Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Many people know Dwayne Johnson as an on-screen action hero or as his wrestling persona, The Rock. Either way, people know him for his hulking, muscular frame and cool, confident demeanor. These traits may have come to define him in the public eye, but the star couldn’t hold back his real emotions as he delivered a eulogy for his father, former wrestler Rocky Johnson, who passed away in January 2020.

Image: Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

Rocky’s death came as a shock to Dwayne and the rest of his family. The actor said in his father’s eulogy – which he posted to Instagram on February 8, 2020 – that he had arrived on-set for the first day of production on a new project. Then, his wife called to let him know that something was wrong with his dad.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Another short phone call later, Dwayne found out that Rocky had actually passed away. The one-time pro wrestler had a blood clot in his leg, also called deep vein thrombosis. The clot broke free and lodged into his lung, causing a massive heart attack. His son was relieved to know his dad went quickly, but he had a lot he wanted to say to him. And the star saved all of that for his heart-wrenching eulogy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: via Wikimedia Commons

Rocky Johnson broke new ground as a professional wrestler. He started his career in 1964 with the National Wrestling Alliance, and he became the first black man to earn the title of Georgia Heavyweight Champion. Then, he joined the WWE in 1982, where he and Tony Atlas, his partner, became the first black pair to become champions in league history.

Image: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Oprah

Rocky passed on his competitive spirit to his youngest son, Dwayne, who he shared with his second wife, Ata. Of course, Dwayne went on to become The Rock, a wrestling star in his own right. But growing up with a pro-wrestler for a dad shaped him in more ways than one. He shared stories of his upbringing with Oprah Winfrey during an interview on her arena tour, 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

During the conversation with Oprah, Dwayne recalled his father’s “tough love” parenting style. He said that the WWE Champion was “not an ‘I love you guy.’” And in a 2020 Facebook video, the actor revealed that his father taught him the merits of hard work and dedication. This was especially true in the gym – Rocky taught The Rock to weight lifts when he was just ten years old.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

Still, Rocky’s style of parenting shaped Dwayne into the man – and father of Tia, Jasmine and Simone – he became. He told Oprah, “My dad loved me with the small capacity with which he was capable of. With my daughters, I want to be as full and as present as I can. I want my daughters to know I love them truly unconditionally.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

That’s not to say the future action star didn’t admire or appreciate Rocky’s methods. In an Instagram post, Dwayne also shared that he “grew to become a man realizing [his father] had other deeply complicated sides that needed to be held and understood.” And, in the end, he would always be “the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Sadly, though, Dwayne never had the chance to tell his father those things while he was alive. In an Instagram video he shared on January 19, he explained how Rocky had unexpectedly passed away. The actor begins, “He had not been feeling well and [had] been battling a cold, an infection.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Rob Kim/Getty Images

But something much worse was brewing beneath the surface. Rocky had a large blood clot in his leg, called a deep vein thrombosis. It broke free from that appendage and traveled to his lung, clotting the respiratory organ. According to Dwayne, his father “died very quickly from a massive heart attack” after that.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

Dwayne shared this information and other sentiments about his father’s January 2020 death in the video he posted a few days later. He starts off by describing the suddenness with which Rocky had passed away. The actor says, “As you know, I lost my old man a few days ago. I lost him just like that, didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to him.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The action star wastes no time in describing how much he regrets that fact. He explains, “I would give anything right now to give him a big old hug and a big old kiss before he crossed over and just say thank you, and I love you, and I respect you. But I didn’t get a chance to say that, but such is life, as many of you know.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

From there, The Rock describes how many of his fans can – and do – relate to his loss. He says, “We’ve all lost loved ones, and you know, it’s life. Such is life, the cycle of life. It’s painful, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s powerful, it’s a kick in the gut, it can knock you down. […] It felt like it’s knocked me out this week.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

