WWE: The 20 Greatest African-American Wrestlers of All Time
In the storied history of Professional Wrestling, there have been many men who have left their mark from all walks of life. Men who electrified crowds, shocked the world, created legendary moments and helped to lay the foundation for every wrestler who has come after them.
Today, we will take a look at the greatest African-Americans to step into the ring. The best of the best who left their mark on the world of pro-wrestling like no others. Athletes who beat legends and became legends. Athletes who have made history. Athletes who not only changed the world inside of the ring, but the world outside of it as well.
Follow me, as we count down the 20 greatest African-American professional wrestlers of all time.
D-Lo Brown: Is a 43 time title holder throughout his career. However, most of those reigns were with very small, or now defunct indie promotions. His most notable title reigns came as a four-time European Champion with WWE. He was also a member of the Nation of Domination. D-Lo currently works behind the scenes with TNA as the head of their talent development and acquisition department.
Nelson Frazier, Jr.: Most notable for his runs as Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V, he is the 1995 WWF King of the Ring winner and was a member of The Undertaker's Ministry. He currently wrestles in Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Jacqueline Moore: One of the few women to hold a male title in the WWE, Ms. Jackie is a former WWE Cruiserweight champion (now defunct) and a two-time WWE Women's champion. Her in-ring abilities have also been highly regarded as she is very skilled in the ring. She currently wrestles in TNA with her partner ODB.
Mark Henry: Mark is a fifteen year WWE veteran (only the Undertaker and Triple H are longer tenured) who is the current number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. Should he defeat Randy Orton at the 2011 Night of Champions PPV, he will become the first African-American World Champion to hold the title since Booker T. did it in 2005.
New Jack: One of Extreme Championship Wrestling's most violent characters, New Jack was known for mauling his opponents with any weapon he could find and was especially fond of using cheese graters. He was also a three-time ECW Tag-Team Champion. His forty foot fall with Vic Grimes, which was botched, resulting in brain damage and blindness in one eye of New Jack, is one of the most shocking moments in the history of modern pro-wrestling.
Montel Vontavious Porter: MVP is a two-time WWE United States Champion and one-time Tag Team Champion (with Matt Hardy), who is currently the IWGP Intercontinental Champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Kamala: Best known for his stints in the WWF, Kamala the Ugandan Warrior was a successful, mid-level, savage heel who is best known for his battles with the likes of Andre The Giant, Jake Roberts and The Undertaker. Kamala also held the USWA Unified Heavyweight Championship on four occasions.
*Note: Rocky Johnson and Abdullah The Butcher will both make appearances on the following list. Although both hail from Canada, they will be recognized for their contributions to the sport as well. The list simply wouldn't be complete without them.
20. Charles Wright
We kick off our countdown with Charles Wright.
Charles never won much gold in his career, only becoming a one-time WWF Intercontinental Champion and one-time WWF Tag Team Champion with Bull Buchanan.
However, Wright is famous for two reasons:
1. The memorable characters he has portrayed on television.
2. Being involved with some of the most hated stables in the history of professional wrestling.
The height of Wright's success came when he portrayed "The Godfather" character. An affable pimp who would come down to the ring with a bevy of "Hos" and invite the fans to come aboard the "Ho Train", his character was one of the main rankling points for parent groups like the Parent's Television Council.
It was that same group that Wright would imitate, along with Stevie Richards, Bull Buchanan, Val Venis and Ivory as the "Right To Censor", that for a time, was the single most hated stable in the WWF, as it was their goal to rid the WWF of all of the filth it had come to stand for.
Wright is also well known as "Kama Mustafa", a cornerstone of a legendary African-American stable: "The Nation of Domination". Playing off of the controversial "Nation of Islam", the Nation of Domination would declare Black dominance with the goal of breaking the shackles of the "White Man" who controlled the WWF.
Prior to all of this, Wright played another infamous character: Papa Shango. A voodoo practitioner who once cursed the Ultimate Warrior. The gimmick won him PWI's Worst Gimmick Award for 1992.
Charles Wright retired in 2009, last wrestling for Hulk Hogan's Australian tour. He now runs a nightclub in Las Vegas, known as "Cheetah's" and lives with his wife and four children.
Little known fact? The Godfather character gave birth to the legendary diva, Lita Dumas.
