Saturday, November 9, 2013

The King of New Orleans: How the Junkyard Dog Became Professional Wrestling’s First Black Superstar Review

The King of New Orleans: How the Junkyard Dog Became Professional Wrestling’s First Black Superstar

Greg Klein

ECW Press

            Junkyard Dog, real name Sylvester Ritter, was apart of the 1980s professional wrestling boom with Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). He was one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster. But before his run in the WWF, Ritter was making history in New Orleans as wrestling‘s first African-American superstar. 
           The King of New Orleans looks at the life and career of the Junkyard Dog, and how he became a wrestling legend in New Orleans. Written by Greg Klein, who grew up a big fan of JYD, where JYD was wrestling for Mid South Wrestling promotion. This book is much more than a love letter to JYD. You might ask, what made JYD so popular? Easy. He won all of his matches. JYD won all three top titles of the company in a short time period. If he did lose a match, his opponents would always cheat to gain a victory over him. He would fight off any heel(Bad Guy) and the outcome was JYD standing tall. He had great charisma in and out of the ring. All of these factors made JYD a superstar in the eyes of fans, which lead to massive sell-out crowds and making New Orleans the hottest wrestling cities in the early 1980s. The success of JYD was smart booking done by promoter and booker of Mid South Wrestling Bill Watts and booker Ernie Ladd. Both men booked JYD to his strengths. JYD wasn’t a good worker in the ring, but put the best workers(wrestlers) like Butch Reed and Ted DiBiase, in the ring with JYD, to make him look great to fans, which worked. New Orleans has a long and notorious history of racism and oppression. The city was once the largest market in slave trade. When JYD was selling out shows in NOLA, he was able to break the color barrier in wrestling and united the people of city together. But the tale of JYD doesn’t end on a high note. What money he did make in the wrestling business ended up in his nose. Substance abuse caused JYD to broke and wrestling promoters wouldn’t hire him because he missed show dates and be unreliable. Sadly, he died on June 2, 1998, where his car was involved in a single car crash. He fell asleep behind the wheel and his car flipped over multiple times. He suffered a broken neck and was pronounced dead at scene. The JYD story is a very special story. Klein is the perfect writer to tell the JYD story. In other writers hands this book would of feel underwhelm, but in Klein hands it’s magic. He has a great passion for this subject material and the reader can feel it on every page. Klein even went to the streets of New Orleans and interviewed random people about JYD. A lot of people opened up to Klein about their memories and various feuds and matches of JYD. In the prologue(also, towards the end of the book) and on the back cover Klein mention that this book is his mission statement to restore the legacy and memory of the JYD back to the subconscious of wrestling fans and historians. But more importantly to the city of New Orleans. Since his death in 1998, the city has pretty much forgotten him and all of his achievements. JYD is apart of the WWE Hall of Fame and Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, New York. Klein has submitted nomination for JYD to both the Louisiana Sports and North Carolina Hall of Fame for consideration. It’s about one fan re-establishing a forgotten hero to a modern world that missed out his greatness.  
Klein is a gifted writer, and pulls off a compelling biography for both wrestling and non-wrestling fans. The result is a real treat to readers and restores the legacy of Sylvester Ritter in the process.  -Panagiotis Drakopoulos

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