Rocky Johnson is more than just the father of The Rock as Johnson is a WWE Hall of Famer in his own right. It was a long and winding road for Johnson to reach the WWE and he talked about his childhood when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"It was hard. I didn't know if I would put it in but decided to put everything in," Johnson said of talking about his childhood in his new autobiography. "My dad died when I was 12 and then I left Nova Scotia at 14 and went to Toronto and everything started from there. It wasn't too hard to talk about because my mother really loved me and my dad did too. His last words to me were, 'Take care of me' which is what he told my mother about me."
Johnson said his mom worked hard but she got a boyfriend who was a drunk and treated him like a piece of luggage. Johnson was booted from his home at 14 and had to learn how to survive on his own.
"I had to learn how to survive, that was the first thing. When I got to Toronto, I got a job at the car wash for 90 cents an hour but you got paid everyday so I always had a few dollars. I went to train at Trinity Recreation Center because you didn't have to pay. Then I joined the YMCA for seven bucks a month and that's when I took [wrestling] training serious instead of boxing," said Johnson who met boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
"I met Muhammad Ali in Toronto when he was still Cassius Clay… We got to talking and it was like we knew each other for 50 years. We just clicked. Then when I was in California I met George Foreman and I actually sparred with him because he was getting ready to fight Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title. He lived in Oakland and I lived three miles away in Hayward. He used to knock on my door and we would go running in the mornings, so I knew him well."
Johnson added that he doesn't know why he eventually moved away from boxing to wrestling. But he did find out later that he had an uncle who was a carnival wrestler so it was in his blood.
After Johnson joined the wrestling business, he then married into the wrestling business via Peter Maivia's daughter who became his wife. Johnson talked about Maivia's reaction to him dating his daughter.
"He didn't like it at first because he knew wrestlers had girlfriends in every town and he didn't want his daughter to be in that position," recalled Johnson. "But he adapted to it when he found out that we were in love and I wasn't running around on her. We ended up getting married and he and I became best of friends. We traveled together, drank together, partied together and wrestled together.
Johnson also wrestled Maivia while he was his father-in-law and said that sometimes created awkwardness. But the two maintained a close relationship and Johnson talked about Maivia telling him he loved him before he died.
"I can't describe it. I had goosebumps and cold chills because he's laying there dying," stated Johnson. "But I went to see him before he passed when he was in the hospital with cancer. He said, 'Take care of my wife and my daughter and grandson' and I said, 'I will.' I left and two weeks later he passed.
"My wife and boy went back for the funeral but I didn't want to go back and see him after he passed because he wouldn't know that I was there and I wanted to see him while he was still living."
Rocky Johnson's autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story" will be available for purchase on-line and in stores on October 15, 2019. You can pre-order the book via Amazon by clicking here.
Rocky's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of today's episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Rocky discusses writing his upcoming autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story", his final memories of Peter Maivia, encountering racism early in his pro wrestling career, ways black wrestlers used to be stereotyped, crazy ribs he's pulled, AEW, training his son The Rock and more. You can check out past episodes of the WINCLY here. Subscribe to Wrestling Inc. Audio on iTunes or Google Play. Listen to the show via Spotify here or through TuneIn here.