A performer who enjoyed immense popularity, this masked wrestler was a mainstay through the southeastern region.
Mr. Wrestling II
Real Name: Johnny Walker
Stats: 5′ 11″ 240 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Unquestionably, a chapter (or two) in any ‘Book of Wrestling’ would have to be dedicated to the tradition of the squared circle’s masked men; those hooded marvels who, despite having their faces completely covered, could inspire great admiration from the fans, incite unyielding hatred, or both. Each of the three major regions of the planet where pro wrestling thrives (U.S.-Canada/North America, Japan/Asia and Mexico/Central America) have historically produced their own individual type of masked man, and this was particularly the case in decades passed. For instance, in Mexico, colorful yet traditional ring gear and extravagant hoods (ala Mil Mascaras) have usually been the hallmark of the masked man, while in Japan, ellaborate costumes and a mask combined with some type of headgear has often been the look of choice. Meanwhile, just as in Mexico and Japan, the North American masked men have traditionally featured several identifiable characteristics of their own, namely, basic mask designs, power & size and, in a few rare cases, an unbreachable code of honor. Certainly, these traits apply to, and essentially define, the man who was perhaps the most popular masked wrestler of all time and the grappler who will forever be remembered as the man that former President Jimmy Carter once cited as being his (and his mother’s) favorite “rassler,” the legendary Mr. Wrestling II…
While the genre of the masked man in modern North American pro wrestling is all but lost, during the fifties, sixties and seventies, masked wrestlers were quite prevailent and very successful, not only in Japan and Mexico (where the hooded wrestler has always been a popular attraction) but also in America and, to a lesser degree, Canada. However, the man who would go on to (arguably) become the most popular masked competitor in U.S. wrestling history originally began his career with an exposed face.
“Rubberman” Johnny Walker was a journeyman heel during the decade of the sixties who, while he certainly enjoyed his share of success, never really made a major impact in any of the various southeastern promotions he wrestled for. However, Walker’s life was forever changed after the famed promotional war in Georgia broke out during the early seventies. When NWA promoter Ray Gunkel broke away from the Alliance and started his own competing promotion in Georgia, he took 95% of the talent roster with him. As a result, a deep void was left for the NWA to fill, which they promptly set about doing by deluging the territory with an influx of new wrestlers…including a new masked man who was introduced as being the protégé of the famous Mr. Wrestling. Clad in heroic white, Walker’s career was truly given new life when he was brought into the promotion as Mr. Wrestling II. Almost immediately, the Georgia fans rallied behind the mysterious new wrestler and his popularity eventually overtook even that of his more established partner. And speaking of his partner…
While they competed as a team exclusively in the south & southeastern portions of the country, the masked duo of Mr. Wrestling I & II still had a lasting impact on the business as a whole, and their popularity was so uniquely strong that, despite being a tag team, they were often placed in the main event of the card.
Featuring exceptional team work, and with each wrestler complimenting the other’s style so well (not to mention their enormous popularity with the fans) the exciting masked duo quickly became one of the most successful teams ever to compete in southern portion of the United States. Indeed, in places such as Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, the Virginias and other states throughout the southeast, the enormous popularity of the rule-abiding yet rugged and talented duo of Mr. Wrestling I & II was virtually unrivaled.
Together, the masked men captured four Georgia Tag Team championships between 1974 and 1980, establishing themselves as one of the most successful and resilient champions in the annals of Georgia tag team wrestling. However, one cannot discuss the championship reigns of Mr. Wrestling I & II in Georgia without noting that three of those four championship victories (and the subsequent defeats) came against the masked team’s arch rivals, “The Minnesota Wrecking Crew” Gene & Ole Anderson. The heroic masked men’s nearly five-year long war against the brawny scientific brawlers from Minnesota has gone down in southern wrestling history as one of the most heated programs ever. To that end, even after Gene Anderson and Mr. Wrestling had moved on from the region, Ole and Mr. Wrestling II (pictured) continued their never-ending feud, with much success at the box-office. Their many intense battles at Atlanta’s Omni are the stuff of legend, and it was on more than one occasion that the white mask of Mr. Wrestling II was stained with the crimson hue of his own blood, drawn by Ole Anderson.
Mr. Wrestling I & II’s fourth (and final) reign as the Georgia Tag Team champions came at the expense of the team’s other arch rivals, the despised yet formidable Masked Assassins. Outside of the hoods that each man wore, the two masked teams were, essentially, the polar opposites of each other in terms of ring style, and their similar differences created a natural rivalry that fans were more than willing to pay to see. On September 9, 1980, after chasing the hated masked champions for weeks, Mr. Wrestling I & II defeated The Assassins in Griffin, GA. to capture their fourth Georgia Tag Team title. Meanwhile, over the course of many years, the Mr. Wrestling II vs. Assassin #1 feud (pictured) continued on in several different promotions.
In addition to their four reigns as the Georgia Tag Team champions, the team of Mr. Wrestling I & II established their dominance even further when they captured the richest prize in Tag Team wrestling, the NWA World Tag Team championship, after upending their old Georgia rivals, Ole & Gene Anderson, while competing in the Mid Atlantic territory.
