Jerry Stubbs, aka Mr. Olympia, rode shotgun with the Junkyard Dog through his heyday in the Mid-South territory. He also gave Curt Hennig his greatest gimmick ever in Mr. Perfect. Yet, many today may not be familiar with the mighty masked man who lived a secret life outside of the ring. This is his remarkable story!
Jim Phillips, author of this article and one of the great wrestling historians here at Pro Wrestling Stories, is in the challenge of his life after being paralyzed on January 21st, 2023. Learn his story and how you can help him reach his goal of taking his first steps again!
Mr. Olympia Jerry Stubbs: A True Athlete
Born on September 13th, 1951, in burgeoning Atlanta, the future Mr. Olympia was into sports, as most kids were. Baseball, the newly founded Hawks basketball team, and pro wrestling topped his priority list.
“We used to have a wrestling group called Live Atlanta Wrestling, and I watched it as a kid,” Jerry Stubbs reminisced in a recent interview with me for Pro Wrestling Stories.
“A friend of mine lived up the street, and I’d go by and get his mother because she loved it. We sat in the front row. That’s where I first got started.”
While wrestling was ever-present in his life, baseball took him on his first journey into professional sports.
Jerry Stubbs briefly played in the minor league before the Pittsburgh Pirates picked him up.
Then, in a twist of fate, he played against a young Randy Poffo (who later famously became “Macho Man” Randy Savage) who played with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
The two would face each other in the ring years later in Tennessee.
Breaking Into The Business
Jerry Stubb’s relationship with Robert Fuller made things easier to get into the wild world of professional wrestling in the 1970s.
“Me and Robert went to school together, and I used to hang around with the Fullers, who were the Welches back then. They lived in Griffin, Georgia.”
While in Georgia, Stubbs had the advantage of being trained by one of the greats in the business.
“I would say Rocky Johnson probably helped me the most. We’d go to Griffin when he was in the Atlanta territory. And he took me down there, and The Rock watched me train.
“He was but three foot tall and six or seven years old- he was hitting the bottom rope playing and stuff like that, and look at him now. He’s something.”
The Volunteer State was where Jerry broke in, under the mask as The Raider, and worked a few outlaw shows run by Jody Hamilton, better known as The Assassin.
As he continued to get his feet wet, The Raider morphed into a new masked man called Matador.
Hiding His Identity: Secret Life As a Police Officer
In the real world, or what some old schoolers called their "shoot job," Jerry Stubbs worked for the police.
Starting with the Atlanta Police Department, he worked around the metro area and patrolled the Forest Park district. He was working for Clayton County when he decided to start training to wrestle.
“I was a police officer here in Forest Park, south of Atlanta. And that could cause some problems. So I tried to stay under the mask where many people wouldn’t know me or didn’t know me.”
Avoiding being recognized would be beneficial if some of the folks he had arrested were in the crowd. Though he never worked in Mexico, Matador facilitated the need for anonymity.
The Welch and Fuller family had their hands in many of the early territorial fiefdoms, and when they acquired the Pensacola, Florida territory, Jerry went along with them.
Safely away from his home, he could work under his own name and without the mask. Jerry took on a heel persona, and the fans grew to hate him, especially when he went up against the local fan favorite, "Bullet" Bob Armstrong.
Becoming Mr. Olympia
It wasn’t long before Armstrong put the idea of Mr. Olympia in his head, and with the donning of that mask, history was made. They decided to go with The Sleeper for his finisher.
Mr. Wrestling II also taught Jerry Stubbs how to exaggerate his bumps and play to the crowd more to make up for the fact that they could not see the face of a masked man to emote those feelings. You had to sell things more to keep the people into the action.
“I practiced my bumps. I wanted to make those bumps look real. And believe me, some of those rings were as hard as the floor. And it didn’t give. So you do a dropkick, maybe off the top rope, and you hit. Oh man, it jars your whole body.
