TAMPA, Fla. - Rocky "Soulman" Johnson, the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and a WWE pioneer, has died at the age of 75.
Johnson, who was living in the Tampa Bay area, passed away Wednesday, according to the WWE, though they didn't provide details on the cause or location of his death.
He started out in the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1960s, but rose to fame when he joined the WWE in the 1980s.
Johnson and Tony Atlas became the first black world tag team champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983.
Johnson later helped train his son, who adopted the Rocky moniker from his father. Johnson came to his son's aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for decades and they still went to church together in the Tampa, Florida area. Blair told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness of late and had missed church that he attended with Blair and other former wrestlers. Blair said Johnson's wife, Sheila, was distraught over her husband's death.
"He was just under the weather, he thought he had the flu or something," Blair said by phone. "I said, 'You, need to get checked out, Rocky.' He said he'd be OK. Then he missed this Sunday, a few days ago. When I talked to him again, he said he still wasn't feeling good and he still missed church. He still didn't get checked out. I talked to Sheila and she said he was just being stubborn. He died at home, today."
Johnson was born Wayde Douglas Bowles and started his wrestling career in the mid-1960s. He spent the bulk of his career in the National Wrestling Alliance and later joined the then-World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He formed a tag team with Atlas known as "Soul Patrol" and became of one the popular teams of the era. Johnson retired in the early 1990s, but helped introduce his son to officials at WWE.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.