Crowbar Press

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story
Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story

Publisher: ECW Press

6x9 Hardcover

Pages: 360

Photos: ?? b&w

Cover: Full color

ISBN: 978-1-77041-503-4

Item #: cbp00-rj


Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story

Synopsis  |  Excerpts  |  Chapter Titles  |  Reviews  |  Crowbar Press

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story
by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal


This includes:
Hardcover edition of "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story"
Custom "Rocky Johnson/Soulman" bookmark

Long before Dwayne ďThe RockĒ Johnson became known as "The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment," his father, the man known as "Soulman" Rocky Johnson, was a big star in both Canada and the U.S.

Rocky left home at age 14 to seek his fortune, and after a short stint in boxing, decided to make professional wrestling his career.  He had his first match in 1965 and never looked back.  One of the most agile and talented wrestlers for a man of his size, he was a featured main-event wrestler in every territory in which he worked — Vancouver, Los Angeles, Florida, New York, and all points between. He also appeared in wrestling arenas all over the world, including Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Samoa, and Puerto Rico.

As a direct descendant of slaves, Rocky takes pride not only in his career record, but for what heís done in regards for those of his race.  In the South, he broke down race barriers when he became the first African-American to win the Southern, Georgia and Florida heavyweight titles, and in 1983, he teamed with Tony Atlas to become the first all-black WWWF tag team champions.

Rocky sees his greatest accomplishment in his son, Dwayne, who he trained to be a wrestler in 1995.  Rocky takes pride in the fact that Dwayne, now the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, is probably one of the most-recognized names in the world.

In Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story, Rocky teams up with noted wrestling historian Scott Teal for an in-depth look at the life of a self-made man who didnít let anything stand in his way on the road to success.

  From more than 20 years, Rocky Johnson was a top-tier professional wrestler, sought after by promoters from all over the world.  He made inroads for black wrestlers as the first African-American to win the Southern heavyweight and the WWWF world tag team titles and is a WWE Hall-of-Famer.

  Perhaps the most prolific historian of pro wrestling, Scott has been writing about the subject since 1969.  Under his own imprint, Crowbar Press, he has written, edited, and published more than 140 books and periodicals.  His books stand out as some of the most important and celebrated in the field.