WWE fans can send thank you letters to his club in Las Vegas, if you want.
19. Kia Stevens
Known to WWE fans as "Kharma", and to TNA fans as "Awesome Kong", Kia Stevens is hands down, one of the most dominant female wrestlers in the history of the industry.
Long before Kia ever used her nearly six foot and three hundred pound frame to destroy the likes of Alicia Fox and Velvet Sky, the woman known as Kharma had been dominating women's divisions for years in Japan and various independent organizations like Shimmer.
Kia Stevens has won titles and tournaments in eleven different promotions, including being a two-time TNA Knockout Division Champion and one-time All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling WWWA Heavyweight Champion.
She was also voted the number one women's wrestler in the world and "Woman of the Year" by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2008.
Kia made her WWE debut only a few months ago, back in May, immediately starting her usual reign of destruction that is a general hallmark for wherever she goes. However, before she could really accomplish anything of merit, she announced she was pregnant and has since been on maternity leave.
Rest assured, however, that upon her return to the WWE, there is not a single woman in the WWE, save perhaps Beth Phoenix, who will be able to realistically stop her from doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants.
Look for Kharma to re-debut in the WWE next Summer by breaking Kelly Kelly in half and then doing the same thing to the Diva's championship.
Just because it looks like a butterfly.
18. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley only spent a brief amount of time in the world of professional wrestling, debuting in the WWE in 2004 and remaining there for only four years before leaving the company due to personal reasons. Lashley would state in interviews that friction with WWE booker, Michael P.S. Hayes, was the reason for his departure.
During his time in the WWE, Bobby Lashley was a fan favorite who won The United States Championship once and The ECW World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions.
After departing in 2008, Bobby bounced around Mexico and Japan for a short time before landing in TNA the following year. Although TNA made it immediately clear they wanted Bobby in the TNA World Title picture, Lashley's stay in TNA would be brief, as he would be released in less than a year so he could focus on entering into MMA full-time. The release appeared to be amicable as TNA is supportive of Lashley becoming a successful MMA fighter at a time where MMA is exploding in popularity.
As of this article, Bobby Lashley's MMA career hasn't exactly been stellar. While he is 6-1, with that one loss being extremely controversial, he hasn't received any serious interest from the only major promoter in town: The UFC.
Watching Bobby's fights expose him as green and easily winded. It will take him at least a couple of years to truly be a serious contender that the UFC might consider for either their main brand or the recently acquired Strikeforce brand, where Lashley had previously competed.
Currently, Bobby Lashley is signed to Titan Fighting Championship. Should things not pan out for Lashley, he can always make a return back to the world of professional wrestling, where his massive size, amateur wrestling background and good relations with TNA will assure he'll have a place to perform.
17. Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin is easily the most athletic person on this entire article; in fact, Shelton Benjamin could possibly top the list of most athletic professional wrestlers of all-time.
Shelton is known for putting on absolutely scintillating performances inside of the squared circle and would routinely steal the show on whatever card he was on.
Some of his most famous matchups came against the likes of Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels as well as his appearances in the WWE's "Money In The Bank" matches.
In spite of this, the WWE chose to release Shelton Benjamin because of his distinct lack of microphone ability.
The WWE's foolishness is Ring of Honor's gain, as Shelton now performs with his "World's Greatest Tag Team" partner, Charlie Haas, to the delight of their fans.
Shelton has amassed 13 title reigns across five promotions, including three runs with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, two reigns as the WWE Tag Team Champions with Charlie Haas and one time as the WWE United States Champion.
Shelton Benjamin was also ranked the number nine wrestler in the world by the PWI 500 in 2005 and also voted Best Tag Team in 2003 with Charlie Haas.
He is currently the reigning Ring of Honor World Tag Team Champion with Charlie Haas and is certain to be a major selling point of the company that plans to debut shortly on national television.
The WWE's loss is certainly ROH's gain.
16. Stevie Ray
Stevie Ray is one half of one of the most iconic tag teams, and the single most successful African-American tag team in professional wrestling history: The Harlem Heat.
With his brother Booker T., who will also make an appearance on this list, Harlem Heat was the only tag team in the history of World Championship Wrestling to hold the tag team titles on ten separate occasions.