Southeastern, Working with Brad Armstrong
In July of 1980, Mr. Olympia began training a young Brad Armstrong, along with Brad’s father, Bob. Brad would go on to make his debut and battle with Mr. Olympia in the coming months.
The company underwent some changes and came out the other side as Continental Championship Wrestling.
Olympia was the first to hold its heavyweight title, with Armstrong hot on his heels after the gold. Mr. Olympia also held their tag titles several times with Tony Anthony before Anthony became a member of The Grapplers with Len Denton.
Soon, fate came calling. Luck is a misused term, and while it occasionally occurs, real luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Both came in a call from Bill Watts in the spring of 1982.
Mid South, Bill Watts, and JYD
Watts was building Junkyard Dog as his superstar, and he was looking for someone to tag with his new apprentice, so he reached out to Ole Anderson at Georgia Championship Wrestling for recommendations, and Anderson sent him a packet of photos and bios.
The Dog chose Mr. Olympia, and it wouldn’t matter if he were a heel in Alabama because he was about to be with the biggest drawing babyface in Mid-South.
Working and tagging as the partner of the JYD meant that you had to take a lot of bumps and sell like hell while the Dog came in and cleaned house.
As hot as Dusty Rhodes in Florida and Bruno Sammartino in the Big Apple, the Junkyard Dog ruled the entire New Orleans area.
Being partnered with him meant having the proverbial rocket strapped to his back. He had held tag and singles titles, but this kind of fan popularity is on a different level.
Jerry’s whole world was about to change.
“That’s the way Bill Watts wanted Dog to be. He didn’t want him to sell a lot. So you’d sell, tag him, he’d do the comeback, and be over with. And you’d have to take care of most of the tags because you have to make them interesting.”
It didn’t take long for Jerry to discover the stories of Bill Watts being a strict taskmaster demanding respect from everyone.
“I don’t think he was a bully. That’s the way he was; he took control. He let you know he was a head honcho and kept a pretty tight ship.
“He’d say, ‘I know you like to go out to bars and have a good time, but I’m telling you, you get in a fight, and you lose, don’t come back here.’
The Mid-South territory ran from the edge of Oklahoma down to New Orleans, with little fingers reaching out from there, but it was long roads and late nights for the majority of the crew, and Mr. Olympia was no exception to the rule.
If nothing else, it meant more driving to get the most out of the territory when it was approaching its zenith.
“Oh, that territory’s got long miles. And back then, we didn’t fly. We drove.
“I traveled a lot with Junkyard Dog, and we stayed in many hotels together too. Three hundred mile trips and then sometimes turn right around, come back to New Orleans where we were staying and living.”
The crew kept odd hours, to say the least. But whenever you’re living the life of a rambler, you have to grab all your opportunities.
Trying to juggle sleep, work, gym, and getting to the show on time leaves less for family. It’s a different kind of dedication that few have ever experienced.
“We had a gym called Foxy’s in New Orleans, which was open all night, 24 hours a day.
“The Dog would call me, anywhere from two to four in the morning, and say, ‘Hey man, I can’t sleep. Let’s go work out.’
“Finally, when you woke up, you had a good workout. And then we’d eat some breakfast, take a shower, and after that, we’d be on the road again.”
A Team Player
He established himself as a go-to member of the roster who kept his word and did business without any bellyaching.
Whether in a tag situation or singles competition, Mr. Olympia would get it done and make both people look good in the process, and in the days of a handshake over a deal, trust was everything.
“Many of the boys couldn’t take you telling them how to do something. It doesn’t bother me. Just tell me how you want it, and I’ll go out and do it the best way I can. I’ll put my twist on it, and it’ll all be good. And it always was.
“I was lucky in that respect. I’m going to give you most of it because I’m going to beat you. And so you need to take most of it. So don’t just lay there and die on me. Keep fighting until we are ready to go home, and we’ll do the finish.”
