Published on May 15th, 2017 | by Bobby Mathews0
This Week in Pro Wrestling Stories
The DAMN! Edition (May 8, 2017)
Today is Ron Simmons’s birthday. After a stellar college football career that saw Simmons finish ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the future Faarooq played football for the Cleveland Browns and then spent some time in the Canadian Football League and the short-lived USFL. He embraced pro wrestling in 1987, going on to form a tag team with Butch Reed: Doom. Wrestling under masks in the NWA/WCW, the pair captured the world tag team titles and engaged in high-profile feuds with the Four Horsemen, Rock & Roll Express, and Steiner Brothers. The bouts with the latter still hold up today as hard-hitting, extremely athletic affairs.
Trivia: Doom is actually the first team recognized as WCW tag team champions, as the promotion was separating itself from the NWA at the time.
The pair dropped the titles to the Freebirds at WrestleWar 1991, and Simmons subsequently turned babyface, launching a feud with Reed that would culminate in a cage match at the inaugural SuperBrawl. Simmons won, and would go on to feud with Cactus Jack and others.
Simmons benefitted greatly when Bill Watts took over WCW as its executive vice President in 1992. Watts’s Mid-South Wrestling program became one of the hottest promotions in the country behind the charisma of the Junkyard Dog, and Watts saw similarities between JYD and Simmons (though it must be said: Simmons was much more athletic than JYD), and decided to put the world title on the former Seminole.
At the time, Vader was running roughshod through WCW and in a program with Sting. At a house show in Baltimore, Maryland, Sting was unable to wrestle the main event against Vader for the world title, having been “injured” at the hands of Jake Roberts earlier in the evening. Watts held a raffle to determine who would face Vader that evening. Seemingly at random, Simmons won the raffle and would go on to defeat Vader for the championship that evening. The win was replayed later that week on WCW’s television program. It was the first time an African-American won a widely recognized version of the world title.
Trivia: Bearcat Wright won the Los Angeles version of the ‘world’ title from Freddie Blassie prior to this, and Bobo Brazil held the LA version of the title, as well as a version of the world title based in Indianapolis, Indiana. However, neither version was widely accepted as a world championship. Both promotions, coincidentally, were known as WWA, though unrelated.
Simmons’s run with the world title was solid, if not spectacular. WCW’s business didn’t boom under Watts, and five months later, Simmons dropped the title back to Vader. Following his main-event run, Simmons was mired in the midcard for the rest of his time in WCW. He would appear in ECW for a couple of years, and then make his WWE debut in 1996 as Faarooq. He feuded with Ahmed Johnson over the Intercontinental title (though he never won it), and led the Nation of Domination, leading to a feud with a young up-and-comer you may have heard of: The Rock. At the 1998 Royal Rumble, the NOD basically imploded, with Faarooq eliminating fellow members D’Lo Brown Mizark Henry, leading to a final three of Faarooq, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock eliminated Faarooq, and the feud that had been bubbling just below the surface took off.
From there, Simmons made appearances as the Undertaker’s acolyte, and in a tag team with JBL as the Acolytes (and later the Acolyte Protection Agency). In recent years, he’s most known for his signature “DAMN!” at varying moments on WWE TV. He’s a member of the College Football and WWE halls of fame.
Simmons is 59 years old today. And he could probably still kick your ass.
I know, I was supposed to be around on Saturday to talk about Billy Corgan buying the NWA. Unfortunately, I caught the flu that my kids were so intent on trading back and forth. That’s the last time I interfere in a brother-vs-brother feud, let me tell you. It put me flat on my back. But Joey Finnegan entertained us with a look at AJ Styles’ WWE debut in his Huge Crowd Reactions in Wrestling series. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Let’s not forget a look at the Midnight Express. It’s a retrospective piece that takes you through the original Midnights–Dennis Condrey, Randy Rose and Norvell Austin–all the way through the 1980s, including the infamous Midnights vs. Midnights feud and the final version of Beautiful Bobby Eaton and Sweet Stan Lane. Here’s Unstoppable: THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS Defined Tag-Team Greatness.
And I was a guest late last week on the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast, hanging out with Myron and Nick. Researching the MX piece, I got to watch A LOT of tag-team wrestling. I was supposed to pare down my top tag teams to only 10. I got it down to 30. Sorry, guys. Can’t say enough about Myron and Nick, by the way–they’re a lot of fun and have a really neat approach to their podcast.
Wednesday, Joey Finnegan will be back with another installment of Huge Crowd Reactions in Wrestling.
And then on Saturday, I’ll have a piece on Don Jardine–better known as The Spoiler–and the early career of Mark Callaway (you’ll know him better as the Undertaker). I’m really looking forward to that one, and I hope you will, too.
Hey, don’t forget to follow Pro Wrestling Stories on Twitter, and if you’re interested in leftist political diatribes, dumb jokes, and the very occasional wrestling morsel, I’m around, too: @bob_the_writer_.