There have been many amazing African American wrestlers through the years, and wrestling has been a land of equal opportunity; but it hasn’t always been so. Long, long before we could have a Rocky Johnson or Tony Atlas, we had to have one man, the man who made wrestling a land of equal opportunity. Wrestling’s Jackie Robinson, he faced a giant barrier, but, that barrier was largely broken by one man….Bobo Brazil.
Trained by Joe Savoldi after meeting him at matches in the Naval armory, is name was made as a misprint, and he went from “Boo-Boo Brazil” to Bobo Brazil, but his career was anything but a misprint. Early in his career, segregation was very active and Bobo was booked exclusively against other African American wrestlers, but Bobo was very popular with the fans. Promoters started booking him more against opponents of any race, because he drew in fans.
Bobo put on matches against such notables as Killer Kowalski, Johnny Valentine, Dick the Bruiser, and The Sheik, even challenging Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship. Probably the crowning jewel of this trailblazing career came on October 18, 1962 when Bobo Brazil became the first African American wrestler to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship by defeating “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rodgers, though Ron Simmons is usually named the first African American World Champion. Brazil did successfully win the title, but this change was not recognized by the NWA.
Brazil further broke the racial barrier on October 9, 1970 when he and El Mongol defeated Mr. Ito and The Great Ota in the first racially mixed match in Atlanta. Bobo mentored the great Rocky Johnson, father of The Rock. He was managed by the first African American man to be in charge of a major American arena,James Dudley; an after 4 decades of wrestling Bobo retired in 1993, the end of a trailblazing career. When one thinks of all the excellent African American history in wrestling, they ought not forget the barrier breaker, Bobo Brazil.
All pictures credited to WWE or PWI (Pro Wrestling Illustrated)