Throwback Thursday: Celebrating Black History Month on WWE Network

February 4, 2016 by Brock Allen

WWE Network Throwback Thursday - Logo

90 years ago, in 1926, noted historian Carter G. Woodson, as a means to teach black history in public schools, helped establish “Negro History Week” for the 2nd week of February in honor of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays (the 12th and 14th respectively).

44 years later Ohio’s Kent State celebrated the first “Black History Month” before President Gerald Ford oversaw its national expansion in 1976 to “review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life and culture.” The UK adopted the month 11 years later in 1987 while Canada’s House of Commons adopted it in 1995 and the Senate in 2008.

WWE - Booker T in Harlem Heat Tag Team

In honor of the 40th annual “Black History Month” Throwback Thursday takes a look at the “impressive contributions” of some of the greatest, most influential black wrestlers of all-time, as they appear on the WWE Network. For more, watch Legends of Wrestling: The Soul of Wrestling.

“2-out-of-3 Falls Tag Team Match” (WATCH)
Crusher Blackwell & Bugsy McGraw vs. Tony Parisi(WWWF World Tag Team Champion) & Bobo Brazil(sub. for WWWF World Tag Team Champion Louis Cerdan)
WWWF on HBOFebruary 2, 1976

The late Bobo Brazil is often called the Jackie Robinson of professional wrestling, and for good reason. Bobo became the first major black breakout star in wrestling in the 1950s and ’60s, was the first black World Heavyweight Champion in 1962 (a reign that remains unrecognized by the NWA), and worked the first inter-racial match in the history of Atlanta wrestling in 1970. Unfortunately this is the only Bobo Brazil match on the entire WWE Network. To see Bobo Brazil’s WWF Hall of Fame induction check out the 1994 Hall of Fame Look Back (30:20).

Mid-South North American Heavyweight Championship (WATCH)
Special Guest Referee: Dusty Rhodes
Junk Yard Dog vs. “Hacksaw” Butch Reed(c)
Mid-South WrestlingOctober 26, 1983

WWE Network - Junk Yard Dog vs. Butch Reed in Mid-South Wrestling

Bobo may have been the Jackie Robinson of pro wrestling but the late Junkyard Dog was by far the most popular black wrestler of all-time. Though hot in every territory JYD worked, it was Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling that made JYD a superstar. This match, a MSW classic, is a perfect illustration of how just how great JYD truly was. To see JYD’s posthumous WWE Hall of Fame induction check out the 2004 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (2:04:08).

NWA World Tag Team Championship – “Street Fight” (WATCH)
The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Barry Windham (sub. for Ric Flair)) vs. Doom (Ron Simmons & Butch Reed)(c) w/Teddy Long
NWA/WCW Starrcade ’90: Collision Couse December 16, 1990

Ron Simmons and Butch Reed were not just one of the first dominant black tag teams, they were one of the best tag teams ever. Doom broke the mold and set the standard for what a black tag team could achieve in wrestling. This match is nothing short of a war; one of the best street fights in tag team wrestling history. To see Ron Simmons WWE Hall of Fame induction check out the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (4:35).

WWF Intercontinental Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH)
Special Guest Commentator: Owen Hart
Ahmed Johnson vs. Goldust(c) w/Marlena
WWF King of the Ring 1996June 23, 1996

WWE Attitude Era - Ahmed Johnson vs. Goldust

By the mid-’90s the WWF was actively trying to find the next black superstar. Where Farrooq Assad failed Ahmed Johnson succeeded. It was this angle, that included Johnson blowing a jobber through a steel door, that put Johnson over in the WWF. Though Johnson’s run didn’t quite pan out Ahmed’s work speaks for itself. And this match is as good as any in Ahmed Johnson’s career.

Singles Match (WATCH)
2 Cold Scorpio vs. “Lion Heart” Chris Jericho
ECW The Doctor is InAugust 3, 1996

2 Cold Scorpio is quite simply one of the greatest and most influential black wrestlers ever of all-time. Between the uncanny timing and effortless aerial attack 2 Cold Scorpio influenced wrestlers of all color and ethnicity and helped to finally get the junior heavyweight style off the ground in the U.S. This match, Jericho’s swan song in ECW, is as good a 2 Cold Scorpio match as there is on the WWE Network.

WCW World Tag Team Championship (WATCH)
The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) vs. Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray)(c) w/Sister Sherr & Col. Rob Parker
WCW Hog WildAugust 10, 1996

WCW - The Steiner Brothers vs. Harlem Heat Tag Match

Harlem Heat is without question the greatest black tag team in professional wrestling history. Winning an astounding 10 WCW World Tag Team Championships Booker T and Stevie Ray re-wrote the book on tag team wrestling. Sure-fire WWE Hall of Famers Harlem Heat faced a racially insensitive crowd in Sturgis, South Dakota and managed to put on one of the best PPV title matches of their careers. To see Booker T’s WWE Hall of Fame induction check out the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (1:22:13).

