wrestling / Columns

Magnificent Seven: Top 7 Black Wrestlers

February 6, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
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February is Black History Month, which means we’ll see some video packages on WWE programming playing up African-American wrestlers and/or celebrities in order to educate the masses. I’m all about educating as well, and I’m also all about ranking things.

This week, the Magnificent Seven presents the Top 7 Black Wrestlers.

7. R-Truth

Ron Killings has had himself one heck of an interesting career. After getting rowdy & moving some things in his first WWF stint, he got enough bitterness built up to become one of the top heels in the early days of NWA TNA. He made a good enough argument to the Nashville TNA fans that they turned against Ricky Freaking Steamboat in favor of him. That was impressive, and certainly led the way to Killings becoming the first black NWA World Champion. After that run, he remained part of TNA for many years.

He eventually made his way back to WWE, and has had many ups & downs since. He’s remained employed, and remained one of the more interesting people on television during most of his run. His heel run where there was a C-O-N-SPIRACY against him was amazing, and he’s been a treat as a comedic babyface ever since.

6. Ernie Ladd

The Big Cat was very successful in the American Football League, but took up pro wrestling as a way to make money during the off-season. It became his full-time gig after a knee injury ended his football career, and he was very successful at that too. Ladd was one of the top heels in pro wrestling throughout the 1970s due to his size, his taped thumb he would commonly use as a weapon, & his less than politically correct interviews.

He made even bigger contributions behind the scenes, becoming the first African-American booker in recorder history for Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling. Ladd was instrumental in pushing Junkyard Dog to the top of the card & making him New Orleans’ most popular wrestler ever.

5. Kofi Kingston

I would not have ever guessed that Kofi would have collected the accomplishments he has back when he entered WWE. He’s a four-time Intercontinental Champion & a three-time United States Champion. He’s held eight tag team championships with four different sets of partners, and he’s been a tag team champion for more days than anybody else in the history of WWE.

Kofi had already accomplished more than most people would have expected when he joined forces with Xavier Woods & Big E to form The New Day. After a tough start, New Day became one of the hottest acts in WWE and certainly one of the the hottest merchandise sellers. They held tag team titles forever, and they kept selling ridiculous merchandise long afterwards. Add in Kofi’s Royal Rumble antics, and he’s going to be a first-ballot WWE Hall of Famer whenever he’s done. The only weakness in his game is the fact that he’s never been considered a legitimate contender for a top singles championship. He’s 37 & doesn’t look anywhere near retirement, so he’s still got plenty of time to erase that weakness.

4. Ron Simmons

I probably rate Ron higher than a lot of people would. I need to explain the situation. My very first memory of watching WCW was seeing Jake “The Snake” Roberts take Sting out with several DDTs at the Baltimore Arena. This led to a lottery for a shot at Big Van Vader’s WCW Championship, which was won by Ron Simmons, which led to this:

Simmons was WCW’s first African-American World Champion, which was a pretty big deal at the time. National wrestling promotions had not made a habit of pushing black wrestlers to the top of their cards. You’d see it in some territories, but the biggest promotions tended to stay away from the idea. The National Wrestling Alliance didn’t have a black world champion until a decade after Simmons won WCW’s belt. Simmons & Butch Reed had already been featured as Tag Team Champions, but Ron getting the push to the top singles title was a huge deal.

Today’s fan probably remembers Simmons more as Faarooq. Ron’s WWF/E tenure got off to a rough start with the Spartacus ring attire & then the militant Nation of Domination stuff. Once he got into the APA & settled into his DAMN catchphrase, he found his spot & became timeless.

3. Booker T

When you’re talking about Booker T, you’re talking about the FIVE TIME FIVE TIME FIVE TIME FIVE TIME FIVE TIME WCW CHAMPION, SUCKA. Booker was marked for stardom going back to his early days in the GWF. He & his brother Stevie Ray formed a stellar tag team as the Ebony Experience there, and later in WCW as Harlem Heat, but it was always obvious that Booker would be the star of the duo.

He became the star of the duo, and the obvious top guy in WCW towards the end of its existence. Which obviously hampered his prospects in WWF/E during the Invasion, but he worked his way through it. He swallowed enough shit to earn respect, and got to become KING BOOKAH! I have a ton of respect for Booker, he put up with a lot of nonsense to earn his spot.

2. Bobo Brazil

I love to make comparisons to real sports while writing about pro wrestling, as sports & sports entertainment are two of my passions in life. People say that Brazil was the Jackie Robinson of wrestling, and they’re right on the money there. Bobo was the first main event black superstar in the business. He main evented in arenas where African-Americans were only allowed to sit in the balcony. He broke color barriers in too many states to keep track of. There were laws in most states that didn’t allow black wrestlers to wrestle white wrestlers, and Bobo’s popularity led to fans demanding the laws to be changed, which they eventually were when enough money changed hands.

Bobo was the main rival of the Original Sheik, and their feud lasted longer than possibly any rivalry in wrestling history. Sheik’s Detroit territory & TV built the feud up, and they took it anywhere it could go. Bobo also became one of the top faces in the WWWF, and he was their perennial US Champion that was a notch below Bruno Sammartino. Not that many people beat him, he was just kinda there hanging out. I try not to overdramatize things, but Bobo Brazil was pretty much the American Civil Rights Movement in action whether he cared to be or not. I don’t see any records of him out there marching with Martin Luther King or hanging out with Malcolm X, so I don’t know what his take on the issue was. He got in the ring & wrestled whoever was in front of him. Just like Robinson played his game with whoever was on the field.

Honorable Mention: The Junkyard Dog

It was tough leaving JYD out of the top seven, but I place him below the others due to a lack of major championships & tenure in the business. His peak was legendary, but it didn’t take long for him to fall off the map.

Honorable Mention: Abdullah the Butcher

The Madman from the Sudan was in the business forever. Last I heard, he’s having a retirement ceremony in All Japan pretty soon. The main issue I have with Abby is the fact that most of his matches haven’t made it into the ring in the last twenty years. It’s easier for him to bleed on people outside the ring, which leads to problems.

1. The Rock

This was a difficult list to put together. I looked at championships won, years in the business, years as a top draw, all sorts of things to try & make a fair list on a topic with so many legitimate candidates. The only spot I didn’t debate? Number One. Which is kind of funny because nobody really thinks of The Rock as a black wrestler. He’s also half-Samoan, and nobody really thinks of him as a Samoan wrestler either. He wasn’t typecast like so many before him & so many after him were.

He was The Rock. He was The Peoples’ Champion. You could make an argument that Rock was never the tippy top guy during his entire time with WWF/E. There was always Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Triple H or somebody else getting pushed. Hulk Hogan made Rocky a heel at WrestleMania X8. What can’t be denied is that The Rock has become the biggest star that pro wrestling has ever produced. The Hulkster held that claim for many years, but it’s safe to say that Dwayne Johnson has usurped that title at this point. The only question left is just how big he’ll get.