On the other hand, Dwayne continues, his grief has shown him some positivity, too. He says, “The blessing that I’m realizing, and that we have to manage with something like this is, now you rise. Now you get back up. And now you live as greatly as you possibly can in the wake of the life and legacy that your loved one has left, especially a parent, and especially a dad.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

Of course, such a loss made Dwayne reflect on his own role as a father to his three daughters. He says in the video that he has “the greatest bond” with his girls, adding, “There’s nothing like the bond of a father and daughter.” But he knew he also had forged a “unique father and son bond” with Rocky.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Rock explains, “It’s a testosterone driven bond. It’s irreplaceable. There’s so much about my old man and all of his complexities that only me as his son can understand.” Judging by the emotion in the actor’s voice as he speaks about Rocky, it’s clear that their one-of-a-kind relationship meant a lot to him.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

From there, the actor segues into explaining how Rocky died. He also mentions that the lightening-fast nature of it provided the Jumanji star with a bit of comfort. He says that the medical examiner ensured him that his father’s death happened “very quickly,” as “it was very clear and evident what happened.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Earl Gibson III/WireImage/Getty Images

Like any son, Dwayne admits to wondering if his father was in pain when he passed away. But, as he recalls, the medical examiner told him that “[Rocky] went fast, he went quick.” And for that reason, the star quips, “That’s my old man, he was always quick.” On a more serious note, he adds, “But that did give me great comfort in knowing that it wasn’t prolonged.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

Dwayne goes on to explain, “The reason why it gave me great comfort, even though I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my old man that one last time, is that he had been in a lot of pain. He had been in a lot of pain for a very, very long time.” Indeed, the actor explains, this was the reality of life for a retired professional wrestler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

For most of the actor’s life, Rocky dealt with the physical repercussions of pro-wrestling. Dwayne says in the video, “He had always told me, ‘A day without pain is like a day without sunshine.’ He would tell me that when I was ten! That’s a lot of years of being in pain.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

Perhaps that information explains why Dwayne felt such relief in knowing that Rocky’s death wasn’t painful. Indeed, he does admit in the video that he feels pleased knowing his dad is at peace. He says, “You know, my old man, there’s no more pain, which makes me happy that he’s not in pain anymore.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

That sentiment seems to put The Rock into a more reflective state of mind. He goes on to advise those watching to take advantage of the time they have with their loved ones. He says, “If you have parents around, your mom, your dad, your wife, your husband, your babies, your children, your best friends, your grandparents, text them.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

The grieving son’s advice continues, “Call [your loved ones]. Go see them if they’re close by. And if you can hug them, I want you to hug them. You tell them that these are the marching orders from Dwayne Johnson, who just lost his old man.” The actor then lets viewers know that he’ll be doing the exactly that “because you never know what’s around the corner.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

With that, Dwayne starts to wind down the video about Rocky’s death. He tells his fans that he has to write his father’s eulogy soon, and he has “no idea where to start.” First, though, the actor says he’s off to the gym – and that he wants to “crush [his] leg workout” in honor of his late father.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images

The star then concludes with a final memory of his father and what Rocky might have wanted in his eulogy. And the story gives a glimpse of the late wrestler’s sparkling personality. He says, “For those of you who know my dad, you know that he would say, ‘You tell them I taught you everything you know. But I didn’t teach you everything I know.’”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

With that, Dwayne finishes up his video by saying, “That’s right, dad. That’s why you will always be better than me, and I love it, and I love you.” Of course, the Instagram video was only the beginning of the actor’s tributes to Rocky – he still had to give a eulogy at his funeral. And, once he did, he also shared that clip to his Instagram page.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

The star shared the video from Rocky’s funeral on February 8, 2020. The clip begins slowly, with him stepping up to the podium and clearly struggling to control his emotions. When the star finally does speak, he says, “Man, I wish I had… I wish I had one more shot. Wish I had one more shot, you know, just to… Say goodbye. Say I love you. Say thank you. I respect you… But I have a feeling he’s watching, he’s listening.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

