After the passing of his father, Rocky Johnson, last month, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson opened up to Oprah during her 2020 Vision Tour in Atlanta about how hard it's been for him to grieve the loss of his father, and how he's taken some time to reflect his relationship with him over the years.
"It's been challenging," Johnson admitted as the interview began, which was conducted days after the funeral. "My father passed away on January 15, and we just buried him. We all go through this - our own process of grieving and regret, and all these emotions that we go through. Again, it's the cycle of life. It's beautiful, it's painful, it's amazing, it's incredible, it's all of these things.
"I will tell you this - in this process I had a complicated relationship with my dad. There was a foundation of tough love with my father. He wasn't a big 'I love you' guy. As complicated as it was, what gave me great satisfaction at the funeral, was to see that he was a great friend to so many guys. A challenged father, but a great friend to so many people."
Being a third generational wrestler, The Rock mentioned that he believed his father was proud of him for carrying on his families legacy after his dream of playing for the NFL didn't work out. He noted that it was his father who changed the way that wrestling is viewed, especially in terms of race and audience reactions, which inspired The Rock to continue in his father's footsteps.
"I think he was proud of me when I became successful in an industry that he gave his life to," Johnson stated. "For those who don't know, my father was a professional wrestler and my grandfather was a professional wrestler, too. My dad Rocky Johnson, was a black man coming up in the '60s and '70s in professional wrestling, which all the companies that he wrestled at were in the south. He was a trailblazer in many ways, because of what he could do as a black man who wrestled.
"We lived here in Atlanta when I was a kid. What he was able to do was go to these small towns, where it was an all-white business and an all-white audience, and in that time in the late '60s / early '70s there was that racial divide. But he was able to change the audiences behavior. So with an all-white audience, who would never cheer for a black man, cheered for him in these arenas. It wasn't like he was wrestling other black men, he was wrestling against other white wrestlers. So, in a trailblazing sense, he did a lot of things that had never been done, but he also changed the audiences behavior, which is so hard to do."
At first, Rocky Johnson wasn't too ecstatic that his son wanted to become a pro wrestler. The Rock recalls a time when his father made him re-think the idea of joining the pro wrestling industry.
"He was adamantly against me getting into the wrestling business," Johnson proclaimed. "When I said to him I wanted to get into the wrestling business because it was in my blood, and I felt like I had something to offer. But at that time, we were living in a small apartment in Tampa, Florida, and he said 'Look around. This is what I have. I don't have anything, and I don't want that for you.' I think years later when I became successful, he was very, very proud. Then he would take credit for everything (joking)."
The Rock believes that even though his father has passed, he believes his relationship with his dad now is stronger than ever, and that they both can start fresh, spiritually.
"I feel like the day he died, that night when I went to bed, I felt so grateful and moved, emotionally, because I realized that I have a new relationship with you," Johnson concluded. "I have a new relationship in spirit, I have a new relationship with you; a clean slate, no regrets, no pain, no anger, no complication, just me and you."
You can listen to The Rock's full interview with Oprah here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.