A Black History Month Perspective: The Ten Greatest Wrestlers Of All-Time
Last week on "Hit The Ropes Radio" Shane, Daris, and I discussed the role of African-Americans in the world of wrestling.
We touched on many topics including who's the most decorated champion, who could be next in line to be World Champion and what it takes for an African-American to get to the top.
While there haven't been a lot of World Champions of African-American decent, there have been some very successful wrestlers through the years.
In this article I will list who I feel are the 10 best wrestlers of African-American decent ever.
Jacqueline is unique in that she had two hurdles to overcome in her rise to the top: Being black and being a woman. Jacqueline frequently wrestled men in WCW and eventually made the jump to WWE. In WWE she became a two-time Women's Champion and also held the Cruiserweight title one time. She was also the first women ever ranked in Pro Wrestling Illustrated's top 500 singles wrestlers in 2003.
9. Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas
Fitting that these guys be listed together as they were the first African-American Tag Team Champions in WWE history. They are also both WWE Hall of Fame inductees. In addition to their WWE success Johnson and Atlas have won titles in a number of NWA promotions as singles competitors.
8. Butch Reed
Known in WWE as "The Natural", Butch Reed had the majority of his success in Mid-South Wrestling and NWA/WCW. He was a three-time North American Heavyweight Champion in Mid-South and also a Tag Team Champion with Jim Neidhart. He probably is best known for being apart of one of the most dominant tag teams in WCW history, Doom. Reed and his partner Ron Simmons went on to win the NWA and WCW Tag Team titles.
7. Abdullah The Butcher
Abdullah The Butcher is one of the most feared and hardcore wrestlers that ever lived. Though his character was held from the Sudan, "The Butcher" was actually born in Canada. With assistance from his trademark fork, Abdullah's matches almost always were bloodbaths. Though he never stayed in a promotion for a long period of time, Abdullah is a wrestling icon who inspired the careers of greats like Mick Foley, and Sabu.
6. Ernie Ladd
A freakish athlete, "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd was an accomplished football player before he became a wrestling star. He was a member of the 1963 AFL Champion San Diego Chargers. Ladd actually started wrestling during football's offseason in 1961 before taking it on full-time. In the 1970's Ladd was one of the most hated "heels" in wrestling, a rarity as most blacks during this time were "faces". During his wrestling career Ladd had memorable feuds with the likes of Andre The Giant, Junkyard Dog and Paul Orndorff. He was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame in 1994 and the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
5. Junkyard Dog
As a kid I thought JYD was the only black wrestler that existed. Obviously as I got older I learned that wasn't the case but in the 80's there were none quite like the Junkyard Dog. Though he doesn't boast an impressive resume of titles like others on this list, he makes the top five because prior to guys like The Rock, JYD was probably the most popular African-American wrestler ever. He was one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all-time and is remembered for his time in Mid-South Wrestling and WWE. JYD won a Slammy Award in 1986 for best in-ring performer and was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
4. Ron Simmons
Four-time tag champion, the first recognized black World Champion in history, college football all-American and a member of the college football hall of fame. All these accomplishments make you say.....DAMN!! All these accomplishments belong to Ron Simmons. A WWE hall of fame induction is surely in his future.
3. Bobo Brazil
Major league baseball had Jackie Robinson. The NBA had Earl Lloyd. In professional wrestling there was Bobo Brazil. Regarded as the "Jackie Robinson" of wrestling, Bobo Brazil broke down racial barriers in wrestling. Originally only allowed to wrestling other black competitors, Brazil's popularity eventually got him in the ring with the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski and Dick the Bruiser. Brazil was a four-time WWWF United States Champion, and a NWA Champion in numerous territories. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.
2. The Rock
"The Great One" is arguably the most charismatic figure in the history of wrestling. Known for his hilarious catchphrases, The Rock went on to electrify crowds worldwide. Feuds with stars like Mankind, Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin are just some of the memorable confrontations he's had in the ring. In addition to all of this, The Rock is a nine-time World Champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion, five-time Tag Team Champion and a surefire first ballot hall of famer.
1. Booker T
Though not as charismatic as The Rock, Booker T is no slouch. Booker has had his share of funny moments during his career. His career stats however are no joke. He is the most decorated African-American champion in recent history. He has won every major title in WCW. Most notably the WCW Championship five-times. He was also a 10-time WCW Tag Team Champion as a member of Harlem Heat with his brother Stevie Ray. In WWE his title accomplishments were just as impressive. Booker won every major title in WWE except for the WWE Championship and was also King of the Ring in 2006. He is currently the TNA Legends Champion and a member of the Main Event Mafia.
Here is a list of some honorable mentions. Some of the names listed were not performers but their impact in the business cannot be forgotten.
"Special Delivery" Jones
Bad News Brown/Allen
Ron Killings AKA R-Truth
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