From the Foreword by Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson
  My earliest memories of professional wrestling were of my mother, Ata, taking me to the Cow Palace in San Francisco to see Dad and my grandfather, Peter Maivia, wrestle.  The first few times we went, we sat at ringside and I would holler, "Get Ďem, Grandpa!"  Or, when he was in trouble, "Get up, Grandpa!"  That made my grandfather mad because he didnít want people to know he was old enough to have grandchildren.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 1
  [Amherst] was where I got my first peek at something behind the scenes that the average wrestling fan never saw.  One night, the babyfaces signed my notebook and then got into a nearby car.  As I watched them pull away, I saw two sets of eyes peek up over the back seat.  The eyes belonged to the two heels the other two had just finished wrestling.  Just a short time before, they had been trying to kill the guys who had just gotten into the front seat.  The four wrestlers were breaking one of the cardinal rules that most wrestling promoters enforced strictly: babyfaces and heels were never to travel together.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 2
  We walked to the house (Mervyn, of course, kept me between himself and the graveyard), and I tried the front and back doors, but both were locked.  The only other access to the house was a basement window through which coal was dumped for our furnace.  Luckily, the window was unlocked, so I slithered in and helped my brother down.  In the process, we made a lot of noise, and Artie heard us.  The door at the top of the stairs slammed open and Artie yelled, "I thought I told you to get out!" It was pitch black down there, so Artie couldnít see anything.  Thinking Mervyn was alone, Artie rushed down the steps and charged towards us.  I wasnít going to give him time to get the upper hand.  Noticing the coal shovel leaning against the furnace, I grabbed it and slammed it down over Artieís head, knocking him cold as a wedge.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 4
  George [Foreman] and I had some great times together.  Years later, my son Dwayne, who was three or four years old at the time, was scared to death of George.  Whenever George came to the house, he would look at Dwayne, make a face, and growl.  Dwayne would run and hide behind his mother.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 6
  Finally, we had to learn how to sell. Jack [Wentworth] told us, "When you get kicked, or you get hit, or when youíre in a hold, you must use expression to convince the people that what youíre doing is real."  He followed up on that by telling us to always work snug and tight.  In other words, when applying holds, use enough pressure to let your opponent know youíre doing something because itís hard to sell a hold when you donít feel anything at all.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 8
  While I was in Halifax, [Whipper Billy] Watson called Jack Wentworth and asked him, "Do you have any black wrestlers over there?"
  Jack said, "Iíve got one kid.  Heís young and in good shape.  He never misses a workout.  Heís cocky, but he listens and does what heís told."
  "Have him come to the wrestling office tomorrow afternoon."
  As it turned out, Watson was looking for a way to get the black vote in his run as a Progressive Conservative candidate for the federal riding of East York, a borough in Toronto.  That was a big break for me because there were others in Jackís school who were better wrestlers than me, but Watson was looking for a black face to help him get the black votes.  I was simply in the right place at the right time.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 9
  I learned a lot, but I didnít make a whole lot of money.  Stu [Hart] handed us an envelope every Friday night in Calgary, and every week, Iíd find a check inside for my guaranteed $200.  It was always exactly $200, no matter how big or small the house was.  I had been making more than that wrestling in Toronto, and I was driving a fish truck there, as well, so I took a more than $80-a-week pay cut to go to Calgary.  I didnít look at it that way, though.  I was excited about wrestling in a new place and against wrestlers I didnít know.  I found an apartment for $45 a month and sent $100 a week home.  Iím sure Siki was making $700 or more a week, but I was the low man on the totem pole.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 10
  One of the most exciting moments for me took place in Hamilton, when Watson booked me as his tag team partner against the masked Mighty Yankees.  Bob Merrill and Moose Evans were under the hoods, but I didnít know either of them.  I didnít even know their real names.  I started the match with Moose.  When I put a headlock on him and took him over, he whispered, "How ya doiní?  Whatís your name?"
  "My nameís Rocky."
  "Good to meet ya, Rocky.  Iím Moose."
  He asked me several other things and talked to me while we went through the moves.  I thought it was funny for someone to carry on a conversation in the ring.  That had never happened to me before.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 13
  The promoters had it all figured out.  They knew exactly how much they were going to pay each person, which was as little as they thought they could get away with paying.  If I was in a town that drew 400 people, I got a $200 payoff.  If I wrestled in front of 1,200 people, I got a $200 payoff.  The Sheik knew he was going to pay me $1,000 to $1,200 a week, so he just averaged it out.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 15
  Fred [Blassie] always had a story to tell, usually about how great he was, and who heíd beat.  He also was one of the big ribbers in the business.  He would put water in our shoes, or worse, glue.  If it was just water, we knew instantly because our feet got wet, but we wouldnít always feel the glue, so when we got home, we couldnít get our shoes off.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 16
  After the press conference [in Tokyo], Duke Keomuka took us aside and laid down the rules.  "You canít hit anyone below the belt, stick your fingers in their eye, or bite."  The Japanese wanted the matches to look absolutely legitimate.  I liked that concept because I had seen too many instances of guys being kicked in the groin, and a few seconds later, they were making a big comeback.  And do you really think you would be able to see anything a few minutes after somebody poked you in the eye?  No!  Your eyeball would turn red, swell up, and youíd be unable to open your eyelid.  Things like that just werenít believable.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 17
