Friday, February 3, 2012

Black History Month: Rocky Johnson

Chip off the old rock...
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

It's only logical that I follow up my Tony Atlas entry with one on his former tag team partner and fellow Hall of Famer, Rocky Johnson.  The Soul Man has a rich history in sports entertainment, and was a part of the early globalization of wrestling when Vince McMahon and the WWF took the world by storm.

As I stated in the Tony Atlas piece,  I first came to really know who Rocky Johnson was shortly after the two beat the Wild Samoans for the WWF tag team titles.  The team became the first black team to capture the gold.  Quite an accomplishment.

But before Rocky found success with Tony in the tag team ranks, he held many titles in the NWA and its regional territories.  I'll be honest,  I don't remember a whole lot about Rocky.  He did battle the Magnificant Muraco for the Intercontinental title (I'm sure more than once.)  But on this occasion he got screwed.

The Soulman
I also recall a match he and Ken Patera had, and I believe it was in Madison Square Garden.  Anyway, it aired on Prime Time Wrestling (I think, or maybe it was Tuesday Night Titans).  Back then "it was still real to me, dammit" and I thought for sure the Soulman was going to win.  He had the upper hand through most of the match, but when Patera through a punch and missed, Rocky rolled him up.  But his momentum took him backwards, and Patera ended up on top and grabbed a handful of tights to secure the victory.  I must have been 10 years old at the time and was outraged by this "miscarriage of justice."

I was also quite bummed when he and Tony lost the tag team titles to Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis.  It was one of the first title changes I'd ever seen and I'm pretty sure the heels cheated to win the gold that night.  Rocky didn't stick around long in the WWF after that and ended up eventually teaming with Soul Train Jones (Virgil) and won the AWA Southern Tag Team titles.  Interesting.

Rocky's HOF Ring
In 2008, the Rock, arguably one of the greatest wrestlers/sport entertainers of all time inducted his father (Rocky) into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Rocky's father in law, the High Chief Peter Maivia was also honored that night.  And like Tony Atlas' induction, I was there for Rocky's as well.  The last in ring information I can find about him states he was in a wrestling/boxing match against Mabel in 2003.  That battle went to a no-contest.

I know he's done some work off and on with the WWE over the years, helping to train future superstars.  He's another legend of the ring who has helped to pave the way for other wrestlers, including his famous son.

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