On this day in 1998, the world lost Sylvester Ritter, better known to wrestling fans as The Junkyard Dog after he fell asleep behind the wheel and was involved in an auto accident where he was killed instantaneously. Ritter was merely 45 years old.
In the early 1980s, JYD was one of the biggest draws in wrestling.
Between the uncharted charisma, ability to connect with the fans, Another Bites The Dust theme song and The Thump, JYD was the embodiment of cool and the ultimate babyface, which further fuelled his popularity.
Entering the ring with his trademark chain attached to a dog collar, to the music of Queen‘s “Another One Bites the Dust,” JYD often headlined cards that drew large crowds and regularly sold out the Louisiana Superdome and other major venues, becoming “the first black wrestler to be made the undisputed top star of his promotion”.
WWE author Brian Shields called Junkyard Dog one of the most electrifying and charismatic wrestlers in the country, particularly during his peak in the early 1980s. JYD was most known for his headbutt and upper body strength, the latter of which saw him regularly bodyslam such large wrestlers as the One Man Gang, Kamala, and King Kong Bundy. The word “thump,” which referred to JYD’s powerslam, was prominently displayed on his wrestling trunks.
If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I would highly recommend revisiting many of his moments and matches from Mid-South Wrestling. In Mid-South, he was also the first Black wrestler to be made the top star of an entire wrestling territory.
Junkyard Dog’s grave is located at Westview Memorial Park in Russellville, NC.