Black History Month: DAMN! The Legacy of Ron Simmons

Within the history of Professional Wrestling, there have been many world champions of different races and nationalities. Anyone can win the ROH Championship or the WWE Championship and any other championship they’re booked to win. Jay Lethal instantly comes to mind, with his historic Ring of Honor World Championship run. That, however, wasn’t always the case. The World Title wasn’t officially won by an African American until August of 1992 at a WCW House Show when Ron Simmons made history, defeating Vader for the Championship. While Bobo Brazil won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship decades ago, it wasn’t recognized by the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), making Simmons the first champion officially.

While Simmons also compete for  MCW, OVW, ECW, and WWF/E, but his most noteworthy work was in WCW. Simmons joined Jim Crockett Promotions (WCW), in 1987, and appeared on the first Great American Bash where defeated The Tahitian Prince. Simmons was only wrestling on a preliminary level that summer, but on August 7, Simmons scored a huge victory over Ivan Koloff. Five days later, he defeated a young Rodney Anoa’i, later known as WWE Hall of Famer, “Yokozuna”.

Simmons’ first television angle began on the October 24th episode of Power Pro Wrestling when he was attacked by Tiger Conway Jr. and Shashka Watley  (try saying that five times fast) during an interview. Simmons remained undefeated in singles action until February 14, 1988 when Ivan Koloff defeated him at a House Show in Omni. Simmons was dominant at house shows until he went on his first losing streak to Mike Rotundo.

In early 1989, Simmons turned heel by breaking the rules during what was supposed to be a face vs. face match against Junkyard Dog (a wrestler also to be covered this month). Simmons won the match when the referee, Ron’s future manager, Teddy Long made a fast 3-count. Long was fired as referee by Jim Herd immediately following this match. Simmons later teamed up with Butch Reed to form Doom. In the beginning, the members of Doom were masked and only known as Doom #1 and Doom #2 and managed by Woman. In the “Iron Team Tournament” at Starrcade 1989, Doom finished fourth, losing all three of their matches. Doom’s misfortune continued as Woman soon dropped the team to manage the The Four Horsemen. Then, on February 6, 1990, Doom hit rock bottom when they were defeated by Rick and Scott Steiner and as a result of the stipulation were forced to unmask.

With new manager Long, they rebounded and defeated The Steiner Brothers for the NWA World Tag Team Championship at Capital Combat in 1990. They held the title for a lengthy nine months, defeating teams like The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and feuding with The Four Horsemen. Among their most memorable encounters during their title reign was a street fight against Arn Anderson and Barry Windham at Starrcade 1990 which ended in a no-contest when Windham pinned Simmons while Reed simultaneously pinned Anderson. Doom were recognized as the first holders of the WCW World Tag Team Championship in January 1991, finally losing the titles to The Freebirds at WrestleWar in February 1991.

Subsequently, Doom broke up, with Simmons turning face and feuding with Reed, defeating him in a cage match at the very first SuperBrawl. Simmons defeated midcarders including Oz and The Diamond Studd, then unsuccessfully challenged Lex Luger for the World Heavyweight Championship at Halloween Havoc, losing the best-of-three-falls match one fall to two. Simmons spent the first half of 1992 feuding with Cactus Jack, whom he defeated via pinfall at SuperBrawl II.

On August 2, 1992 at a house show in Baltimore, Maryland, a scheduled title match between Sting and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader was canceled after Jake Roberts, kayfabe, injured Sting. WCW President Bill Watts responded by holding a raffle to determine the number one contender. Simmons won the raffle and defeated Vader with a snap scoop power-slam to win the championship. By defeating Vader, Simmons became the first recognized African American WCW World Heavyweight Champion and the second African American wrestler to win a World Heavyweight Championship.

Simmons held the title for five months. At Starrcade, Simmons was scheduled to wrestle Rick Rude, but due to Rude being injured he faced “Dr. Death” Steve Williams instead, wrestling to a double count-out that was changed to a disqualification win for Simmons when Williams attacked him after the match. His title reign ended two days later on December 30, 1992, when Vader defeated him to regain the title.

Afterwards, Simmons was relegated to mid-card status, eventually becoming a bitter heel who felt like the fans abandoned him after he lost the championship. Simmons unsuccessfully challenged Dustin Rhodes for the United States Heavyweight Championship and Paul Orndorff for the World Television Championship during his last months with WCW. His final match was a win over Scott Armstrong on the September 10th, 1994 edition of WCW Worldwide.

Following a very brief stint in ECW, Simmons joined the WWF and made his debut on the July 22, 1996, episode of Raw. His first gimmick was that of Faarooq Asad, a gladiator who wore a black and blue gladiator outfit with a misshaped helmet and was managed by Sunny. Simmons started his first feud with Ahmed Johnson before shortening his ring name to Faarooq. The feud was started when Faarooq attacked Ahmed during a tag team match where Johnson was teaming with Shawn Michaels against the Smoking Gunns.

As Ahmed was outside the ring, Faarooq appeared and assaulted him, as a result of the injuries Ahmed suffered he was forced to forfeit the Intercontinental title. The title was put up for grabs in a tournament where Faarooq lost in the final to Marc Mero.

Farooq dropped the Gladiator gimmick and Sunny and picked up Clarence Mason and formed one of he most dominant stables in WWF history, the Nation of Domination. The Nation feuded with Ahmed Johnson which culminated in a match at WrestleMania between the Nation of Domination and Ahmed Johnson and the Legion of Doom, Ahmed and the Legion took the win in Farooq’s ‘Mania debut. Farooq was eventually kicked out of the stable which was falling apart anyways.

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After being kicked from the Nation, Farooq feuded with The Rock but failed to in the Intercontinental Title from him. He briefly teamed with 2 Cold Scorpio afterwards. But, in late 1998, he began teaming with Bradshaw as The Acolytes, a violent tag team that displayed occult symbolism on their rights and chests. The Acolytes were managed by Jackyl until he left the WWF and then were reintroduced as part of The Ministry of Darkness.

The Acolytes enjoyed two short tag team Championship reigns with the Ministry before it was disbanded. Simmons and Bradshaw were repackaged as brawlers who loved drinking beer and smoking cigars, as well as playing cards and pranking the lockerroom. Bradshaw started offering the services of the Acolytes as mercenaries, leading to the renaming of the team to The Acolytes Protection Agency, shortened to APA. The APA defeated the Dudley Boys for their third reign but lost a month later to  DDP and Chris Kanyon.

In Simmons’ last WWE storyline, he was fired by former SmackDown! General Manager Paul Heyman after the APA lost another match for the Tag Team Championship. It was assumed the APA would be fired, but it turned out to only be Faarooq. Simmons retired from his in-ring career, accusing Bradshaw of not being a faithful friend in storyline. In reality, Simmons, who had been planning to retire due to his health and age and become a backstage agent for the company, was let go the day this angle aired on SmackDown.

Ron Simmons was and is a very important important figure in the storied history of professional wrestling. Whether you want to look at his WCW World Heavyweight Championship win, his stint with the Nation of Domination, or his longstanding team of the APA with JBL, you’ll find Simmons’ imprint in wrestling as both a singles wrestler and a tag team wrestler.

All Pictures credited to WWE

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