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Monday 24 November 2014

From Whipper to Junkyard

Professional wrestling is familiar to me. When we lived in Maddox Cove, Newfoundland in the mid to late 1950s, we owned a television and had one television station. However, some people without a television gathered at our house to watch the wrestling matches and everyone really enjoyed them. I remember a wrestler called "Whipper" Billy Watson and the bravado, the cheers from the people around the ring, the drama. Every night wrestling was on I saw a few bouts then slept through the noise of the cheers and groans from the group.

In the late 1980s, while on a work-related trip to Qu├ębec with fellow teachers, a friend and I sat next to a professional wrestler headed into St. John's for a tournament. My friend recognized him as the persona Junk Hard Dog or JYD, and he was willing to talk.

He started out playing football in university, completed a degree, then went into wrestling. This man took the name Junkyard Dog because it was the nickname others gave him when he worked in a wrecking yard. 

JYD was a big man, solid and strong, well spoken and intelligent. He spoke of his family and the businesses he was investing in so as to have an income when his wrestling career was over.

We asked about the authenticity of wrestling and whether the wrestlers actually were hurt in the ring. JYD talked about the injuries he received but did not say anything about the authenticity of the sport. The injuries said enough.

Later I learned of this man, Sylvester Ritter's place in wrestling history. He was the first black man to reach the top of his promotion and won many awards and accolades. Sadly he died tragically in a single car accident in 1998.

The man I met was a gentleman, friendly and interesting. I was sad to learn of his death, a man who gave a real face to a wrestling persona. 

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