By Christian Holub
January 17, 2020 at 12:53 PM EST

Before he was an actor and global superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a professional wrestler — and he first learned the ins and outs of the sport from his father Rocky Johnson, who died this week at age 75. As a tribute to his father, Johnson posted a video to his Instagram on Friday of one of Rocky’s old wrestling introductions — complete with shots of a young Johnson watching admiringly from the audience. The video was accompanied by a long, emotional caption.

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“I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world,” Johnson wrote. “I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar.”

Although the HB County Medical Examiners Office has not yet released an official cause of death, Johnson notes in his tribute that his father’s death was sudden and unexpected: “Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side. But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back. I’m in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass.”

Rocky Johnson started his wrestling career in the mid-1960s as part of the National Wrestling Alliance. He later joined the World Wrestling Federation, where he and Tony Atlas made history in 1983 as the first African-Americans to win the tag-team championship. Rocky retired in 1991 in order to train his son.

Read Johnson’s full statement below.

“I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world. I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father. Man to man. That’s when my adoration turned to respect. And my empathy turned to gratitude. Grateful that you gave me life. Grateful you gave me life’s invaluable lessons. Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side. But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back. I’m in pain. But we both know it’s just pain and it’ll pass. Now I’ll carry your mana and work ethic with me, as it’s time to move on because I have my family to feed and work to accomplish.
Finally, I want you to rest your trailblazing soul, Soulman. Pain free, regret free, satisfied and at ease. You lived a very full, very hard, barrier-breaking life and left it all in the ring. I love you dad and I’ll always be your proud and grateful son. Go rest high. #ripsoulman  #rockyjohnson”

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