By Scott Fishman
Miami Herald Writer
Soulman Rocky Johnson wasn’t surprised at the news that his son, Dwayne, was returning for some appearances with WWE earlier this year.
Dwayne The Rock Johnson will even main event WWE WrestleMania 28 against John Cena on April 1 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. He is also expected for a ring return during WWE’s Survivor Series pay-per-view in November at Madison Square Garden.
“He went out a champion, [and] it’s in his blood,” Rocky Johnson said. “It was in his grandfather’s blood. It’s in my blood. He is never going to get rid of it. Once you get into this business it stays with you through your whole life — whether it’s wrestling or being a manager or an agent. I’ve been in it for more than 30 years.
“It’s what he wants. I wouldn’t want him to do it on a full-time basis though. I told him, ‘You go back once or twice a year, or once every couple of years, because it’s in your system.’”
In between limited sports entertainment gigs, The Rock continues to make movies, a bona fide Hollywood movie star.
Johnson believes his son has nothing to prove in his former full-time profession.
“Nobody really accomplished what he accomplished in that short length of time [in WWE and Hollywood],” Johnson said. “He went on to be a champion within six months and went on to be a multiple time world champion. He went to Hollywood, and he is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. What more can I say? I’m the happiest dad in the world.”
The legend took great pride in watching The Rock’s growth as a performer first-hand. Johnson gave him advice that he took to heart, and Rock used it to make himself successful in all forms of entertainment.
“I told him whatever he was going to do to go in and do it 110 percent,” Johnson said. “Never put your head down, keep your head up. I told him to keep on going but remember the people along the way. He has never forgotten any of that.”
Johnson calls a mid-1990s match teaming with the young upstart his most memorable moment.
“It was father and son with me and Dwayne,” Johnson remembered. “We were facing the Masked Assassins in the Bahamas. I still have the tape, and it’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life. That was worth every bruise and bump I took in this business.”
The hard work The Rock invested, learning the family business, paid off early with a run with the WWE Intercontinental championship. With his father by his side, The Rock (then billed Rocky Maivia, named after his father and grandfather High Chief Peter Maivia ) defended the IC gold at WrestleMania 13 against his cousin The Sultan (better known as Rikishi).
“It was probably one of the best times of my life to stand there and watch your son taking your place,” Johnson said. “He far surpassed me. He went further in professional wrestling than I thought anybody could go, including myself. From that night on, I knew the torch was passed.”
Before The Rock’s February appearance on Raw, he was last seen in WWE inducting his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008. It was that night in Orlando that Johnson will never forget.
“That meant more than anything in all the years that I put into professional wrestling,” Johnson said. “It was the culmination of everything. Now I look forward to inducting him one day into the Hall of Fame.”
This could come sooner rather than later with Rock’s match at WWE WrestleMania 28 in Miami Gardens. The Rock’s roots are planted in South Florida. He played football and graduated from the University of Miami.
Dad won’t speculate on any Hall of Fame honors for his son in 2012.
“I’m not going to be the judge of that,” Johnson said. “Eventually he will be… I think he needs to be inducted in, but I don’t make that decision. We all live in Florida so I think it would be the perfect place. Though, again, I don’t make that decision.”
Regardless if the decision is made, the Pembroke Pines resident plans to be in attendance with other family cheering Rock against Cena at WWE WrestleMania 28.
“With John Cena and The Rock, I think is strictly business,” Johnson said. “There is nothing personal. John Cena is a fantastic wrestler who has proven himself and has been world champion. I think it will probably be the greatest match in history. It will be two great athletes going against each other.”
When April 1 arrives, it’s safe to say Rocky Johnson will be one of the proudest members of Team Bring It.
“I am always going to say Rock will come out,” Johnson said. “He is my son. I’m not going to bet against him.”
• Johnson enjoys life away from the ring. He spends time away from South Florida, tending to his Tennessee Walking horses in Steele, Mo.
Along with working out, the legend takes pleasure in his charity work. Johnson recently teamed with the “We’re Kickin’ It,” a national anti-bullying campaign started by the Rocky Marciano World Foundation. Johnson was on board after he was approached by Rocky Marciano Jr., son of the former boxing great.
“I like the idea of helping underprivileged kids or anybody who wants to get ahead in life,” Johnson said. “Where I come from in Nova Scotia, we probably had great athletes. A lot of them would have been great wrestlers or boxers, but they don’t have that opportunity because it’s a small area. If they had a school or something there, I think it would be fantastic.”
Johnson will be one of the special guests at the campaign’s “Unite in the Fight…to Knockout Bullying” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Hard Rock Café New York in Times Square.
For information, visit WereKickinIt.org.
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