Mr. Wrestling II

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Mr. Wrestling II
Birth name John Francis Walker[1][2]
Born (1934-09-10) September 10, 1934 (age 81)[3]
Charleston, South Carolina, United States[3]
Residence Mililani, Hawaii, United States[2]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) The Grappler[1]
Johnny Walker
Mr. Wrestling
Mr. Wrestling II[1]
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[4]
Billed weight 247 lb (112 kg)[4]
Billed from Atlanta, Georgia
Trained by Tony Morelli
Pat O'Connor
Debut 1955[4]
Retired 1989[2]

John Francis "Johnny" Walker (born September 10, 1934) is an American retired professional wrestler, better known by the ring name Mr. Wrestling II He is best known for his appearances with Championship Wrestling from Florida and Georgia Championship Wrestling in the 1970s and early 1980s.[4][2]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (1956–1964)[edit]

Walker was trained by Tony Morelli and Pat O'Connor. He debuted in 1955 under the ring name Johnny Walker.[4]

After debuting as a wrestler, Walker spent a good portion of his early career (approximately from the late 1950s to the 1960s) as journeyman wrestler Johnny "Rubberman" Walker, a mainstay of Houston promoter Paul Boesch. Boesch gave him the nickname due to his flexibility.[2]

Walker retired in 1964.[3]

The Grappler (1967–1972)[edit]

Walker broke his retirement in 1967. In the early 1970s, Walker wrestled on the independent circuit in Florida under a mask as "The Grappler".[1]

Mr. Wrestling II (1972–1989)[edit]

In 1972, Walker was semi-retired and running a gas station in Tennessee. The Georgia promoter, Paul Jones, and his booker Leo Garibaldi asked for him to return to wrestling as the masked Mr. Wrestling II.[2] Introduced originally as the partner of the original Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods), Walker would take his place in many instances. Eddie Graham, the owner of the NWA Florida promotion, was also a part owner of the Georgia promotion. Graham was sending talent back and forth between the two promotions, due to the promotional war which occurred in Atlanta over a dispute with Ray Gunkel's widow Ann Gunkel and her "outlaw promotion" All-South Wrestling Alliance.

Walker as Wrestling II became an immediate top draw and legend for the territory, leading to ten reigns as the Georgia Heavyweight Champion. During Walker's time in Georgia as Wrestling II, he was considered one of the top five most popular wrestlers in the United States.[5] He also attracted a high-profile fan in Jimmy Carter, at the time the governor of Georgia (see below)

While most of his career during the 1970s and 1980s was focused on the southeastern corner of the United States, he also made a prominent appearance in Mid-South Wrestling during 1983 and 1984 as the coach and mentor of a young wrestler named Terry Allen. Vignettes aired on television, hosted by either Reisor Bowden or Jim Ross, in which Wrestling II was shown away from the ring with T.A. discussing his philosophy in taking on a rising young star in the role of a "coach" or showing training sessions with the two. As a tag team, they also won the promotion's tag team title from Butch Reed and Jim Neidhart on December 25, 1983.

Subtle seeds of resentment were planted along the way, which led to the pair splitting and feuding. Wrestling II turned his back on T.A. in a tag team match against The Midnight Express, which saw T.A. bloodied. On the following week's program, Wrestling II threw in the towel to cost T.A. the match while he was participating in the tournament for the promotion's television title, claiming that T.A. was too badly cut to continue. Wrestling II had previously won the North American Championship from the departing Junkyard Dog, which T.A. won from him in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 13, 1984.

Hawai'i Championship Wrestling[edit]

Mr. Wrestling II was the director of talent relations for Hawai'i Championship Wrestling. On October 13, 2007, he came out of retirement and won the HCW Kekaulike Heritage Tag Team Championship with Mr. Wrestling 3, II's protégé.

Legacy[edit]

Jimmy Carter, the governor of Georgia and later president of the United States during Wrestling II's 1970s heyday, considered him to be his favorite wrestler, as well as his mother's favorite. Walker was invited to Carter's inauguration, but in the end declined the invitation.[6] The United States Secret Service insisted that Walker appear unmasked for security reasons. Due to his popularity at the time under the mask, he couldn't justify the possible ramifications of his identity being exposed. Wrestling II did, however, on several occasions enjoy a private audience with Lillian Carter. He faced scrutiny from the Secret Service on these occasions as well, but they went off without incident.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Walker's wife, Olivia, was a seamstress and costume maker. Many of her clients were country music performers including Porter Wagoner. During an interview, Ric Flair stated that many of his robes were made by her.

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

He and Tony Atlas did win the NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) at one time. However, the reign and win aren't official nor are they recognized.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Terry Funk; Scott E. Williams; Mick Foley (2006). Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-59670-159-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mooneyham, Mike (July 24, 2011). "Mr. Wrestling 2 was No. 1 in hearts of fans". The Post and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina: Evening Post Industries. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d John Grasso (6 March 2014). Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Scarecrow Press. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-8108-7926-3. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Harris M. Lentz III (1 January 2003). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling, 2d ed. McFarland. pp. 238–. ISBN 978-0-7864-1754-4. 
  5. ^ "Masked in USA - Mr Wrestling II". WrestleHistory.com. 
  6. ^ Martin, Adam (2007-01-22). "'Mr. Wrestling II' Johnny Walker Interview: Talks about his early career". WrestleView.com. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  7. ^ Dave Meltzer; Bret Hart (January 2004). Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Professional Wrestlers. Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 185–. ISBN 978-1-58261-817-3. 
  8. ^ a b c Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4. 
  9. ^ Meltzer, Dave (2012-11-17). "Sat. update: Great TV show, WWE multiple releases, Austin talks WWE Hall of Fame, Best night for Bellator, PPV predictions, NWA Hall of Fame, James Storm headlines benefit show, Devitt takes another title". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  10. ^ Royal Duncan and Gary Will (2000). "Tennessee: U.S. Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. p. 194. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4. 
  11. ^ "NWA United States Tag Team Title (Mid-America)". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ Caldwell, James (2013-11-26). "News: Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame announces 2014 HOF class". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  13. ^ Mid-Atlantic Title History

External links[edit]