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The Rock on the Passing Of His Father, Their Complicated Relationship And When He Knew His Dad Was Proud of Him

February 15, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
The Rock Rocky Johnson

Speaking with Oprah Winfrey on her 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour, The Rock discussed the passing of his father Rocky Johnson and their relationship. Johnson passed away in mid-January, just ten days before the interview was conducted, and the funeral had taken place just a few days he spoke with her.

Speaking with Winfrey, Rock talked about his reaction to his father’s passing and their relationship as father and son. He also shared how his dad didn’t want him to get into wrestling and when his father was proud of him in terms of his success. You can check out highlights and the full audio below:

On his reaction to his father’s passing: “As we all go through this, our own process of grieving and regret, and all these things and emotions that we go through — but again, it’s the cycle of life. And it’s beautiful, it’s painful, it’s amazing, it’s incredible, it’s all of these things. I will tell you this, that in this process — I had a complicated relationship with my dad. It was really, there was a foundation of tough love with my father. [He] wasn’t a big ‘I love you’ guy, and as complicated as it was, what gave me great satisfaction at the funeral was to see he was a great friend to so many guys. A challenged father, but a great friend to so many people.”

On if he got to say everything he wanted to say to his dad: “No. No, I did not. But you know, so that’s the tricky thing I think, as we all go through this and we all lose loved ones. What I’ve realized in the past couple of weeks is, it’s good to explore these feelings. And [I’m] feeling a little guilty, I didn’t get a chance to say the things that I wanted to say or I wish he would have said the things to me as a father, now as a father of three daughters. The important critical things that anchor us that I didn’t get from him. And it’s okay to explore those feelings. But it’s also very important to heal, to make sure that we come back to an anchoring foundation of gratitude. Gratitude for what I was able to have with him.

“And so I didn’t get a chance to say the things that I wanted to say to him. However, another thing that is important too is — you know, because in death, that’s when we can spiral and think, ‘Well, I should have done this, and I should have called, and I should have sent more pictures.’ But we gotta realize that the relationship that I had with my dad was a relationship that was appropriate at that time.”

On when he knew that his dad was proud of him: “I felt that he was proud of me when I became successful in an industry that he gave his life to. So my father, for a lot of you guys that don’t know, he was a professional wrestler. And my grandfather was a professional wrestler, too. My dad Rocky Johnson, was a — I’m half black, half Samoan … The reason that I said that is my father was black man coming up in the ’60s and ’70s in the world of professional wrestling, which a lot of the companies that he wrestled at were in the south. So he was a trailblazer in many ways, because of what he could do as a black man was … go to these small towns, where it was an all-white wrestling business, n all-white audience, and at time in the late ’60s where racial tension and divide was still very strong. And the wounds were still there. But he was able to change behavior. The audience’s behavior. So this all-white audience, who would never cheer for a black man, cheered for him in these arenas. And it’s not like he was wrestling other black men, he was wrestling against other white wrestlers. So, in a trailblazing sense, he was a trailblazer, he did a lot of things that had never been done, but he also changed audience behavior, which is so hard.

“And the reason I bring that up is because he was adamantly against me getting into the wrestling business. Because 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.’ So I still had to follow my gut, and my instinct. And I think years later once I became successful as a wrestler, he was very, very proud.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with a h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.