Boxing legend Muhammad Ali inspired a generation of athletes including WWE superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. On a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast, Johnson explained in detail how Ali inspired him and bestowed upon him the prestigious tag of ‘The People’s Champion’.
Dwayne’s father Rocky Johnson, who was also a combat sports athlete, sparred with Ali. He said, “My dad was sparring with him.” Dwayne met Ali when he was a kid and he was extremely happy to show the picture to Rogan.
Further, Dwayne talked about the time he had turned heel and joined the Nation of Domination. He joined the WWE as ‘Rocky Maivia’ in 1996. He started as a fan favorite and won big matches right away. However, he was made to turn heel and started calling himself ‘The People’s Champ’ to provoke more hatred among fans for him.
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Ali’s family came to watch one of the future shows in Louisville, Kentucky. Johnson said he talked to Ali’s wife and told her to tell the boxing legend that he uses the moniker out of respect for Ali and to pay homage to Ali. He even told her that he would stop using it if Ali wanted that. However, Ali’s wife told Johnson that the boxing legend wanted him to have the moniker.
Johnson was extremely grateful to Ali and his wife. The People’s Champ moniker means a lot to him in the WWE and in life.
A young Dwayne Johnson sat on Muhammad Ali’s lap during his visit to New Zealand
A picture that is seemingly very close to Johnson is the one with Muhammad Ali. He excitedly showed the picture to Rogan during JRE #2063. In the picture, Johnson was sitting on Ali’s lap. The WWE star explained that his father had joined Ali for a sparring session in New Zealand.
When asked what year it was from, Johnson said it was around the 1970s. Upon doing some research, it was found that Ali visited Wellington, New Zealand, in 1979. It is a very well-remembered visit for the Kiwis.
Muhammad Ali with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in 1979. pic.twitter.com/3Lml7qn5wm
— Darrell Epp (@DarrellEpp) July 8, 2021
Johnson posted the same picture on Instagram after the boxing legend passed away. The Rock wrote a heartfelt message for the man who inspired him to achieve greatness.
Dwayne Johnson posted a heartfelt message for Muhammad Ali after the boxing legend’s death
Johnson’s Instagram post included special memories he had of the boxing legend. He wrote, “From hanging out with you in New Zealand as this little punk kid, to years later as a WWE rookie when you whispered to me, “Can you rumble?”, to a few years later when you bestowed upon me “The People’s Champ” moniker.
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“I will always be grateful for the impact you’ve had on me. Thank you and I’ll miss you. Much love and strength to the Ali family. Rest in love and light Champ. You’ll always be the Greatest of All Time. And pretty.”
Ali died on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74. He is remembered for his extraordinary boxing skills and his exceptional persona that has inspired a generation to work hard and achieve their dreams.