzer first broke the news on Twitter, writing, “What horrible news, Rocky Johnson passed away, Dwayne’s father. Our best to Dwayne, Ricky, Ata and the entire family.”
What horrible news, Rocky Johnson passed away, Dwayne's father. Our best to Dwayne, Ricky, Ata and the entire family.— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) January 15, 2020
Rocky was born in Nova Scotia, Canada as Wayde Douglas Bowles and began wrestling at the age of 16. He started his career in 1964 and later became a National Wrestling Alliance Georgia Champion and won several other championships throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
He joined the WWE in 1983 and began wrestling with Tony Atlas. The two became a part of the first African American tag team — known as The Soul Patrol — to win the World Tag Team Championship in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
He retired in 1991 but went on to train his son, actor Dwayne, to become a wrestler. In June 2018, Dwayne paid tribute to his father on Instagram and thanking him for teaching him how to be a father to his own three daughters.
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“Happy Father’s Day to this hardly ever smiling OG badass. Little boys by nature, look up to and idolize their old man. They want to be just like em, do whatever they do and are always looking for their approval. Funny thing is the day I stopped looking for that approval was the day I understood what it meant to be man and more importantly, a father,” Dwayne wrote.
“That shift lifted me to a new level of gratitude for the tough love he always gave. Years later as a man and father of three girls, I know that tough love, is a helluva lot better than no love at all. I’ll take it. It’s made me who I am today. Grateful to the original Rock. #HappyFathersDay #KingStache #RockyJohnson,” he concluded.
In March 2018, Dwayne gifted his father with a new car after Rocky underwent hip surgery.
“My pops just had his hip replaced and called me and said ‘Hey Mr. D the surgeon really feels like I should have a bigger car since my hip rehab..’ I cut my dad off and just started laughing because I knew what he was hustling for,” Dwayne posted.
“I said ‘say no more..I got you.. just go down and pick out what you want’ then we hung up and hours later I get this pic,” he added.
Dwayne went on to explain that his father was always tough on him as a kid, saying, “He’d kick my a— from one side of the gym to the other for years.”
He added, “I hated it when I was a kid, but grateful for it as a man. Im lucky I could do this and thanks for the a— kickins.”
Rocky was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
He married to Ata Maivia in 1970. The two welcomed their son, Dwayne, in 1972, and later divorced in 2003. In Dwayne’s first acting job, he portrayed his father in a 1999 episode of That ‘70s Show titled “That Wrestling Show.”