"We had some good times. We had some rough times. The good stuff is what will always be in the forefront of my mind."
Trigger Warning: This story mentions a suicide attempt that may be disturbing to readers.
Dwayne Johnson, despite his larger-than-life persona, is someone with a gentle hear. It seems hard to believe that he had a rather difficult relationship with his dad.
Johnson had a fascinating and chaotic upbringing, to say the least. He’d lived in 13 different states by the time he was 13, and by the time he'd turned 17, he had been arrested for fighting, check fraud and theft. Along with that, he was trained among a crew of renowned, hardy wrestlers throughout his entire childhood, including his father, Rocky Johnson.
Johnson has always maintained that his relationship with his dad has been difficult, but he didn't realize how intricate and messy it was until the elder Johnson’s death in January 2020.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Johnson spoke about his relationship with his dad—it went from worshipping him to being strained.
Back in the day, Rocky was in a profession that didn't make much money. The wrestler would go from place to place in search of work and Johnson would tag along. Apart from not landing any permanent gigs, Rocky treated his young son in a harsh and cold way that was “fueled by tough love.”
Rocky was also a serial adulterer. He kept having affairs with other women while he was still married to Dwayne’s mom, Ata. Since he was away a lot, he managed to get away with it for a while, but when his mother caught an inkling, she confronted him immediately, resulting in a “not physical, but a massive fight.”
It had turned so brutal that, at one point, Ada tried to end her life by walking out into the flowing traffic. Dwayne rescued her just in time and the feeling of shock is still seared into his mind. “I started caring that night. I’ll never forget it,” he said.
This incident was led to a strained relationship with his dad. It “triggered a real anger for my dad,” said Dwayne, adding that they were never able to restore their bond to its former glory, though it wasn’t very powerful in the first place.
Over the years the relationship improved, but it “would never get easy.” So Dwayne simply had to shift his perspective and relearn how to love his dad in a “limited capacity.” It went okay, and things were amicable between the two for the longest period.
"The irony is I f***ing idolized my dad as a boy. And obviously that idealization started to wane over the years. But the older I got, and the more experienced I got, the more I could appreciate his love for me in that limited capacity."
However, Johnson found out that there were a few instances where Rocky had lied to him and the rest of the world. In Rocky's 2019 memoir Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story, the bit about Johnson crediting his dad for his success is untrue. When Johnson confronted his dad, he continued to lie.
“It was the biggest fight we’ve ever had, and we had gotten into some doozies in the past,” said Johnson. He’s not the kind of person to let emotions “fester,” so if he had an issue with his dad, he would bring it up and try to “take care of it” no matter how difficult it became.
This phone call was the last time they spoke.
"We had some good times. We had some rough times. The good stuff is what will always be in the forefront of my mind, because I recognize that in our complicated testosterone-driven relationship, some of the best parts of me that I’ve been fortunate to share with the world I get from him."
Johnson may never be able to get closure, but he will surely cherish the cheerful moments he's had with his dad, and after all, that's all that matters.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Kevin Winter