WWE Honors Black History Month: Tony Atlas and Bobo Brazil

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Since seeing the Morgan Freeman interview on Black History month, I always think of his comments this time of year – and I totally agree with him. Anywho, the WWE Network has selected some of the greatest black wrestlers ever and offers a special on each of them. We start with a couple Hall of Famers: Tony Atlas and Bobo Brazil.

Your host is Gene Okerlund.

Tony Atlas (WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2006)

They air the video package made for him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He muscled his way through the NWA as one of the first bodybuilders-turned-wrestlers, but *of course* he didn’t become a national star until he came to the WWF. He is the first guy to press slam Hulk Hogan, which looked about as convincing as that time Lex Luger slammed Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid. Atlas is also known for being one half of the first-ever African American tag team champions with Rocky Johnson by defeating the Wild Samoans.

Okerlund gives a brief rundown of how Tony got into the business by first being discovered by Mid-Atlantic championship wrestling booker George Scott. With the help of Larry Sharpe, Atlas was trained and debuted in 1974. Success came easy to Tony and he moved to Georgia Championship Wrestling where again he was quite successful.

From December 1979 on Georgia Championship Wrestling, a very reluctant Gordon Solie stands in between Tony Atlas and Abdullah the Butcher. Tony looks at Abdullah while Abdullah smirks at Tony. Just awesome tension between these two and nobody even has to say a word. In fact, poor Tony Atlas probably shouldn’t talk quite so much anyways. But yeah, Abdullah farts in Tony’s general direction and then walks away. Atlas tells Gordon that the only thing he fears on this planet is death. On Christmas Night, Atlas AIN’T SCARED OF ABDULLAH and he’ll prove it then. If anybody thinks otherwise around here, they can get their butts in the ring with him. FYI: Atlas doesn’t like to get hurt. Just so you know. Money promo from Atlas here.

Back to Okerlund, he tells us that Tony Atlas was such a success that he was able to receive NWA world title shots against the champions at the time like Harley Race and Ric Flair.

From April 1983 on Georgia Championship Wrestling, Gordon Solie is joined by Ole Anderson to explain why boxing champion Ernie Shaver has been scheduled to be the guest referee for the next NWA world title match between champion Ric Flair and Tony Atlas. They show us some footage of a match with Nick Patrick as the ref. Ole – working heel at the time – sides with Flair and considers Solie to be bias towards Atlas and Shaver. We get about three minutes or so of the match, but don’t get a finish to see why we need a boxer referee for the rematch.

Moving onto the WWF as a regular in 1983.

  • No-DQ Match: WWF World Tag Team Champions The Wild Samoans vs. Tony Atlas & Rocky Johnson – (WWF All-Star Wrestling, 12/10/83)

About three minutes cut off this one. We JIP to I would say midway through the heat segment on Rocky Johnson. Why we got a typical heat segment in a NO-DISQUALIFICATION MATCH is beyond me. Even Pat Patterson has to make up a BS excuse for this gameplan. After Rocky fails to get away from the Samoans a few times, they really build to the hot tag until Atlas gets the go-ahead. DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER on the Samoans seems to work. As Atlas swings Afa around for a slam, he knocks the ref over. Meanwhile, Johnson and Sika fall out on the floor. In comes Albano with a wooden chair. Afa grabs Atlas to get drilled, but Atlas moves and Afa gets wiped out. Great moment as Afa wears the chair around his neck. Atlas covers and the ref wakes up to count the pinfall as Atlas and Johnson secure the tag belts. (5:23 shown) Got to love no-DQ matches booked like a regular match, right? Anyways, history is made and that’s what matters. *½

Since Tony and Rocky couldn’t get along in kayfabe and real life terms, they end up losing the tag belts in May of 1984 to the much superior Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis team. Sorry, Tony. As much as I dig the Wild Samoans, that’s the match I would be more interested in seeing. After he left the WWF, Okerlund says Tony Atlas found more gold down in World Class Championship Wrestling. Oh boy.

  • WCWA World Television Champion Superman Tony Atlas vs. Killer Tim Brooks (w/Percy Pringle) – (WCWA TV, 8/29/87)

That date doesn’t seem right, but okay. Tony’s gimmick is exactly what you think it is. Don Gay and Kerry Von Erich are on commentary. Atlas and Brooks play with a headlock to start. Atlas never takes Brooks seriously in this match. Meanwhile, Kerry hypes a Kevin Von Erich and Brian Adias cage match. Short heat segment on Atlas. This feels like that match commentators use to talk up another upcoming events. Press Slam and a SUPERMAN SPLASH by Atlas gets the win. (5:50) Gimmick infringement like crazy. ¾*

After spending some time in WWC and Verne Gagne’s failing AWA promotion, Atlas returned to the WWF as Saba Simba that fans just did not get behind. Yes, it’s our fault you gave him a stupid gimmick. Let’s move on to his WCW tenure during the Bill Watts era.

