Junkyard Dog (born Sylvester Ritter), was an enormous draw in Mid-South wrestling circles. Known for his charisma and moves, he would often draw crowds of tens of thousands and electrify crowds with his presence.
He was an influential leader of Black wrestlers and made his mark across three different wrestling promotions, leaving a legendary feud with the Fabulous Freebirds as part of history.
Early Life and Education
Sylvester Ritter, better known by his stage name Junkyard Dog, was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina. While in high school he played both football and wrestling. Later graduating from Fayetteville State University with a major in criminology before traveling through Memphis and Germany before eventually coming back home to Calgary with Stu Hart to work with them both on projects together.
At a time when kayfabe was still an integral part of wrestling, JYD became one of the few stars who truly connected with fans like no one before or since. His charismatic persona endeared him to all comers. Even once, there was even an angry fan carrying a gun who tried to shoot JYD while competing.
On June 1, 1998, LaToya died tragically after she and her mother traveled home for her high school graduation ceremony on Interstate 20 near Forest. He died instantly.
Junkyard Dog was an icon of Mid-South Wrestling during his era and earned wide popularity from fans nationwide with his massive frame and charismatic nature, drawing them in from across the country to see his matches. His move there would prove pivotal in cementing that status.
Watts quickly recognized Ritter was special and built his promotion around him. Over his short time with them, Ritter won multiple championships and became an icon among both wrestling fans and non-wrestling enthusiasts alike.
Junkyard Dog’s career began during a period when wrestling was becoming more mainstream; however, the lavish paychecks wrestlers receive today were nonexistent at that point in time; nonetheless he made a decent living from wrestling.
Achievement and Honors
Junkyard Dog became one of the first African-American superstars in professional wrestling during the 1980s, quickly becoming a national figure with his signature in-ring style and engaging rivalries with fellow competitors – most notably with Fabulous Freebirds who blinded him with hair cream before accusing him of not seeing them; fans sent money directly to his promotion in an effort to help.
Junkyard Dog became an integral part of Mid-South Wrestling and laid the groundwork for future black wrestlers to follow his example. His iconic moves such as headbutting and his trademark bodyslam known as thump became fan favorites across all age groups.
Junkyard Dog’s massive frame, unique fighting style and distinct look quickly made him a fan favorite among wrestling fans. Additionally, his groundbreaking feats broke racial barriers in wrestling as he made an indelible mark on this sport.
He worked for three major wrestling organizations during the ’80s, becoming famous for his signature power move, the Junkyard Dog Drop and vicious headbutts. During his WWF tenure he battled notable wrestlers such as Randy Savage and Iron Sheik while later joining NWA World Championship Wrestling where his feuds included King Harley Race, Funk Brothers and Ric Flair.
As an early wrestling star, he never reached the same million-dollar paydays many wrestlers do today, but did consistently have six-figure paydays. Additionally, he was known for giving fans whatever help was necessary and was an upstanding citizen who kept his promises.
Junkyard Dog was an icon in wrestling history, breaking racial barriers while leaving an imprint that will live on for generations to come. While his exact value may remain unknowable in death, his legacy will live on.
Junkyard Dog may never have achieved wrestling’s highest ranks, but his peak years provided enough money for him to live comfortably. Frequently making $12,000 weekly and engaging in a brief feud with Harley Race over the NWA World Championship before retiring in 1993, Junkyard Dog made enough from his career earnings to cover living costs comfortably.
Although it’s impossible to know the precise net worth of a deceased wrestler, an estimate can be made based on contracts signed during his era and according to BuzzLearn his net worth could have ranged anywhere between $150,000 and over $2 Million.