Stevie Ray also held the WCW Television championship on one occasion and was a member of the most influential faction in the history of Professional Wrestling, The New World Order, (though, to be honest, he was never more than a foot soldier in it).
Towards the end of his career, he left the ring to do announcing for WCW, but eventually decided to retire full time in order to run an auto-garage.
Today, he currently owns and operates "Booker T. and Stevie Ray's Pro Wrestling Academy" whose claim to fame is being the school that trained Marty Wright a.k.a. "The Boogeyman".
It's an inauspicious ending to the career of Lane Huffman, but his work as Stevie Ray of the Harlem Heat will forever cement him in the annals of Pro-Wrestling lore.
15. Ahmed Johnson
If you were a WWF fan in the mid 1990s, then you know that it is no exaggeration to say that Ahmed Johnson was one of the hottest wrestlers of that period.
The best comparison for former WCW fans would be to compare him to Bill Goldberg in the earlier days of his streak, before he eventually reached the WCW World Title.
Ahmed was absolutely on fire almost from the first day he stepped foot into the World Wrestling Federation. He was the first man of African-American descent to ever hold the WWF Intercontinental Championship and it appeared he was a shoo-in to be in the main-event and one of the top faces of the Attitude Era.
However, the man behind Ahmed Johnson, Anthony Norris, had possibly the worst luck when it came to his physical health. Right at the cusp of his popularity, shortly after winning the Intercontinental Championship and only days after winning a battle royal that made him the #1 Contender to the WWF Title, Johnson was diagnosed with a kidney disease that forced him to vacate his title, and lose his contendership.
When Ahmed returned the following year, the WWF initially restarted his feud with the Nation of Domination, but then decided to turn him heel and align him with the heel faction. The WWF still felt that Ahmed, even as a heel, was the right man to be at the top of the card and put him in the #1 Contender spot for the WWF Championship.
And just before he was supposed to face The Undertaker for it, he was injured. Again. And again, his spot was lost to another wrestler. This time it was Vader.
Things came to a sudden and shocking end, when Ahmed Johnson was suddenly out of the WWF by the beginning of 1998. Conflicting stories state that Ahmed refused to lose to a lesser opponent "Kurrgan", while others said he was fired for legitimately hurting too many wrestlers in the ring. Norris states that he left to tend to his dying sister who passed from cancer only three days after he left the WWF.
He would arrive in the WCW the following year, have a horrible angle with The Harlem Heat and be fired shortly after for becoming too overweight.
For a man who had only been sidelined twice with ailments, those two times were utterly disastrous. There is absolutely no doubt, that had things been different, Ahmed Johnson's name would go down as one of the key players of the WWF's legendary "Attitude Era".
After some scrapes with the wrong side of the law after his full retirement in 2003, Anthony Norris got his life in order and is now a trainer with Booker T and Stevie Ray at their Pro Wrestling Gym.
14. Ron Killings
Ron Killings hit the main stage of professional wrestling in 1999 in the WWF. To be honest, he was a horrible wrestler that went by the name of "K-Kwik". He would be teamed up with the Road Dogg Jesse James at the tail end of his run with the WWF and rap on his way down to the ring.
That rapping had him pigeonholed in a jobber character for the two years he was with the federation before he was fired. His character never changed or evolved once, not once, and was mainly relegated to wrestling on WWF Jakked. (Which is like being stuck on Superstars, today.)
But being fired was the best thing to happen to Ron Killings. He landed in TNA and they actually took him seriously as a competitor.
Not only did they take him seriously, they made him the NWA World Heavyweight Champion on two separate occasions. This was back when TNA still had a working agreement with the National Wrestling Alliance and used their titles before developing their own in 2007. This made Ron "The Truth" Killings the first ever recognized African-American NWA World Heavyweight Champion in history.
They also made him a three-time tag champion, twice under the NWA belts and once under the TNA belts.
While TNA is clearly a much smaller promotion in comparison to the WWE, "The Truth's" feuds and matches with older stars like Curt Hennig, Jeff Jarrett and Ken Shamrock, as well as younger faces like Low-Ki and AJ Styles, proved that The Truth had more range in his abilities than the WWF had previously allowed him to release as "K-Kwik".
This wasn't immediately evident upon Killing's return to the WWE in 2008, as the WWE had him perform the exact same song and dance that he had before, just under the name of R-Truth, instead of "K-Kwik".
