Saturday, February 4, 2012

Black History Month: Ron Simmons

Damn! It's me and Ron Simmons
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Before he was yelling "Damn!" in outrageous situations, Ron Simmons was kicking ass and taking names inside the squared circle.  My first memories of Simmons come during the last days of the NWA before the company officially became WCW.  Simmons was a face, mid card at best at the time.  Then he got repackaged as a member of the tag team Doom along with Butch Reed.

The two debut in black tights and masks at the first Halloween Havoc.  It wasn't long before they shot up the tag team ranks and won the titles.  But all good things must come to an end, and the team eventually split with Simmons becoming a face.  It was during this time that he started getting a push and challenge Lex Luger for the WCW title at Halloween Havoc 91.  He came up short that time, but the following summer he'd win the title from Vader.  Simmons became the first black world heavyweight champion in all of wrestling.  It was quite a feat, but one that was poorly booked.

As WCW champ (WWE)
I'm pretty sure most would agree his world title run was less than desirable.  His opponents were most mid card guys who you knew would never win the gold.  For example, his opponent at Halloween Havoc 92 was the Barbarian.  Yes, really the Barbarian was given a WORLD TITLE shot on PPV.  Anyway, he dropped the title back to Vader.  He left the company in 94 and headed to ECW.  My only memory of him there was being assaulted by the giant 9-1-1.  (anyone remember him?)

Nice helmet...
Soon, he ended up in the WWF but completely repackaged as Faarooq Asaad.  It was odd seeing him under a new name and in such a lame outfit.  Take a look at the pic and you'll understand.  Simmons was managed briefly by Sunny and feuded with Ahmed Johnson.  It didn't take long for Faarooq to change his outfit and alter the gimmick a bit, becoming an angry black man and leading a band of fellow African Americans in the Nation of Domination.  But actually before Kama, D'Lo Brown, Mark Henry, and the Rock joined; it was Crush and Savio Vega.  Still not sure how that worked, but oh well.

Faarooq turned face when the Rock took over the Nation.  It was a relatively lack luster run in the WWF until he joined forces with Bradshaw and became known as the Acolytes.  Eventually they'd turn face after working with the heel Undertaker.  They'd also change their team name to the APA (Acolyte Protection Agency) and were booked as a couple of tough thugs who took care of business.  This incarnation of Simmons was my favorite.  I enjoyed the work he and Bradshaw did together.  The two worked well as a tag team and won the titles on more than one occasion.

APA (from WWE)
But like Reed, Bradshaw too would leave Simmons.  I'm not sure if they ever actually feuded as it seemed like Simmons retired shortly after the time they started pushing JBL.  He then came back from time to time shouting "Damn!" after bizarre situations arose back stage or in the ring.  I had the chance to meet Ron at Wrestlemania 22 Fan Axxess.  He was very nice and took a few minutes to pose for pictures with me and my friends, even though he wasn't one of the "featured" members of the panel.

Ron Simmons no doubt paved the way for other black wrestlers, as Booker T and the Rock each won multiple world titles themselves.  I think it's only a matter of time before he's inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, an honor he certainly deserves.

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