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I’m all for radical honesty, airing out whatever is bothering you and spending the time to work it out. Even with family. Perhaps especially with family. But when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gave his dad a Ford Explorer for Christmas, he chose to post about it on social media. And to take the opportunity to share a violent Christmas story that honestly could have the family.

Dwayne Johnson’s father is the late, great Wayde “Rocky Johnson” Bowles. He had an illustrious career, including becoming the first black champion in WWE history. Though Rocky and The Rock’s relationship had its ups and downs, they were close by the time Rocky died in 2020. Dwayne bought his father a Florida house. In 2017, he posted a photo of a new Ford Explorer he bought his dad for Christmas.

Dwayne Johnson often posts about giving cars or trucks to old friends, family, and even fans. And his dad’s Christmas present looked like many other such posts. The Instagram photo shows the two men smiling in front of the black SUV. It is decorated with a bow and parked at a mansion that is flanked by huge, blowup nutcrackers. That’s some serious holiday cheer!

Rocky Johnson, wrestler and father of Dwayne Johnson.
Rocky Johnson | Wikimedia Commons

Dwayne not only wished his dad a happy birthday, but took the opportunity to share a gruesome family Christmas story with the world. Rocky grew up in northern Nova Scotia. When he was just 13, his dad died. And according to Dwayne, this made the eldest the head of the family.

That Christmas, Rocky’s mom (Dwayne’s grandma) brought a new boyfriend home for the holiday. Legend goes, the man “got drunk” and then got rowdy. Dwayne said, “My dad went outside, got a shovel, drew a line in the snow and said if you cross that line I’ll kill you.” Well, the boyfriend decided not to take the 13-year-old seriously, and stepped across said line. Rocky picked up a block of ice and knocked the man unconscious.

As if this story of a grizzly domestic dispute isn’t enough, there’s more. When the police arrived and the boyfriend made it clear he wanted to kill the kid, they offered mom a solution. Kick one of the two of them out. And she chose Rocky. So that’s how Rocky Johnson ended up out on his own at 13. By 16, he was taking boxing lessons in Toronto, sparring with the likes of Muhammed Ali and George Foreman, and working as a truck driver. At 20 years old, the six-foot-two youth debuted n the 1964 wrestling season.

Dwayne Johnson standing between his parent.s
Ata Johnson, Dwayne Johnson and Rocky Johnson | Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Young Dwayne Johnson didn’t always have his dad around because Rocky was on the road. But he did have this family Christmas story. What did he take from it?

“Every Christmas, I always think about that story and my dad having every odd stacked against him at 13, but he fought thru it and still made something of himself. Makes me appreciate his struggle and hard work.”

Dwayne Johnson

Later, Rocky helped train young Dwayne Johnson. He even hopped in to the ring to defend him in some of his earliest matches. And in his first ever acting role, Dwayne Johnson got to play his dad in a cameo on That 70s Show.

It’s sweet that teenage Rocky’s bravery inspired Dwayne, even when his dad couldn’t be around for Christmas. That said, the story doesn’t reflect too well on Grandma, does it? If it were my family, I might keep all the details off social media. But hey, I’m not a Johnson.

Next, see how Dwayne Johnson surprised his mom with her own Christmas gift, or see him play Rocky on That 70s Show in the clip below: