Rocky Johnson Says He Gave Dwayne the Name “The Rock”

Oct 2, 2019 - by James Walsh

Show: Wrestling Epicenter
Guests: Rocky Johnson
Date: 10/02/19
Your Hosts: James Walsh & Patrick Kelley

Rocky Johnson is a WWE Hall of Famer based on his incredible career. In fact, he’s the only black Canadian WWE Hall of Famer. But, he’s also The Rock’s dad. So, there is a whole lot of ground to cover!

In our new interview, Rocky Johnson discusses his new autobiography “Soulman, The Rocky Johnson Story” as well as wrestlers having a harder road to success back when he broke in the business including the racism he encountered. All this plus Dick Clark, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Snuka, and, of course, The Rock. What more could you hope for?

“Soulman, The Rocky Johnson Story” releases later this month via ECW Press and pre-orders are open now via the publisher’s official site as well as at Amazon. The book will be available in digital and tangible format.

To listen, please visit There you will find a YouTube video and a free MP3 download of the conversation as well as a complete write up. Be sure and check out our store for great wrestling merchandise!


On deciding to write his book:
“I’m retired now living in Florida. I’m juust playing around with the horses, fishing, all that. And, I thought, “I want to write a book that lets the people know what the wrestling business is all about – The good, the bad, and the ugly.” When people watch the wrestling shows today, they see these superstars. But, they don’t have any idea what guys like myself, 30 years ago, had to go through.”

On “Paying Dues” in those days:
“Paying your dues is not the word. I mean, they took you… They didn’t break bones but they stretched you to the limit, make you pass out. They wanted to see if you had it or if you didn’t have it. Out of the school I went to, out of 40 guys, I think about 5 of them made it. I guess I was one of the fortunate ones. But, they made you respect the business. Now, you could be 150 pounds and pay your $200 and… I’m not knocking these guys. If they can make money – God bless them. But, how long do they last? 3 or 4 years?”

On turning his book, “Soulman, The Rocky Johnson Story” into a movie:
“I wanted to do the book first and see how it goes… Maybe turn it into a movie or a documentary. Something. ”

On the book’s title “Soulman”:
“They gave me that name. Dick Clark used to have that rock and roll show – American Band Stand. Well, they took it to California and they used to call it Soul Brothers (Soul Train). I was working in California and they thought it would be cool to bring Rocky Johnson down. You know, I was the champion and I used to dance and shuffle. So, I went on not knowing they would have me up there dancing and there were girls dancing with me and they said, “You’re not a soul brother, you’re a soulman!”

On doing his shuffle with Muhammad Ali:
“We used to spar back when he was still Cassius Clay. He would shuffle and I was watching him. We put on a tape, James Brown’s “Night Train.” (sings the beat a little) We would go toe and heal. Because, where I grew up, Nova Scotia, there was nothing to do. So, we used to go in the barn with a piece of wood and dance heal and toe. That’s how the shuffle became so easy for me. He went on to call his the Ali Shuffle and said he was the “Greatest of All Time.” He was. I want to say he was a great guy. I loved him to death.”

On if his son, The Rock, borrowed from Muhammad Ali:
“I think he borrowed a little bit fro this one, a little bit from that one, a little bit from me… But, he says he didn’t. You know? ”

On giving Dwayne Johnson the name “The Rock”:
“He was going as Rocky Miavia. I told him that wasn’t going to stick. It didn’t. He said, “Well, what should I call myself?” I said, “Call yourself The Rock.” That’s what he did. And, it worked! He went on to be 9, 10 time World Champion.”

On Vince Russo and others claiming they came up with “The Rock” name:
“I gave him the name. He came in as Rocky Miavia trying to be a babyface and everyone was chanting, “Rocky Sucks.” He got upset and discouraged. But, I told him, “Be yourself!” Another thing I told him was, “Get yourself a belt that no one can take from you. Call yourself the People’s Champion!” He took it to Vince and Vince said, “Yeah, it can’t hurt nothing.” It clicked. He is the People’s Champion!”

On his problems with former Tag Champion partner Tony Atlas:
“I never said anything bad about him. We were just different people. He had his way of going about things and I had mine. He was big, strong, on steroids. He was telling me what I should do when I knew I shouldn’t. I said, “Hey, you wrestle your style, I’ll wrestle mine.” He didn’t really care for that. He wanted to be the leader. Well, if you want to be the leader, go ahead. I don’t mind. But, if you’re in the ring and I’m standing on the apron and the crowd is chanting “Rocky”, what does that tell you?”

On being the first black Tag Team Champions:
“Vince McMahon told me they were bringing Tony Atlas back in and he was going to make us the first black World Tag Team Champions. I guess he thought I would be happy and doing backflips. I wasn’t. I said you could bring him in and we could be a tag team – I didn’t really know him well at that time. But, I’m not my brother’s keeper. He (Vince) said we had him here before but he was doing this, that, and doing drugs so we had to get rid of him. He said, “That’s the reason we brought you in.” I said, “Is that the only reason you brought me in?” He knew I could draw money. It was changing… At that time, he didn’t really have any minority champions. Really, I think the World’s belt should have been with Jimmy Snuka. But, I wasn’t the promoter. But, he went with the Tag belts. It clicked! It really did. I mean, we sold out every place!”

On why he never was really used on WWE TV to help The Rock the way other wrestling dad’s have been used:
“I didn’t really want to. I passed the gavel onto him. I didn’t want to do all the shows or the WrestleMania’s. I wanted him to make it on his own. Don’t get me wrong, guys like John Cena’s dad, that gave them a good push. But, I didn’t want to give him a push. I wanted him to push himself.”

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