Mr. Olympia Turns Heel
In the Summer of 1982, he was embroiled in a feud for the Louisiana Heavyweight Title with the Mongol scourge known as Killer Khan. This would be Mr. Olympia’s last run in the company as a babyface.
After working heel in Southeastern against Bob Armstrong, he knew he could turn the Mid-South audience on its head if he broke bad there.
Olympia was more than just a solid worker. He had a mind for the business and what would get over with the fans. Even if he wasn’t involved directly in the angle, he was instrumental in forming the Rat Pack (Ted DiBiase, Jim Duggan, and Matt Borne).
He also devised the idea to turn heel against Mr. Wrestling II and became a member of Skandor Akbar’s army of heels that terrorized Mid-South at every turn.
“I actually started The Rat Pack. I asked, ‘Why don’t we have a heel group called The Rat Pack?’ And it went over well!
“Bill Watts would only talk to a few people. So I went to Wrestling II. ‘Look, I got an idea, and I don’t know if it’ll work, but I’d like Watts to hear it, but he isn’t going to listen to me.’
“So I told it to II, and Watts said, ‘Let’s do it.’
“Nobody really expected me to turn on him. It went over well, too.”
Mr. Olympia solidified his heel turn when he joined the army of Skandor Akbar alongside his new tag partner, Ted DiBiase.
DiBiase, Borne, and Duggan were the solid trio of rats in the pack, but over time it became Olympia and DiBiase that took the moniker and the tag titles in the spring of 1983.
Working with Arn Anderson
By the middle of 1983, he took the future Arn Anderson, then working under his own name Marty Lundy with him, and put him under a mask as Super Olympia.
However, all good tag teams must eventually come to an end, and the two engaged in a series of mask versus mask matches that would end up with both men revealed; their last match went the time limit.
Finally, the two reconciled and reformed the team, wearing the matching Panama hats as their new gimmick.
“I took Marty and got him in Pensacola as Super Olympia; I took him under my wing and tried to help him because he was green, but he could pick it up fast.”
In those days, wrestlers were stabbed, hit with loaded items, and their cars vandalized by overzealous fans.
The best part of being a heel is making friends with the fans that sit ringside.
One evening, Mr. Olympia went up against local favorite Mike Jackson.
“I had this one lady in Mobile, Alabama. She sat on the corner, in the front row, and had an air tank!
“I’m in the ring. She was calling me this, that, and the other. I said, ‘Gimme that d*** mic.’
“I looked at her and said, ‘Ma’am, if you don’t shut your mouth, I’m going to come out there and turn off that d*** air tank!’
“Oh, it got heat. Everybody started getting on me. That was a great one.”
“And the boys never knew what they would get when the fans became rabid.
“I remember Ole Anderson in Greenville, South Carolina- an old lady sitting in the front row got mad at him. She had a brick in her pocketbook and caught him right in the stomach.
“I tell you people, they get carried away, but that’s good. You’re doing your job if you can get them to that point.”
Japan Adventures for Mr. Olympia
Like many of his generation, Jerry Stubbs took bookings in Japan and made long trips across the Pacific. He worked for Giant Baba at All Japan Pro Wrestling as Mr. Olympia and tagged with Brad Rheingans for a few tours. Stubbs also did a tour as A. Sheik under a hooded mask.
“Going to Japan, it’s about a ten-to-thirteen-hour flight. I went, I guess, six or seven times, and my longest was six weeks. It was hard to get used to the food and ordering in these places. You’d go to these towns, and you’d see these plates of food and windows.
“You’d say, ‘Okay, I want number one.’ And I got used to eating spaghetti and meat sauce. But when they bring you the spaghetti, they only bring you a little meat sauce. I would have to keep saying, ‘More meat sauce!’ So finally, they’d get the hint.”
On one of the tours as A. Sheik, he teamed with Tiger Jeet Singh, who carried a ceremonial saber-type sword to the ring as part of his unique regalia.