However, recently, the WWE has finally allowed Ron Killings to drop the stale rapper act, and now allows him to ad-lib his own lines as he pretends to be a deranged conspiracy theorist.
Currently being paired with Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, Truth is going for his first WWE Tag Team Title reign to add to his one United States title reign and two WWF Hardcore championship reigns from his first stint in the WWE.
13. Koko B. Ware
Here is a bit of trivia: How many titles did the highly popular Koko B. Ware win in his career?
If you were a fan of the WWF during the late '80s and early '90s, at the height of Koko's popularity, you might answer: "Zero". Koko, as popular and memorable as he was, never held a title in the WWF. More often than not, he was losing. In fact, he was the first man to ever lose to "The Undertaker" upon his debut in 1990 at Survivor Series. Koko didn't have much success in the wins and losses columns to be sure when in the WWF.
However, "Zero" is still the incorrect answer to that question. Koko has actually held 21 titles throughout his career.
Before James Ware ever stepped foot into a WWF ring as Koko B. Ware he was known as "Stagger Lee" (A masked character that would also be used by the Junkyard Dog) and "Sweet Brown Sugar" in the NWA's Continental Wrestling Association. It was there that Ware would team with the likes Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane and Dutch Mantel and win seven AWA tag-team titles. Ware was also a six-time Mid-American Heavyweight Champion.
Not bad for a guy who is mainly remembered for a macaw and the "Piledriver" song.
In 2009, Koko B. Ware was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. And you know you have to have been hugely popular to get into the Hall of Fame when your legacy was "jobber to the stars" while actually active in the WWF.
Nevertheless, James Ware's charisma carried him into the hearts of an entire generation of fans, the WWE Hall of Fame and this list as one of the greatest African-American wrestlers of all time.
12. Butch Reed
Butch Reed staked his main claims to fame in two places:
Bill Watt's Mid-South Wrestling in the early and mid 1980's, where he was a three-time North American Heavyweight Champion, one-time Television Champion and one-time Tag Team Champion with Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. During this time, he also had his legendary iron man match with Ric Flair, as seen in the video. That video shows just how close Butch came to being the first ever African-American NWA World Heavyweight Champion, but the match was booked that the win didn't count and was called a draw.
Butch also had success in the WCW where he teamed with Ron Simmons to form the tag team "Doom". They won the WCW Tag Team titles from Rick and Scott Steiner and successfully defended them against teams like The Rock'n'Roll Express and Flyin' Bryan (Brian Pillman) and The Z-man.
Butch and Simmons would hold the WCW Tag Team Titles for 281 days, the longest reign in WCW history. The record stood up until the very end of WCW in 2001.
In the time period between these two stints in MSW and WCW, Butch would try his hand in the WWF, but he was mistreated and poorly booked and was out of the company in a little over a year, heading to WCW where he would find more success.
During his career, Butch Reed would hold a total of 14 titles, 13 of them in major promotions and including the USWA Unified Heavyweight Championship and the NWA International Heavyweight Championship in the NWA's Florida territory.
Butch was last seen on WWE programming in 2007, as a part of Teddy Long's kayfabe wedding. At age 57, Butch still pops up on the indie scene from time to time, last being advertised for a "Legends of Wrestling" event in August.
11. Devon Hughes
Devon Hughes, also known as "D-von Dudley" or "Brother Devon" is one half of the most successful and decorated tag teams of all time, The Dudley Boyz (Team 3D in TNA), with his best friend and partner Mark Lamonica, or Bubba Ray Dudley (Now known as "Bully Ray" in TNA).
The Dudley Boyz are the only team in the history of professional wrestling to hold the WWE, World, TNA, IWGP, ECW, WCW and NWA Tag Team Titles. Not even teams like The Legion of Doom, The Steiner Brothers or Harlem Heat can lay claim to that feat.
Originally starting in ECW as a part of the much larger "Dudley Family" stable, D-Von's appearance marked a change for the primarily comical stable into a much more aggressive and heelish group. D-Von would bond closely with Bubba and go on to win the ECW Tag Team Titles on eight separate occasions, all the while nearly provoking the crowd to actually want to slaughter them in near-riots with their wickedly vicious and provocative promos on the audience.