Tag Team Match (WATCH)
The Godfather & D’Lo Brown vs. The Big Boss Man & Buchanan
WWF WrestleMania 2000 April 2, 2000

Charles Wright bounced from the horrendous Papa Shango to Kama to Kama Mustafa before hitting on the gimmick that made Wright a superstar and transcended the industry like few gimmicks before or since, in The Godfather. This match may not be the best but it is a perfect illustration as to the popularity of The Godfather.

WWE Championship (WATCH)
Bobby Lashley vs. John Cena(c)
WWE Great American Bash 2007July 21, 2007

WWE Network - Bobby Lashley vs. John Cena Title Match

Bobby Lashley is among the first of the modern black wrestlers whose athletic ability, not the color of his skin, was paramount. Lashley was and remains to be one of the most physically gifted performers of his time. With unbelievable strength and agility Lashley effortlessly rose up the ranks of the WWE. Though no longer with WWE Lashley continues to break down boundaries and rise to formally unattainable heights. This match is one of Lashley’s very best in WWE.

Tag Team Match – “Never Before, Never Again” (WATCH)
The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth ) vs. John Cena & The Rock
WWE Survivor Series 2011November 20, 2011

After a stint in the WWF as “K-Kwik” (1999 – 2002) Ron Killings ended up in NWA-TNA where “The Truth” found moderate success. Killings returned to WWE in 2008 and hasn’t looked back, becoming a United States and Tag Team Champion along the way. The apex of Killings’ career, however, came when WWE selected Killings and Miz to help train with the returning Rock and work Rock’s first match back in 7 and a half years. Rather than perpetrate an unfair, ugly stereotype Killings’ “R-Truth” gimmick is uniquely Ron Killings turned up to 11, as the cliché goes, and presents a positive role model to young children everywhere no matter their color or background.

NXT Women’s Championship – “Fatal Four-Way Match” (WATCH)
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bayley vs. Charlotte(c)
NXT TakeOver: RivalFebruary 11, 2015

WWE - Sasha Banks Winning NXT Women's Championship

Sasha Banks isn’t the first black women’s wrestler in WWE but, at the age of 24, Banks is without question one of the very best. Banks’ timing and athleticism are nearly unparalleled in WWE setting the former NXT Women’s Champion apart from nearly every other woman on the WWE roster. This match, an instant classic, saw Sasha finally break through, claiming the title that had eluded “The Boss” for so long.

Final Thoughts

These are only ten of the best and most influential black wrestlers to be found on the WWE Network but they are by no means the only ones. Black wrestlers, while suffering indignities few can even imagine, managed to transform the business and what it means to be a professional wrestler. For their struggles and disappointments, their triumphs and victories we celebrate their dedication to the sport of professional wrestling, a sport they left far better off than when they found it.

WWE - The Rock Wrestling R-Truth

That’s it for this week’s TBT on WDN – thanks for reading! Are you a WWE Network subscriber? Then check out these matches, see them for yourself, and let us know what you think below.

Until next week, see ya at ringside!

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6 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Anan says:

    “These are only ten of the best and most influential black wrestlers to be found on the WWE Network but they are by no means the only ones. ”

    Accurate way as any to sum up any list such as this one where you pick a handful of selections among many. Benoit/Booker T Best of Seven (later redone in WWE as Best of Five) Series, Bobby Lashley vs Booker T – KOTR 2006 Finals, would have fit here too. But for the 10 that are chosen, I’m sure they are as great as any though I’m not familiar wth all of them.

    I’m quite surprised Ron Simmons’ World Title win over Big Van Vader isn’t on the list though, surely that’s as deserving as any on a wrestling list centering on Black history.

    Junk Yard Dog vs. “Hacksaw” Butch Reed(c)
    Mid-South Wrestling • October 26, 1983
    Only question I have for this is are “Hacksaw” and “The Natural” Butch Reed the same person?

    Ahmed Johnson vs Goldust – Agree with everything you said here. I don’t think WWF used Farrooq Aasad well. Had they did, they would’ve had their next black superstar right there. But I’m glad they brought Ahmed in as it just allowed the WWF roster to be more diverse with more blacks. Ahmed, I liked his intensity. Aside from his match(es) with Taker because Taker can make just about anyone look good, Goldust was probably Johnson’s best WWF match from my view. The only thing I didn’t like about Ahmed is his promos because I found it hard to understand him. He did an interview with Jim Ross on the King of the Ring 1996 Free For All and of all the times he spoke, this was the only time I ever actually understood him start to finish.