It also doubled as a good way of parting the seas of humanity once the duo had them riled into a frenzy.
“We were both heels. Shoot, man, we had to fight our way to the ring and back. And he’d take that little sword thing, boy, and he’d whack people upside the head
“He told me when we go to the ring, just grab hold of him. He said, ‘I’ll get us there; I’ll get us back now.’ And he did. Boy, he was whopping them like crazy. He beat the hell out of em.”
On one of these trips, he was working with Curt Hennig, and the two became good friends. Along with that came Hennig’s reputation for playing jokes and ribs on people.
They were eating dinner with Nelson Royal, who had held the Junior Heavyweight World Championship in the Carolinas, when Curt saw an opportunity that he never passed up.
“I looked at Curt, and I could tell he was doing something, and he’d laugh, and he looked and whispered, ‘Shh!’
“All of a sudden, Nelson Royal, sitting across from him, said, ‘My boots are wet!’
“I said, ‘Oh s***, that d*** Curt done pissed on his leg.’
“I looked at Curt, and he got that s***-eating grin.”
One night before the show, they were sitting in the locker room getting ready when Hennig began talking about the WWF.
“‘Man, I need a gimmick to take back to New York with me.’
“I said, ‘I got one for you.’
“I was going to use it myself, but I told him, ‘You need to take this Mr. Perfect gimmick and go back and run with it.’ And he did.”
That gimmick fit Curt perfectly. It was his most memorable run in the business.
Missing That Big Break and Retirement
Due to health concerns, Mr. Olympia never made it to the WWF to catch his big break. He would have been the only masked wrestler on their active roster then.
With the quality of his work, and the ethic he had towards it and the business, one can only speculate how far he would have gone. One can only imagine the feuds he could have had with the bounty of talent in New York.
“I was actually in the hospital in Pensacola. I had a blood clot in my leg. So I had to take blood thinner and all that stuff. I was in there for about five or six days.
“When I got out, I was supposed to go to New York, but having that problem, I didn’t meet their medical requirements. It would’ve been nice if I could have.”
After he retired from wrestling, Jerry Stubbs returned to law enforcement, working in the Atlanta area until his official retirement.
He had the opportunity to be a County Commissioner but turned that down to opt for a more relaxed life at home with his wife.
However, he stays active and can be found at signings in the Southeast and Atlanta area when they come through. Jerry also sells replica belts and memorabilia and can be reached out to about these on his Facebook page.
Mr. Olympia’s Night Out with Andre the Giant and Wahoo McDaniel
One last story from our conversation is well worth sharing.
It was me, Andre the Giant, and Wahoo McDaniel. After the matches, we once went to this place, and all the windows were painted. The door didn’t have any glass in it. So the guy would pull the thing over like you see on TV.
“‘Okay, Wahoo, you can come in.’
“Oh man, there wasn’t anything but gambling tables and a wheel and blackjack tables over there.
“I took home two hundred-something dollars that night. I enjoyed myself, but Wahoo was drunk.
“I had to get him home. But they were shooting pool, and Wahoo told some old guy, ‘Look, I bet you a hundred dollars Andre can get every one of those balls in the same hole. And Wahoo held a hundred dollars.
“Andre went over there, lifted the pool table, turned it to the corner, and rolled all those balls into the same hole. And Wahoo said, ‘Thank you for the hundred!’
“The old guy looked up and said, ‘D***, I’ve been screwed!’
“Who’s he going to argue with? Not Andre!”
Legacy of ‘Mr. Olympia’ Jerry Stubbs
Decades after Jerry Stubbs’ retirement, it’s time he finally got his due as one of the greatest masked wrestlers of the territory days.
An excellent in-ring performer with a great mind for the business, he had a stellar career worth re-examining.
Thank you, Jerry, for the pleasure of sitting down with us.
Until next time, brothers and sisters. And always remember: our wrestling history is gold!
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