And while the Dudleys represented every bit of the extreme attitude that was the core of ECW, they eventually left to go to the WWE. They would hold the WWF/E titles on eight separate occasion as well.
But, as much as they were known for their gold winning ways, they were even more well known for their penchant for powerbombing women through tables and having classic battles with The Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian.
The Dudleys would finally come to a stop in TNA, after they failed to come to financial terms with the WWE in 2005. There, they would go on to win another four tag team titles, and complete the cypher of tag title history by winning the IWGP, TNA and NWA Tag Team Titles.
Overall, Devon, has won a total of 24 Tag team titles with his "brother" Bubba Ray Dudley. They were also voted the "Tag Team of the Decade" for 2000-2009 by PWI, as well.
Currently, Brother Devon is a solo competitor in TNA. And while he hasn't had the same success as a singles wrestler, one thing is undeniable:
His contributions as one-half of one of the greatest and most decorated tag teams in all of pro wrestling make him a shoo-in for this list and a guaranteed future hall of famer.
10. Rocky Johnson
The father of "The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment" was a legendary competitor in his own right.
Most notably, he was the first Black man to ever hold the WWF World Tag Team Titles with partner Tony Atlas in "The Soul Patrol".
The "Soulman" has amassed 33 titles over his illustrious career with 30 of them coming from various NWA territories.
And while he is most famous for his tag partnership with Atlas, he has won tag straps with a litany of other legendary wrestlers including Jimmy Valiant, Jose Lothario, Jerry Brisco and Pat Patterson.
While it would appear that most of Rocky Johnson's accolades would come as a tag wrestler, the reality is that he was just as successful as a singles competitor, having won the Heavyweight Championship in six of the NWA promotions in which he wrestled. (Pacific Northwest, Mid-America/CWA, Hollywood, Big Time, Georgia and twice in the CWF in Florida.)
Although, Rocky's most prolific contribution to the world of professional wrestling came after he hung up the boots in 1991. He was instrumental in the training, development and signing of his son, Dwayne Johnson to the WWF, who would later go on to become "The Rock".
Rocky Johnson was inducted in to WWF Hall of Fame in 2008.
09. Tony Atlas
In that video, you are watching the first time that Hulk Hogan was ever pinned for a three count. Ever.
"Mr. USA" Tony Atlas was the first man to ever do it.
As the other half of "The Soul Patrol" with Rocky Johnson, he is also the first African-American to ever win the WWF Tag Team Titles.
Tony Atlas, much like Rocky Johnson, also had the large bulk of his success outside of the WWF, but unlike Rocky, he was able to attain success in many promotions and not just inside of the NWA territory system.
Mr. USA held eighteen different championships across ten different promotions including his historic reign in the WWF. He has held titles in the NWA, AWA, WCW, and World Wrestling Council. Tony Atlas has been the Heavyweight Champion in six separate promotions.
Younger fans may possibly know Tony from his horribly mismanaged angles with Mark Henry and Abraham Washington in the now defunct, and rightfully so, ECW when operated by the WWE.
That, in no way, shape or form would educate you on just how great and how much of a star Mr. USA Tony Atlas was in his heyday.
But, after reading this? Now you know.
Tony Atlas would've destroyed Mark Henry without a second thought in his prime.
08. Ron Simmons
It's rather sad that most fans of the WWE these days only know Ron Simmons for one thing: "Damn!".
Older fans know from the WWF days know full well how much of a monster Ron Simmons was during the majority of his WWF career before going into semi-retirement.
As one-half of the APA (Acolytes Protection Agency) with John Bradshaw Layfield, they comprised one of the most brutal, smash-mouth tag teams of the Attitude Era, whose brutality could probably only be compared to that of the Dudley Boyz during that period.
Known for their penchant for drinking, gambling, bar-fights, and beating up anyone, anywhere for the right price, the APA won the WWF tag-titles on three separate occasions while facing legendary competition like The Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, New Age Outlaws and E&C.
Before the APA, and even before "The Acolytes" with Bradshaw under The Undertaker's Ministry stable, Ron Simmons as "Faarooq", was the founder and leader of one of the most hated heel factions in WWF history: The Nation of Domination, the controversial spinoff of the real life "Nation of Islam," who at the time, were making waves under Louis Farrakhan for their radical and extremely racist anti-white and anti-Jewish beliefs.