However, with each man fairing as well in singles competition as they did together as a unit, the team of Mr. Wrestling I & II often split off from each other (amicably) in order to concentrate on other aspects of the “sport,” only to reunite at a later time.
And, in terms of the competitive singles division, the talented Mr. Wrestling II definitely excelled…
He was a ten-time holder of the coveted Georgia Heavyweight championship, having defeated (often by using his noted finishing move, the running Knee Lift) the likes of Bill Watts (1973), Harley Race (1974), Nikolai Volkoff (1975), Dick Slater (1976), Stan Hansen (1977), Angelo “King Kong” Mosca (1978), The Masked Superstar (1979), Austin Idol (1980) and several other top workers for the prestigious regional title. As champion, Mr. Wrestling II engaged in several noted feuds, particularly against Baron Von Raschke and The Masked Superstar, among others.
Mr. Wrestling II also captured another highly sought-after regional title when he defeated Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd to win the NWA North American title on February 16, 1979 in Atlanta, GA. Consequently, when the Mid-South Wrestling Association was created by Bill Watts, Mr. Wrestling II was declared the first MSWA North American heavyweight champion in August of 1979 and the title was defended exclusively in the Mid-South territory from that point forward. Following a lengthy seven-month reign as champion, he eventually lost the North American title to Mike George on September 5, 1979. However, several years later, the masked man (who, at this point in time, was wrestling as a full-fledged heel for the first time since donning the Mr. Wrestling mask some ten years earlier) regained the valued North American title by defeating the Junk Yard Dog in March of 1984 during a card that was held inside the cavernous SuperDome in New Orleans, LA.
Much as he had done while competing in the Mid-South, Georgia and the Mid-Atlantic promotions, Mr. Wrestling II dominated his competition in the NWA Florida territory as well. Along with ‘Sunshine State’ mainstays such as Dusty Rhodes and Mike Graham, Mr. Wrestling II was one of the red-hot NWA territory’s top fan favorites, as well as a very successful champion. As always, the masked man was constantly in the title hunt during his tenure in Florida, and he twice wore the Florida Heavyweight championship, having defeated one of his arch rivals, The Masked Spoiler, in 1981 for the title and then capturing the belt again in 1982 when he bested James J. Dillon. Then, later in 1982, the hooded grappler captured the Mississippi State championship by defeating another masked man, Mr. Olympia (Jerry Stubbs).
In 1983, Mr. Wrestling II made a return to the tag ranks, teaming with his young and talented protégé, Magnum T.A. The team possessed youth and experience, power and speed, and the complete support of Mid-South fans. After a few months together, the team had refined their teamwork to the point where they were ready for a title run. Soon thereafter, on Christmas night 1983, Mr. Wrestling II and Magnun T.A. defeated Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey) to win the Mid-South Tag Team championship and, from there, went on to enjoy three months as the champions. Then, in 1984, the masked man recaptured the Mid South Tag title, this time with partner Tiger Conway, Jr. Yet, before long, Mr. Wrestling II decided to refocus on competing in the singles division, and he once again returned to one-on-one competition. Not surprisingly, more titles were to come, including a run as the Continental Heavyweight champion in the summer of 1984.
By virtue of his status as a consistent regional titleholder, Mr. Wrestling II received more than his fair of NWA World Title matches during his career, against several different champions. During the early & mid seventies, he was a serious threat to Jack Brisco’s claim to the championship, and then a few years later, Mr. Wrestling II became a constant thorn in the side of NWA kingpin Harley Race (pictured). And, of course, one cannot forget his exciting, money-making run against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (pictured) in Georgia and Florida during the early eighties.
While he never captured “the big one,” the admirable masked man more than filled his role as the ‘credible challenger’ and whenever he was granted a title shot, the arena was invariably packed full with fans who just knew that they were about to see Mr. Wrestling II finally win the World Heavyweight championship…
The legendary Mr. Wrestling II’s final title victory came in 1987 while he was competing in southeastern-based Continental Wrestling Federation. It was at this time that the twenty-year veteran won the Alabama Heavyweight title by defeating Mike Golden on April 27, 1987. The seasoned grappler, still incredibly popular amongst southern wrestling fans, then went on to hold the Alabama State championship for two months before the young Golden was able to avenge his previous loss and regain the title. Shortly after his loss of the Alabama championship, the revered masked man officially retired from active competition.
Without question, the ivory-clad masked man known as Mr. Wrestling II was one of the most popular wrestlers ever to compete in the south, and during his lengthy prime, his status in that region was virtually unparalleled. And while his genre of performer (i.e. the masked man) often took on the role of a heel, Johnny Walker proved that a masked wrestler could also be a babyface, and an incredibly popular one at that.
We at HistoryofWrestling.com are proud to induct one of the most beloved performers of all time, the master of the running Knee Lift and former President Jimmy Carter’s favorite wrestler, Mr. Wrestling II, into the H.O.W. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame……