Name: Junkyard Dog
Year Inducted: 2012

Junkyard Dog

Few in the professional wrestling business enjoyed a more meteoric rise to stardom than Sylvester Ritter. As the made-for-prime time character “Junkyard Dog,” Ritter became a major box-office attraction only two years into the business and was one of the sport’s top draws during the WWF’s national explosion in the mid-1980s.

“The Dog was not a great technical wrestler, there were a few moves that he did, and he’s never going to go down in history as one of the greatest ring technicians,” said Ted DiBiase. “But I’ll tell ya what, when it comes to charisma and what we call the ‘it’ factor, well he had it. When you talk about a guy with charisma and a guy who can pick up that microphone and appeal to everybody, black, white, you name it, and of course everybody saw that in him.”

The Junkyard Dog, with his full-length red tights with white boots and a dog collar that had a large chain attached to it, was one of the biggest drawing cards in the business from 1980-1986. A 1980 match at the New Orleans Superdome drew 26,000 fans who came to watch a “blinded” JYD battle Michael Hayes in a dog collar match that catapulted him into superstardom. The match solidified his spot as a major attraction until he left the Mid-South promotion in 1984 to work for Vince McMahon and the WWF.

Born December 13, 1953 and raised in Wadesboro, North Carolina, Ritter played football at North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. When the pro game didn’t pan out, he trained to be a wrestler with Sonny King and headed to Tennessee in 1977. He worked as Leroy Rochester and then toured Germany. His first proper territory, with a push, came in the Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling, where he was the heel Big Daddy Ritter.

But it was in the Mid-South territory where he became the Dog and a star.

For the last years of his life, Ritter worked independent shows and worked part-time repossessing cars. He died in a single-car accident on June 2, 1998 on Interstate 20 near Forest, Mississippi. He had been returning home to Magee, Mississippi after having been to his daughter Latoya’s high school graduation in Wadesboro. The name Junkyard Dog, however, will forever assume its spot in pro wrestling history.


- Mike Mooneyham and Greg Oliver

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