Ron Simmons: Untold Tale Behind Becoming WCW Champion

Recovering from Jake Roberts’ beating earlier that night, Sting could not wrestle for the WCW title against Vader in August of ’92. Ron Simmons would famously step in, creating history by becoming the first black WCW World Heavyweight Champion! But how did Simmons feel about the company failing him after?

Ron Simmons made history after becoming the first black WCW World Heavyweight Champion on August 2nd, 1992.
Ron Simmons made history after becoming the first black WCW World Heavyweight Champion on August 2nd, 1992. Also shown: Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham.

Ron Simmons Makes History By Becoming First Black WCW World Champion

After a stellar college football career at Florida State University (FSU) that saw Ron Simmons finish ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the future gladiator-type Faarooq Asad played NFL football for the Cleveland Browns and then spent some time in the Canadian Football League and the short-lived USFL.

He embraced professional wrestling in 1987, forming a tag team with Butch Reed: Doom soon after becoming a professional wrestler.

WCW tag team, Doom: Butch Reed and Ron Simmons.
WCW tag team, Doom: Butch Reed and Ron Simmons.

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 Ron 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.

Ron Simmons benefitted greatly when Bill Watts took over World Championship Wrestling (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 Junkyard Dog and Simmons and decided to put the world title on the former Seminole.

Though it must be said: Ron Simmons was much more athletic than JYD.

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How Ron Simmons Won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship

Around this time, Big Van Vader was running roughshod through WCW and in a program with Sting.

At a Baltimore, Maryland show on August 2nd, 1992, Sting could not 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 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.

Watch fans’ reaction as Ron Simmons wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship:

YouTube video

Was Ron Simmons the First-ever Black Champion in Wrestling?

While Ron Simmons was the first black wrestler to hold a championship in a prominent wrestling promotion, he wasn’t the first to do so in wrestling.

Almost 30 years before Ron Simmons’ feat, both Bearcat Wright and later Bobo Brazil (twice) won the WWA (Worldwide Wrestling Associates) World title based out of Los Angeles, California.

The WWA was a promotion that had separated from the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) but was seen as another regional, “outlaw” company.

It had working relationships with Japanese talent, specifically the JWA (Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance) and later NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) when it returned to the NWA in 1968 and renamed itself NWA Hollywood Wrestling.

The title and its holders (specifically Bearcat Wright and Bobo Brazil) are sometimes mentioned as a World Title comparable to Ron Simmons’ accomplishment.

Still, many modern-day historians disagree with this statement and comparison.

You can read more about the incredible careers of Bearcat Wright and Bobo Brazil in our article entitled Black Champions and Wrestling Legends.

Ron Simmons with his arms up in victory captured the WCW title at a house show in Baltimore, Maryland, in August 1992.
Ron Simmons captured the WCW title at a house show in Baltimore, Maryland, in August 1992.

Ron Simmons on his WCW Championship Run

On WWE Untold: APA on the WWE Network, Ron Simmons discussed winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 1992 and how he found out he’d be winning the gold.

"The arena was in Baltimore. I come waltzing in just as I normally do.

“I get told by Bill Watts [WCW booker at the time] that I’m gonna be up for the world championship tonight.

“What?! Tonight? Me? How? Why? How did this come about?

“His exact words to me were at that point was, ‘Hey, why NOT you? Tonight we’re gonna make history here, okay?’"

"The reason those words resonated with me is because he had the guts to do what no one else did. And that was to put a black man in there for the world championship and not only put him in there, but hey, I’m gonna be champ."

Ron Simmons’ Run as WCW Champion

WCW’s business didn’t boom under Watts, and five months later, Ron Simmons dropped the title back to Vader. Sadly, it was not much of a title reign.

Although many consider his WCW run as a failure, Simmons doesn’t look at it this way.

"Never let anyone tell you if they’ve been in this business that ‘Hey, having that belt around your waist don’t mean anything,’” Simmons passionately stated.

“It means everything.”

Following his main-event run, Simmons was mired in the mid-card for the rest of his time in WCW.

Life After WCW

He would appear in ECW for a couple of years and then make his WWF debut in 1996 as Faarooq.

He feuded with Ahmed Johnson over the Intercontinental title (though he never won it) and was the leader of 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 imploded, with Faarooq eliminating fellow members D’Lo Brown and Mark 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 Bradshaw as the Acolytes (and later the Acolyte Protection Agency, aka APA).

In recent years, he’s most known for drinking beer alongside JBL and for his gimmick and signature catchphrase, “DAMN!” at varying moments on WWE TV.

He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and WWE Hall of Fame.

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Bobby Mathews is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories as well as a veteran journalist whose byline has appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Birmingham News, The Denver Post, as well as other newspapers around the country. He's won multiple awards for reporting and opinion writing, and his sports journalism has garnered several Associated Press Managing Editors Awards. He has covered Division I college athletics and professional sports including MLB and NFL games. He has won awards from press associations in several states, including a General Excellence award from the Georgia Press Association while sports editor at The Statesboro Herald. He currently lives in suburban Birmingham, Alabama and can be reached on Twitter @bamawriter.