  There was a time when [Paul] DeMarco got the idea in his head that he was a shooter.  One night, he went behind Peter and tried to take him down.  Peter [Maivia] didnít go for clowning around during a match, so he slipped behind DeMarco and took him down . . . and then pushed him, nose on the mat, around the ring like a wheelbarrow.  When DeMarco came back to the dressing room, one side of his nose was completely raw where the skin had been rubbed off.  He yelled at Peter, "What are you doing?  I was just playing around!"
  Peter said, "I was, too.  If I wasnít, I would have broken your neck."
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 21
  I didnít know it at the time, but [St. Louis wrestling promoter] Sam [Muchnick] paid the wrestlers 32 percent of the total gate; 16 percent was split between the main-event wrestlers, and the other 16 percent was divided between the other guys on the card.  My first night there as a headliner — Aug. 22, 1975 — I wrestled Harley Race for the Missouri State title.  The attendance was 5,164, which translated to about 4,960 paid and 200 comps, and with tickets at two, three, four, and five dollars, the gate would have been around $24,000.  Sixteen percent of that amounted to $3,840, and it was split between me and Harley.  If Harley had been the world champion at the time, ticket prices would have been one dollar more, giving us another $790 to divide.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 22
  In the í50s, wrestling was segregated, and blacks could only wrestle against others of their own race.  Promoters referred to it as the ďchitterling circuit,Ē a reference to pig innards, the leftover cuts of meat the slave owners fed to their slaves.  Paul was one of the first promoters — possibly the first — to book a match between a black and a white wrestler when he put Tiger Conway, the Texas Negro heavyweight champion, against a white heel named Al Mills.  Al was so hated by the fans that they overlooked the race obstacle.  Two months later, Boesch put Conway against Duke Keomuka, an American-born wrestler of Asian descent.  Paul told me, "I got calls from people asking me, ĎWhy are you putting Conway against a white man?í  Iíd say, ĎI didnít know Keomuka was white.í"
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 24
  Bearcat Brown and Burrhead Jones were two black wrestlers who put up with that kind of silliness.  They were portrayed as Stepin Fetchit blacks who ate fried chicken, chitterlings, and watermelon at every meal.  I let Bearcat live with me at the hotel in Nashville and took him to the towns because he was struggling financially.  On our way home from Tupelo one night [a 430-mile round-trip], he told me [Jerry] Jarrett had paid him $40.  I asked him, "How do you live on that?  Why donít you say something?"
  He said, "Iím happy with that. Jarrettís good to me."
  I told him, "Thatís why the blacks in this country arenít getting anywhere."
  Bearcat was so conditioned to accept whatever they gave him that he never made a living wage in the wrestling business.  And knowing that, the promoters always held him back and never paid him what he was worth.  When I saw how they treated Bearcat and Burrhead, I was determined that I wasnít going to let them demean me.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 25
  The wrestling fans in the Bahamas were crazy.  They would throw anything that wasnít tied down at the heels.  During our first few trips, they threw cans and bottles, so the arena staff started selling drinks in paper cups.  It didnít take the fans long to invent a new missile by packing down the ice until it resembled a huge marble and wrapping the paper cup tightly around it.  Unfortunately, they didnít have good aim, and many of those projectiles hit the babyfaces.  One night when I was wrestling Mr. Fuji, they threw raw, whole chickens at us.  Only in the wrestling business . . .
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 26
  In the dressing room that night, Dwayne was telling me what to do, what not to do, letís do it this way, and so on.  I just sat and listened, but I was thinking, Okay, maybe Iíll teach him a lesson.
  When the bell rang, I let Dwayne start.  He did all his big moves and was going a hundred miles an hour . . . until he blew up.  When he came over to the corner to tag me, I said, "Go ahead.  I have to tighten my boot laces."  He came back a minute or two later and I said, "The time isnít right.  Just stay out there."  Two minutes later, he came back with his tongue hanging down to his knees.  I tagged in and did my thing.  Our opponents sold and sold.  I finally went back to the corner, tagged out, and let Dwayne take the fall.  When we got back to the dressing room, I told Dwayne, "I hope you learned something today."
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 28
  Ripper [Collins] brought the [2x4] board into the ring and hit Peter [Maivia] in the head.  Peter did a blade job, and the blood began to flow.  The next thing we knew, 30 Samoans were climbing into the ring.  When Ripper saw them coming, he put the back of his hand to his forehead, swooned, and dropped to the canvas in a dead faint.  He figured the only way to get out alive was to play possum.  In the back afterwards, he told Peter, "Iím not doing that again.  Youíre not getting me killed."
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 31
  Sometime during the evening, Lars got into a heated argument with Crockett.  Crockett wanted Flair to go over in the middle, but Lars wanted Flair to do the job.  They argued for a good 15 minutes and eventually started to scream at each other like two children.  When Lars yelled, "This is my territory!"  Crockett retaliated with "Youíre just a flunky for Lia!"  That wounded Larsís pride more than anything Crockett could have done or said.  Lars was holding a full cup of beer and poured it over Crockettís head, after which Crockett kicked Lars in the shins.  The two would have gone toe-to-toe if the boys hadnít stepped in and separated them.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 32
  I never worried about my spot being taken by another black wrestler.  My style was so different from that of the other black wrestlers that I wasnít competing with them.  My only competition came from wrestlers and workers who were better than me in terms of both performance and personality.
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

