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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Greatest Wrestler To Never Hold The Title
September 21, 2006 by Chris E.


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Hello, my name is Chris, and this is my first column so bare with me, please. Anyway, I've been a wrestling fan for a while now, I've seen wrestlers come and go; guys like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Bruno Sammartino have won titles, and then there are wrestlers who don't always win titles. These wrestlers aren't remembered for their greatness. Out of all these type of wrestlers, I think the wrestler that stands out the most is The Junkyard Dog.

The man known as JYD was born Sylvester Ritter on December 13, 1952. Before entering the world of professional wrestling, he played football at North Carolina's Fayetteville State University where he graduated in 1975. After graduating he spent time in the Green Bay Packers organization. However, his football career was over after having surgery on his knee and back. He then turned to wrestling.

Sylvester Ritter made his wrestling debut in Tennessee for promoter Jerry Jarrett. Eventually, he began wrestling as "Leroy Rochester" for promoter Nick Gulas. Eventually, Ritter left Tennessee to tour Germany. After touring Germany, he joined Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling, under the name "Big Daddy" Ritter. In 1980, Ritter headed for Mid-South Wrestling, where he was given the name The Junkyard Dog. There, he feuded with Jim Duggan, Butch Reed, Tully Blanchard & One Man Gang.

In 1984, Ritter signed with Vince McMahon Jr. to join the World Wrestling Federation. During his time in the WWF, he had some major and memorable matches. At Wrestlemania 1, he wrestled Greg "The Hammer" Valentine for the Intercontinental Championship. JYD won the match, however by count out, thus not winning the title. His biggest success came in late 1985 when he won The Wrestling Classic by defeating "Macho Man" Randy Savage in the finals of the tournament. He also wrestled quite a bit at Saturday Night's Main Event scoring some big wins and teaming with Hulk Hogan. At Wrestlemania II, JYD teamed with Tito Santana to face Terry and Dory Funk, who won the match when Terry Funk pinned JYD. At Wrestlemania III (his last Wrestlemania), he was defeated by "The King" Harley Race, and was forced to bow down to the king, but instead nailed Race with a chair, thus creating a "Wrestlemania Moment." He then formed a short lived tag team with George "The Animal" Steele. At Summerslam 1988 he was defeated by "Ravishing" Rick Rude when Jake "The Snake" Roberts interfered. In August 1988, Ritter left the WWF due to personal problems.

In early 1989, JYD put the boots back on to wrestle with the National Wrestling Alliance. There he scored several wins in non-title matches with then NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair. In May 1989, Ritter was fired from the NWA after no showing for a major live appearance, and later a Pay-Per-View. He then left wrestling for while.

In 1992, Ritter once again put the boots back on for a short stint in World Championship Wrestling, where he was in a group called "Dudes with Attitudes" along with Sting, Lex Luger & Paul Orndorff. After his short stint in WCW, JYD retired from wrestling for good. In May 1998, JYD made his final appearance in the wrestling world at ECW Wrestlepalooza, with along with Bob Armstrong, Dick Slater and Masked Superstar, where he honored as a "hardcore legend" and received thunderous chants of "JYD!"

On June 2, 1998, Sylvester Ritter was killed in a one car accident when he fell asleep at the wheel. He was killed about 11:40 a.m. on Interstate 20 near Forest, Mississippi. He was returning from his daughter's high school graduation in Wadesboro, N.C. He was 45 at the time of his death.

On March 13, 2004, The Junkyard Dog was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, by Ernie Ladd, with his daughter (Latoya Ritter) accepting the honor in place of her father.

In conclusion, there were many wrestlers who came and went, but of all of them The Junkyard Dog stood out and made a huge impact with wrestling fans, including myself. Even though he didn't win any titles he still is a legend in the world of professional wrestling and deserves to be honored for his accomplishments. If he did win a title, he would've been a great champion. JYD...R.I.P.: 1952-1998.

by Chris E...


John Austin wrote:
To Chris E: For this to be your first article ever, you did one HELL of a job. When I wrote my article about some of the greatest wrestlers never to hold a major title, THIS was the kind of reaction I was hoping to inspire from somebody. I was hoping someone which happened to be you, would for one, point out somebody I happened to miss, and also prove without a doubt that the person mentioned was worthy of such accolades. Sylvester Ritter, A.K.A. the Junkyard Dog, was truly a legend before his time, and more than deserving of a title run of some sort. In the 80's JYD was definitely the "next-to" top guy in WWE behind Hogan for quite some time, and Vince McMahon did not capitalize on his popularity as he should have, or even as JYD deserved, which was probably due to his "ethnicity", in my opinion. But that is another story for another time, and McMahon's possible close-mindedness did nothing to tarnish the glow of JYD's legacy. Once again, your article was terrific, and anybody who says otherwise is a moron.
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