  • Sting, Ron Simmons, and Dustin Rhodes vs. Cactus Jack, Tony Atlas, and the Barbarian – (WCW Pro, 11/7/92)

Commentators are Eric Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko. Atlas has his MC Hammer pants on tonight. Sting and Cactus start us off. While Sting does a goofy half-serious John Cena shtick to start, early on he has to fight out of the crazy corner. Dustin Rhodes tags in and pounds away. He sneaks a rollup on Cactus for two. Dustin charges into a boot in the corner, but still manages to catch Cactus with a dropkick to send him out to the floor. Back in, Atlas gets a turn. Rhodes is all over him with hiptosses, armdrags, and a dropkick. Time for Simmons and Barbarian. Bischoff calls him the People’s Champion. Barbarian fires first, but Simmons puts him down with a running clothesline. Tag to Sting, he’s quickly turned in *your* face in peril. Pretty vicious stuff as the heels each get a turn. Atlas punishes Sting with a chinlock. When he fights out, Atlas slams Sting only to have his splash hit knees. Barbarian delivers one of his signature nasty backbreakers. Sting earclaps out of a Cactus Jack bearhug and makes the hot tag to Rhodes. The match breaks down for a moment. Atlas comes back in the ring and Rhodes whips him into the ropes for a dropkick, but Atlas puts on the brakes. And that’s all we get. (9:00 shown) Looks like the start of a double-heat match. Good stuff, but nothing to track down. **

After WCW, Tony Atlas tried being a certified bodybuilding trainer, promoting Atlas Championship Wrestling, and even ran a wrestling school up in Maine.

They air Tony’s Hall of Fame speech where he was inducted by SD Jones. It’s about as good as you might think. Since this is basically a 2006 production, there’s no Abraham Washington or Mark Henry moments.

Bobo Brazil (WWE Hall of Fame Class of 1994)

He’s the Jackie Robinson of wrestling. He’s known for his incredible charisma, the Coco Butt, and his legendary battles in the WWWF with “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd. Yeah, but what about his famous matches with the Sheik? Oh that’s right. This is WWE. If it didn’t happen here, it doesn’t matter. Trained by Joe Savoldi and making his debut in 1951, his first promoter misprinted the name Boo-Boo Brazil and called him Bobo Brazil instead, which obviously stuck with him for the rest of his LONG career. Most promoters would never do black versus white matches fearing a possible riot, but Bobo didn’t discriminate and would wrestle any color.

  • Bobo Brazil vs. Fritz Von Erich – (October 1959 – Buffalo, NY)

A rare find for sure. Both men go for dropkicks and shoulderblocks at the same time. Fritz looks for the CLAWHOLD, but Bobo keeps him away with the COCO BUTT. Fritz struggles on the ring apron as Bobo is really giving him a hard time. Bobo runs Fritz into the ringpost and continues to beat up Fritz – even to the point of pushing away the referee, which of course results in a DQ. (3:00 shown) If Fritz wasn’t an evil German guy, there might be a chance of a riot here. Crowd boos the decision though. Afterwards, Bobo continues to COCO BUTT Fritz until Buffalo’s finest even as to step in. Yeah, get that crazy black man out of the ring. Ring announcer has this match clocking in at 12:22. Bobo just WILL NOT QUIT with the Coco Butts. No rating. I love old TV wrestling like this though.

Okerlund expresses that while Bobo Brazil did very well for himself up north in the 1960s, he was still able to draw money down in the south where promotions were still somewhat segregated. They air a Bobo Brazil promo from Championship Wrestling from Florida from the mid-1970s. He wants to see how tough these wrestlers are. Thank you very much.

Finally they mention his battles with the Sheik in a very matter of fact way. They really want to talk about his matches in the 1970s with Ernie Ladd though.

  • WWWF United States Champion Bobo Brazil vs. Bugsy McGraw (w/The Grand Wizard & Ernie Ladd) – (WWWF All-Star Wrestling, 3/20/76)

Vince McMahon mentions how Ernie Ladd and Bobo Brazil have hated each other for years. Ladd sticks around ringside just being a real dick as you never really know what he’s going to do. Anyways, it’s a short little match as Bobo blocks a corner charge with his legs and pops Bugsy on the top of the head. With Bugsy dazed, Bobo delivers the COCO BUTT. As he covers McGraw, Ladd jumps in the ring and breaks up the pin for the DQ. (2:32) Ladd attacks Brazil until the WWWF tag team champs Tony Parisi and Louis Cerdan come out for the save. Vince grabs Bobo for an interview after the smoke clears. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Ernie Ladd will pay for what he’s done here. Bobo thanks his friends for coming out to help him. What a guy!

  • Bobo Brazil vs. Bruiser Brody – (Madison Square Garden, 11/22/76)

Bobo is serious about getting a clean break from Brody to start. From there, they trade off working each other over with bearhugs. It’s all very slow work. Brazil is 25 years into his career and Brody is about three years into his career. Oh, now Brody switches to the arm. You’re just waiting for the Bobo comeback. Vince makes a Clark Gable reference, which is just so weird to hear in 2015. Now Brazil gets a headlock. Shoulderblocks won’t take Brody down, but the COCO BUTT will. Brody stumbles out to the floor. Whoops, the bell rings by accident, I suppose. Back in, Brody corners Bobo and knees him down. Bobo avoids a corner charge though and starts turnbuckle smashing. Brody fights back and tries to smash Bobo’s head on the buckle, but no dice. COCO BUTT. The bell rings again as they go back and forth. Another COCO BUTT sends Brody retreating. (17:04) They call it a 20-minute time limit draw. Not sure who the announcer was though. He seemed like a pretty sleazy 1970s New Yorker. You’d find him at Studio 54 at last call. Anyways, of course Bobo and Brody want five more minutes. ¾*

We now go to Bobo Brazil’s WWF Hall of Fame speech in 1994 where he was inducted by Ernie Ladd of all people. Kayfabe, guys. KAYFABE. Of course, who better than Ernie Ladd to speak on things. The man is an incredible talker. He tells a story about teaming with Bobo in DC in 1964 against the Graham brothers. Just cool stuff. When putting over Bobo has a teacher for the New Generation, Ladd puts over specifically Razor Ramon in his speech. Oddly enough, Bobo doesn’t say a word, but I believe the reason is health-related.

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Posted on February 2, 2015, in NWA, WWE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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