From Chapter 34
  It seems I get a lot of attention now due to my son Dwayne being in the spotlight.  People used to walk up to me on the street and say, "Hey, youíre Rocky Johnson, the wrestler, arenít you?"  Now they say, "Hey, youíre The Rockís dad!"  The first hundred times I heard that it bothered me a bit because I felt like I was being forgotten.  But now Iím good with it — Iím proud to be known as "The Rockís Dad."
Copyright © 2019 ECW Press

Chapter titles

Foreword by Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson
Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Brown Panther
Chapter 2: The Coal Shovel
Chapter 3: Krystal Burgers
Chapter 4: The Rocky Shuffle
Chapter 5: Job Men
Chapter 6: The Birds and the Bees
Chapter 7: "Go Home!"
Chapter 8: Big-Time Wrestling
Chapter 9: "I have to answer the phone"
Chapter 10: White Women
Chapter 11: Kickout
Chapter 12: Half-Price Guarantee
Chapter 13: Porky Pig
Chapter 14: The Brown Bomber
  Chapter 15: Soulman
Chapter 16: Kobe Beef Steak
Chapter 17: A Dozen Roses
Chapter 18: The Pot and the Kettle
Chapter 19: Young Girls, Young Boys
Chapter 20: Gidget the Midget
Chapter 21: The Bruiser
Chapter 22: The Chitterling Circuit
Chapter 23: South of the Mason-Dixon Line
Chapter 24: My Boy Rocky
Chapter 25: The Tire Iron
Chapter 26: Dwayne
Chapter 27: Bubba Von Dougas
Chapter 28: Playing Possum
Chapter 29: ďWho was that masked man?Ē
Chapter 30: Tobacco Juice
Chapter 31: Different Strokes
Chapter 32: Banana Peel
Chapter 33: Championship Cleaning Service
Chapter 34: The Finish

Reviews and comments
"Soulman made me a bigger fan of Rocky Johnson than before I read the book.  That's a sign of a great wrestling biography.  Four out of five stars."
Dangerous Danís Book Blog

"The parts that talk about Dwayne Johnson are quite funny at times and give more insight into one of Hollywood's biggest stars.  The book would be most appreciated by fans who have a serious interest in the history of pro wrestling and would like to understand the scene in the 1970's from a sociological perspective."
Career Advice & Pro Wrestling Business Blog

"Another engaging title, this is a story only one man could tell.  It's a worthwhile read with neither unnecessary detail nor padding that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the territorial era."
Pro Wrestling Books

"If youíre a fan of professional wrestling, you need to read this book.  If you're a fan of memoirs generally, you need to read this book.  If youíre just a fan of good, you need to read this book.   Truly a remarkable tale, and absolutely very much recommended — even if you know nothing at all of professional wrestling and only know Rocky as Dwayneís dad."

"Rocky Johnson's story moved me from start to finish — a Nova Scotia trailblazer who overcame hardship and seemingly insurmountable odds to become one of the most impressive wrestlers of his time, not to mention one of the first and most celebrated black professional wrestling champions in territories all over North America."
Michael Holmes, executive editor, ECW Press — in an e-mail to CBD Books

Raising Cain: From Jimmy Ault to Kid McCoy