The Nation of Domination not only made history as one of the most hated stables of all time, it also gave birth to the creation of "The Rock" character when "The Blue Chipper" Rocky Maivia (who was hated by the fans much in the same way John Cena is hated by mature fans today) was turned heel and joined the group.
But, even before this period in the mid-90's, Ron Simmons was making history. In 1992, while wrestling for World Championship Wrestling, he became the first African-American to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Big Van Vader. And as mentioned before, Ron Simmons was also one-half the "Doom" tag team with Butch Reed that won the WCW Tag Titles from The Steiner Brothers.
Ron Simmons has since retired from full-time wrestling after being released by the WWE in 2009, but still makes the occasional appearance with the WWE, usually to drop his one-word catchphrase for comic relief.
But for newer fans of the WWE product, the next time you see Ron Simmons, just remember: That was one of the baddest men to ever step into the ring.
07. Ernie Ladd
"I will slap your face real good in the general public."
Really? I couldn't come up with a line that awesome if you gave me a week and a bottle of Quaaludes.
It was lines like that, that made Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd a premier heel in the 1960's and '70s.
Ernie built his legend primarily in the NWA long before he stepped foot into the WWWF to feud with the likes of Andre The Giant and Bruno Sammartino.
Ernie held 28 titles in his career and 21 of those titles were won within the NWA's various regions, including the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship, sitting in front of him in the video, on four occasions.
Overall, Ladd would hold 15 different Heavyweight titles across five different NWA territories. The Big Cat would also hold the Heavyweight Championships of the WWC, WWA and NWF.
While Ernie Ladd never held a title in the WWWF, he was a monster heel draw. So much so, that he was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995, even though he had never been a champion in the promotion. He was also one of the first African-Americans to ever portray a heel as prior to Ernie, most African-American wrestlers were portrayed as faces.
Sadly, Ernie Ladd passed away at the age of 68 on March 10, 2007, after losing a three year battle with cancer.
06. The Junkyard Dog
The Junkyard Dog was, hands down, one of the most popular African-American wrestlers in history. A face character for almost his entire career, The Junkyard Dog was lighting fanbases on fire all over the country with his trademark charisma, finishers and antics in the ring.
JYD was already a major star in wrestling before ever stepping foot in the WWF and was a top billed star that sold out arenas wherever he went while working in the Mid-South Wrestling Federation under Bill Watts.
He had legendary feuds with the likes of the Fabolous Freebirds and Ted Dibiase.
When JYD eventually did come to the WWF in 1984 he was a top face for most of his four year stay in the company, feuding with the likes of Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Harley Race and Adrian Adonis.
While the Dog never held WWF gold, in his extremely successful career in the territories he amassed 20 different title reigns, six of which were Heavyweight titles in the MSW, USWA and Stampede Wrestling.
Junkyard would leave in the WWF in 1988 and head to WCW where he aligned himself with Sting's "Dudes with Attitudes" and fought with Ric Flair's Four Horsemen. He would challenge Ric for his WCW World Title but was unsuccessful in winning it.
Shortly after, JYD would leave the WCW and work around various independent scenes, last appearing with ECW in 1998. Unfortunately, that would be the Junkyard Dog's final year being involved in professional wrestling.
Sadly, Sylvester Ritter, the man behind the Junkyard Dog character would pass away on June 6th, 1998 in a car accident in Mississippi. He was only 45 years old.
Ritter was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
In the Junkyard Dog's short life and stellar career, he became a household name, wrestling icon and one of the most popular faces in all of professional wrestling.
05. Bearcat Wright
Edward "Bearcat" Wright has done something that only one other man on this list can claim: He broke down the walls of segregation in the world of pro-wrestling and paved the way for almost every man on this list to be successful.
In a time where African-Americans could not drink from the same water fountains or eat in the same diners with Caucasian-Americans, Bearcat was delighting fans of all races, beating the greats and winning heavyweight titles across America.
Just some of Bearcat Wrights notable wins include defeating Killer Kowalski to become the NWA Big-Time Heavyweight Champion and defeating "Classy" Freddie Blassie for the WWA Heavyweight Championship.
