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FN legend Spotlight: Junkyard Dog

The name Sylvester Ritter may not stand out to many people, if anyone at all. But one name that does is Junkyard Dog or JYD for short. A native of North Carolina Sylvester Ritter’s first sport of choice was football. Dominating the offensive line in high school he continued that success into college. A two time honorable mention All American at Fayetteville State University he tried to translate his skills to the professional level. Unfortunately a knee injury cut that dream short. He never played a snap after being cut in the offseason. But a new career was waiting for the man that would Thump his way into the hearts of the fans. Debuting in the Tennessee territory in 1976 working for Jerry Jarrett. In December of 1978 Ritter tasted his first championship success in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling. Capturing the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship under the name Big Daddy Ritter. He would win it again July of 1979 but would only hold it for 15 days. From there he would move on to NWA Mid South Wrestling in the early 1980s. That’s where Booker “Cowboy” Bill Watts would give him the name Junkyard Dog. With his signature dog collar and chain with his white boots JYD would go on to face some of the biggest heels the company had to offer. Most notably against the Fabulous Freebirds. The feud with the Freebirds would see them blind JYD with hair cream causing him not be able to see his newborn daughter. The Freebirds ended up needing police escorts in and out of arenas due to the heat garnered from the angle. The feud culminated with JYD defeating P.S. Michael Hayes in a steel cage dog collar match. The show had 31,000 fans in attendance to see JYD get his revenge. JYD went on to feud with former tag team partner and friend Ted Dibiase over the Mid-Soth North American Championship. This would lead to a Loser Leave Town for 90 days match, which JYD would lose. Following the loss a masked man resembling JYD in stature named Stagger Lee would emerge. He would go on to defeat Ted Dibiase for the championship and later vacate it when he left the territory. Coincidentally the same time that the loser leaves town stipulation expired. Upon his return JYD would once again regain the Mid South North American Championship, a title he would hold on 5 different occasions. One of his most brutal feuds came against Butch Reed. Everything from ghetto street fights to dog collar matches as well as steel cage matches. During that feud he would catch the eye of the then World Wrestling Federation(WWF). He would go on to debut for the WWF in August of 1984 on Georgia Championship Wrestling defeating Max Blue. He would go on to wrestle with the WWF until 1988. During that time he would compete at Wrestlemania I defeating then Intercontinental Champion Greg Valentine via disqualification, so he didn’t win the title. He would however compete in The Wrestling Classic Tournament, which was the WWF’s second ever PPV after Wrestlemania I, defeating Macho Man Randy Savage in the main event to win the 16 man tournament. He also feuded with numerous notable names during his time in the WWF. The likes of King Harley Race, The Funk Brothers, Adrian Adonis and Rick Rude. He would lose to Rude at Summerslam 1988 via disqualification and leave the company in November of the same year. On December 7th 1988 he would debut for NWA/WCW at Clash of Champions IV coming to the aid of Ivan Koloff. He would have his debut match shortly after at a tv taping against Trent Knight. He would also go on to win a $50,000 bunkhouse battle royal in a dark match after Starrcade 88. For the first part of 1989 he teamed with Ivan Koloff and ironically Michael Hayes(the man that “blinded” him back in Mid South) against the Russian Assassins. He would face and defeat an old nemesis in the form of Butch Reed at Clash of the Champions VI in April of 89. A year later in May of 1990 he defeated Mean Mark Callous(went on to become The Undertaker) in 39 seconds and from there he was thrust into the main event in a championship feud with Ric Flair over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. After gaining multiple non title house show victories over Flair, he went to face him for the championship at Clash of the Champions XI. JYD would win the match but via disqualification so no title change took place. At Great American Bash 1990 he would form the Dudes with Attitude with Sting, El Gigante, Paul Orndorff, Lex Luger and the Steiner Brothers to take on the 4 Horsemen. In the fall of the same year he would feud with Arn Anderson over the Television Championship. He would defeat Anderson on three separate occasions in non title matches at house shows in under 10 seconds but never captured the title. His first taste of WCW gold came in February of 1991 when he won the WCW Six Man Tag Team Championship alongside Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich becoming the inaugural champions. They would hold the titles till June of that year which would end up being the longest title reign in the championships short history. They would lose the titles to the Freebirds and JYD would leave the promotion in August. He would later return at SuperBrawl II in February of 1992. Once again coming to the rescue, this time for Ron Simmons. He spent the remainder of his time in the promotion in different miscellaneous tag teams until he left for good in the summer of 1993. He continued to wrestle here and there and even wrestling ECW’s 1988 Wrestlepalooza a month prior to his death. Throughout his career, like many others in that time, he struggled with substance abuse. Sylvester Ritter(Junkyard Dog) tragically lost his life in a single car accident on June 1st 1998 at the age of 45 in Mississippi while returning from his daughter’s high school graduation in North Carolina. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 and will be forever remembered by wrestling fans as the King of New Orleans.

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