    Scorpio vs Jericho – I’m a fan of both men, both great workers. If you wanna see a great Scorpio wrestling matches, specifically in ECW, his matches with Jericho, Malenko or Eddy Guererro are must sees and either of thos matches would have fit this list well.

    The Godfather & D’Lo Brown vs. The Big Boss Man & Buchanan

    I don’t think the Papa Shango character was horrendous considering when it was active. It just wasn’t used well. His biggest feud was Warrior and everything in that feud was Warrior’s idea. Considering the clash of characters, Shango would’ve been a great feud for Taker and knowing how deathly Taker’s character was at the time, Taker would have been the perfect one to put the Shango character to eternal rest. I liked the character and often miss it. I prefer it over the Godfather, his most popular gimmick. I don’t like the Godfather, the whole pimp, ho thing….disrespectful portrayal and use of women. Don’t remember this match from WM2000. Not saying it doesn’t belong here. But his win on Smackdown over HHH few weeks prior to WM2000 or one of his tag or IC title wins would have worked too, probably better even.

    Cena vs Lashley – Lashley was a great challenge for John Cena. Don’t think it’ll happen, but wanna see Lashley vs Lesnar in WWE in a mega high profile match. Lashley has other challenges waiting for him in WWE too if he ever returns there.

    Cena & Rock vs Truth & Miz – Wasn’t a fan of the direction of Truth’s character at this point. But he was part of the closing match at a PPV that took place from MSG. That’s got to be a career highlight for him. He deserves a hell of a lot better than what WWE gave him as K-Kwik and as R-Truth. He had better days in TNA.

    Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bayley vs. Charlotte(c) – Either this or Sasha vs Baylet, TakeOver: Respect, would’ve been perfect fits for this list. This one because Sasha Banks, a black superstar won. But the aforementioned match would have worked too because the same black superstar made history by closing out a TakeOver event with a WOmen’s Title defense contested in an Iron (Wo)Men match and despite the fact that she didn’t retain the gold, it’s the most talked about match still and currently she’s off to better things such as (reportedly) going after the Divas Title at WM32.

    Nice selections 🙂

    • Anan says:

      Sorry. Forgot to say with Daniel Bryan now officially retired, I suggest the next Throwback be fittingly dedicated to him. He deserves it.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello, Anan. First, yes, “Hacksaw” Butch Reed and “The Natural” Butch Reed are the same person. The name change in WWE was, if I remember right, to make sure they didn’t have two “Hacksaw’s” with Jim Duggan. I could be wrong. Thank you for the kind words, this was not an easy article to compile given the lack of content on the Network in certain areas. In respect to the WM 2000 match, the desire wasn’t necessarily to show how great of a worker he was, he wouldn’t be on the list if he weren’t, but how popular he was.

      Lastly, in response to your suggestion about a DB TBT, the news came too late in the week for me to do the proper job his career requires. As it was the original TBT scheduled for this week was bumped for another current events themed Tribute. Rest assured a Daniel Bryan TBT will certainly be in the works when the time is right. His birthday is in May, after all. Thanks for the input, as always. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. As always, take care.

  2. Jeff Copeland says:

    kinda sucks johnson and lashley really never got to there potential in wwe.

    i think they were pushed to hard to fast and it sorta just back fired.

    i did enjoy lashley in ecw his feud with the mcmahons and UUUUMMMAAAGGAA!!! was fun.

    i think lashley going to raw was a mistake and i think he needed few more months on ecw still or even going back to smackdown.

    i thought cena lashley gab 07 was i think lashleys best match and for a week or 2 i thought bobby was gonna win and worst part is at gab 07 he debues his hell be calling your name, BTW KICK ASS SONG!! xD :D.

    so over all johnson is injuries caught up with him and weight and then hes just been bad mouthing people last few years so that has not helped.

    i think tna really helped lashley and made him a legit main evener and i enjoyed his 2014 world title reign as the BOSS!!! bobby lashley if you have not seen any of his 2014 title defenses vs jeff hardy or austin aries or eric young or bobby roode YOU SHOULD!!

    thats my thoughts on johnson and Bobby Lashley

    • Brock Allen says:

      I agree, Jeff, that for both it was too much, too soon. In respect to Lashley, I thought he was at his best in ECW during his feud with Big Show. But that just didn’t pan out. Two great talents that often get overlooked. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Take care!

      • Jeff Copeland says:

        i think if lashley would of gone to ecw sooner then the big show feud could of lasted bit longer, but at that time his health was just so bad.

        i think that time 07 08 going to raw was a death senteance for lashley and mr.kennedy and london and kendrick and few others.

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