And, if Rocky was, indeed, looking on, the actor knew exactly what he’d be saying. Dawyne then jokes that his father would request that he “kayfabe the tears.” In wrestling, the term “kayfabe” means performing staged events as if they are real – thus making them look as genuine as possible.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Angela Weiss/WireImage/Getty Images

But The Rock’s eulogy quickly returns to its emotional tone after that. He then recalls the moment he found out that his father had passed away. The actor had been on his way to work, he says, and that made it all feel very surreal. Dwayne goes on, “You know how you have those moments where you try to shake yourself out of it and you’re like, ‘No, it’s not a dream. My dad’s gone.’”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Steven Lawton/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Coming back to reality put a new thought into The Rock’s head. He recalls, “In that moment, I just thought, ‘Well, what do I need to do? What’s the next thing that I need to do?’” Luckily, a voice rang out in his head, declaring that “the show must go on,” he explains in the eulogy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images/Getty Images

Only one person would have given such advice, Dwayne goes on. He says, “That was my dad. That was my old man who told me that.” His father’s perseverance was a product of the wrestling world in which he – and The Rock – had worked. He knew that the “global business” and “very, very tight community” would react the same way.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Spike

The Rock then shares that this mindset made him feel proud. He says, “This idea about, ‘The show must go on,’ it just reminded me of what my dad was and what he represented to our business. […] Something that we’re all very proud of, because many of us are in this wrestling business. It is in your blood and once it’s in your blood it never goes away.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/WWE

For Rocky, though, the show didn’t just go on – he pushed it forward, too. Dwayne says, “The phrase ‘trailblazer’ is connected to my dad’s name. [It means] when you do things that have never been done.” And those steps “actually move[d] the needle in an industry, and he did that.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/WWE

The eulogy continues as Dwayne highlights Rocky’s role in social and racial change in America during his reign as a wrestling superstar. The actor says, “When somebody is a trailblazer that means that they actually, they have the ability to change behavior and audience’s behavior, people’s behavior.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/WWE

The Rock continues, “For my dad, when he broke into the business in the mid 60s and throughout the late 60s and into the 70s, in the United States, racial tension and divide was very strong. […] You have a black man coming, it’s an all-white audience, and all these small little towns […] he changed the audience’s behavior and actually had them cheer for this black man.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images

Dwayne, gesturing to his father’s coffin, then goes on, “Not when he was wrestling against other black men, cause he was usually the only black guy in the territory. He was wrestling against other white wrestlers. And I thought that was really unique, and I thought that was really powerful, and I thought that it deserved to be said. And that’s what this man did.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Recalling Rocky’s legacy helped the actor to see a brighter side to his heartbreaking loss. He explains, “I woke up this morning and my heart, of course, was heavy, but there was a lightness to it that I thought, you know, wow, […] because my dad fought for racial equality at a time where it was needed.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/WWE

But Rocky did more than that for his now-famous son. The star begins to wrap up his eulogy by summarizing who his father was. He says, “When you think of my dad’s name, you think hard work. You think barrier breaking. You think being the hardest worker in the room. Always working out. Taught me how to work out at a very young age. Hard work. Discipline. Those are things and tenets that are synonymous with my dad’s name.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

But, as The Rock points out, his father’s legacy would be more than that. The actor says, “He’s responsible for galvanizing families now, and families coming together, just a bit closer. […] Guaranteed when we walk out of these doors we’re going to hold each other a bit tighter, we’re going to hug each other a bit harder, we’re going to kiss each other, we’re going to say ‘I love you,’ and we’re going to be a little bit more present.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Instagram/therock

With that, Dwayne concludes his touching eulogy with a final goodbye to Rocky. He says, nearly cracking with emotion, “I think that’s the beautiful irony about my dad and all of the things that his name is synonymous with, all over the years. Now his name is synonymous with the power of love and bringing people together.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT