Whether intentional or not, professional wrestling has always been primarily performed by white men and women. If you look at the roster of most top wrestling promotions in the West, or look at who are top wrestlers over the history of the sport, not many of them are black. So today I thought we’d shine a light on those that have helped pave the way for black Superstars in the future. Here are the top 10 black wrestlers of all time.
10. Sasha Banks
While maybe not the greatest wrestler of all time from the standpoint of sheer ability, although she is still a terrific wrestler, Sasha Banks helped pave the way for the Women’s Revolution, a movement that helped change women’s wrestling from being two-minute bathroom breaks to WrestleMania main events. Sasha Banks is one of the most iconic and influential women’s wrestlers of the last 20 years and her importance will be felt for decades to come in the industry, along with the Boss being a 7-time Women’s Champion in WWE.
9. Kofi Kingston
At WrestleMania 35 Kofi Kingston became the first full black wrestler to win the WWE Championship in a truly iconic moment. Since then we have seen two more black Superstars become WWE Champion, which is huge considering the only previous black Superstar to win the title was The Rock who last held the championship in 2002 during his main run and a short time in 2013.
R-Truth has been a star in any company he finds himself in for over 20 years, although most of his time has been spent in WWE. Although never reaching main event status in the WWE, R-Truth has enjoyed a lot of success, especially with his entertaining run as the 24/7 champion, being the only reason the title is even remotely good.
7. Mark Henry
The World’s Strongest Man isn’t a gimmick for Mark Henry, he actually won the tournament before stepping into the ring. Over his 20+ year career, he has been a key part of the WWE roster, paving the way for future black stars by becoming the first full black world champion in WWE by winning the ECW Championship in 2008, followed by the World Heavyweight Championship in 2011.
6. Junkyard Dog
Junkyard Dog was the first wrestler to become a top star in a promotion, selling out arenas and having fantastic matches with the top stars of the 80s, with JYD being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004. While Junkyard Dog didn’t win too many championships, he opened the doors for many future black wrestlers by being one of the most popular stars in the entire wrestling industry.
5. Rocky Johnson
Rocky Johnson is the father of The Rock, marrying into the legendary Samoan Anoa’i wrestling family. During his career in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Rocky Johnson won numerous NWA championships, both singles and tag team, although he never won the main NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Along with Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson became the first black Tag Team Champions in WWE in 1983.
4. Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin was part of the same OVW class that included the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and Batista. When he debuted in WWE he became part of Kurt Angle’s Team Angle stable, immediately putting him in the spotlight. Perhaps one of the most underrated Superstars in WWE, Benjamin spent most of his career in the mid-card, but consistently puts on high-quality matches and has incredible athletic ability. A clip of Shelton Benjamin and Shawn Michaels became legendary when HBK hit a Sweet Chin Music on Benjamin as he performed a springboard into the ring. For newer fans, I would say he was the Ricochet of the previous era.
3. Booker T
The five-time WCW Champion is arguably one of the greatest performers of all time, with a very hard-hitting style while still being incredibly agile. Booker T is a performer that you always know in the back of your mind that he’s good, but when you go back and watch a match you realize just how great he was. I have watched quite a few Booker T matches recently while creating content for the website and every time I am reminded why he is the five-time WCW Champion and why he has the status that he does in the industry.
2. Ron Simmons/Farooq
In 1992 while wrestling in WCW, Ron Simmons became the first black world champion in wrestling history, defeating Big Van Vader on WCW’s Main Event show. It is quite astonishing that in the previous 40+ years, no recognized World Championship had been held by a black man, making this way iconic and so important for the industry, which helped paved the way for generations to come, especially for stars such as Booker T and The Rock who would also go on to become champions throughout the 1990s.
1. The Rock
Finally at number 1 is The Rock. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a 10-time World Champion, yet was never credited as the first black WWE Champion until fairly recently when the spotlight was put on the fact following Kofi Kingston’s win. The Rock is both black and Samoan, with his father being the legendary Rocky Johnson, who we’ve also discussed on this list, and his mother being part of the Anoa’i wrestling family, which includes the likes of Peter Miavia, Yokozuna, Rikishi, and Roman Reigns. The Rock is the most decorated black World Champion in wrestling history, as well as being the most iconic, having done pretty well for himself in Hollywood, you may have seen one of his movies before. Whether inside the ring or in Hollywood, the over 20 years The Rock has shown the world why he is the “most electrifying man in all of entertainment”.
*Shout out to Koko B. Ware