Even though Wright held 19 titles throughout his career, it was his very public stance against racial segregation for which he will most be remembered. Bearcat had refused to wrestle for any promotion that had segregated cards or crowds, getting himself temporarily banned in the state of Indiana for doing so.
But it was that stand and sacrifice that helped to pave the way for desegregation in the world of Professional Wrestling.
Unfortunately, Edward Wright holds a place on the all-too-lengthy list of wrestlers who passed away at the age of 50 or younger. The Bearcat passed on August 28th, 1982 due to complications from Sickle Cell Anemia, a disease common in people of African descent that causes the red blood cells of the body to form an abnormal sickle-like shape and firm up, which leads to premature death.
04. Booker T.
Booker T. Huffman has held 40 titles in his career, 35 of them being major titles in the WWF/E, WCW and TNA.
He is a six time World Heavyweight Champion, an eighteen-time Tag Team champion, the 2008 WWE King of the Ring winner, a WWE Triple Crown and Grand Slam champion and has held every single major title he was eligible for in WCW and the WWE at least once, between 1993 and 2007, with the only exception being the WWE Heavyweight Title.
Booker T. is the true definition of the "Gold Standard" in modern professional wrestling.
Booker has left a path of achievements in his wake in competition, but is just as charismatic as he is athletic. Not only is he known for record breaking runs with his brother in Harlem Heat, but he's just as well known for such antics as "King Bookah", a hilarious royal character he began to portray with his real life wife, "Queen Sharmell" after winning the King of the Ring.
He's also known as the "Master of the Spinaroonie", a break-dancing move he would perform in the center of the ring to the delight of the fans and for his insistence on referring to himself as the "Five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time WCW Champion. (Which in hindsight, probably kept him from winning the WWE title, as it would've complicated his famous catchphrase.)
Currently, Booker T. has returned to the WWE and is an announcer on Smackdown with Josh Matthews and Michael Cole.
But, when Booker walks away from the game completely, he will be without a doubt, a first ballot hall of fame entry.
03. Abdullah the Butcher
The man that makes Mick Foley look as timid as a newborn dove, Abdullah The Butcher is one of the most disturbingly sadistic, violent, and brutally hardcore competitors to ever perform in a wrestling ring.
He is also one of the most legendary wrestlers in the history of the industry, having amassed 46 different titles, not just in different American promotions, but in Japan, Puerto Rico and Europe as well. He has held gold in 16 different promotions. He has a tendency to move around between promotions a great deal and is a draw wherever he goes.
If there was a legendary wrestler in a promotion? Abdullah, in his 53 year career, which is still going, has beaten them. Bruiser Brody, Mick Foley, Carlos Colon, Jumbo Tsuruda, The Sheik, Terry Funk, Billy Robinson, Ivan Koloff, he has faced legends in many nations and beat them all.
Abdullah's matches weren't just barbaric, they weren't just bloody, they were grotesque. The kind of thing that would inspire the likes of ECW's New Jack and Sabu. Abdullah would legitimately rip people's forehead skin open with foreign objects (especially forks), he would gouge open wounds, he would blade himself with reckless abandon.
And he would do this about 40 years before ECW made it acceptable to do these kinds of things.
Abdullah, even now, is a huge star in Japan. He even has crossover appeal and has appeared in several Japanese movies, television shows, video games and commercials.
Abdullah The Butcher, (Real name: Lawrence Shreve), is such an iconic figure in the world of professional wrestling, that even though he has never wrestled for the WWE a day in his life, they inducted him into the Hall of Fame this year. They also have a WWE action figure and have a feature for him on WWE.com. They don't even do that for Sting—though, they probably will once he stops working for their primary competitor, TNA.
At 70 years of age, Shreve is still going strong in independent promotions and in Japan.
He's already a legend and an icon with nothing left to prove. He is a hardcore master who became an international megastar in the world of wrestling without ever holding a single World title or working for the biggest promotion in the world.
It doesn't get any more legendary than that.
02. Bobo Brazil
"The Jackie Robinson of Professional Wrestling".
Along with Edward "Bearcat" Wright, Bobo Brazil was just as instrumental in ending segregation in the world of pro-wrestling.
However, Bobo would drastically eclipse the success and popularity of The Bearcat.
Bobo would go on to win a whopping 52 titles across fourteen promotions and NWA regions in his 40 year career. Including five heavyweight championship reigns in the WWA and NWA, as well as seven United States Championship reigns in the WWWF.
Bobo was also the first ever African-American to win the NWA World Heavyweight Champion in wrestling history by defeating the Nature Boy Buddy Rogers. Unfortunately, that reign wasn't recognized by the NWA due to legitimate backstage politics of the day, which is why Ron Killings is recognized as the first African-American NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
He was also the first ever African-American to wrestle in a mixed-race match in the state of Georgia.
It was the extreme popularity of Bobo Brazil that really served to break down the walls of racial discrimination and segregation that both he and Edward Wright were fighting against. While The Bearcat was a fantastic draw for promoters, Bobo's fame and popularity were on an entirely different level in his day. He was one of the biggest draws of his era and had top billing almost everywhere he went.
Bobo would retire in 1992 and be inducted in the WWF Hall of Fame two years later.
Bobo lived to be 74-years-old, before finally succumbing to complications due to several strokes on January 20th, 1998.
That was long enough to see wrestling transform from a time where Blacks had to enter arenas through separate entrances and sit in different sections, to seeing the start of the career of the next African-American who would soar to the highest possible levels the industry had to offer and beyond...
01. The Rock
If there was a Mount Rushmore for professional wrestlers, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's face would be engraved on it right along side of men like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Ric Flair.
He is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest and most successful stars in the history of professional wrestling, bar none. He put his legacy at the heights of the greatest ever, and did it in a fraction of the time.
It may seem strange given his status in the world of pro-wrestling, but the Rock was only a full-time active competitor in the WWF for seven years, from 1996 to 2003.
In that short amount of time, the Rock managed to become a nine-time WWF and World Champion, a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a five-time Tag Team Champion and The 2000 Royal Rumble winner.
This was done during a time when the WWE possibly had it's deepest and most talented roster in history, including megastars like The Undertaker, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Mick Foley, Triple H and Chris Jericho. A roster so deep that an eventual eleven-time World Champion like Adam Copeland (Edge) couldn't even get a shot at the WWF title.
The Rock didn't just win championships, he put on absolute classics in the ring with his ability to work a match and his feuds with rivals like Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin sit at the top of not only fans, but fellow superstars lists as some of the best ever.
But it wasn't what Rock did in the ring that made him one of the finest wrestlers on the planet, it's what he did on the microphone.
The Rock routinely held crowds in the palm of his hand, either as a face or a heel. His many catchphrases are still utilized in the general public's lexicon to this day, from: "If you smell what the Rock is cookin'." and "Candy a**" to "Check yourself directly into the Smackdown Hotel" (Which is where "Smackdown" gets its name from) and "Finally, The Rock has Come back to (Enter City here)."
The Rock made even raising his eyebrow a phenomenon. The Rock made dropping a simple elbow an electrifying event.
He is consistently ranked at the top of "Most Charismatic" and "Best Mic Worker" lists all around the wrestling world. He is the co-owner of the highest ever rated segment of WWE Raw in history, along with Mick Foley, an 8.4 with the iconic "Rocky, This Is Your Life!" angle. He is the man who Hulk Hogan himself deemed worthy to pass his torch to at Wrestlemania X8 in one of the biggest matches in WWF history.
But, even with all of this, The Rock has achieved something that no other wrestler has. Not even the most legendary icon of them all, Hulk Hogan.
The Rock has become an enduring, leading man in Hollywood whose films have grossed billions of dollars. Most recently he starred in "Fast Five" alongside Vin Diesel, which grossed just shy of $610,000,000.
He's currently slated to star in the next G.I. Joe film, and just his face being on the poster for this upcoming Survivor Series caused the event to sell out in just 90 minutes. The Rock hasn't even wrestled a full match in nearly eight years and just beat out the WWE's top star John Cena for the special "People's Edition" of the WWE's next video game "WWE '12".
Not to mention he regularly destroys John Cena in popularity whenever he arrives on WWE programming. The WWE has booked him a year in advance for the next Wrestlemania, just because he is that powerful of a draw.
Truly, The Rock is in a class all his own and is, hands down, the greatest African-American and Samoan-American wrestler of all time. Which is another list all unto itself.
The Rock. Simply one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step into a ring, anywhere, anytime, in any era.