Last week I took on Vader, this week I’m going to be writing about one of my top 5 workers of all time. This man also has a background on the gridiron, conveniently playing for my favorite college football team. He excelled at his position in college football, but he was undersized and couldn’t really get a shot on the NFL level of football. The man had a very solid career; he did well on the tag team level, had a good run in the midcard, and had a massive accomplishment as a main event worker which happens to overlap with the man from last week. This week I’m going to try to remind people that Ron Simmons is much greater than just one word.
While on the football field, Ron Simmons was a beast, which is obvious by his inclusion in the college football hall of fame a few years back. The man ranked 9th in voting for the Heisman as an undersized defensive lineman, that’s one hell of a feat. Simmons even had his number retired, only the third player in Florida State history with that distinction at the time, and first defensive player, the first two being Ron Sellers and the great Fred Biletnikoff, not bad company. After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns he wound up playing for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL, one of his teammates just happened to be a guy named Lawrence Pfohl, you may know him as Lex Luger.
While Simmons time on the field was before my time, it was when he started got into the squared circle that he hooked me as a fan for life. I actually enjoyed the work of himself and Butch Reed in their team Doom, including their time under hoods. Ron Simmons was a straight up powerhouse and a pretty good hand from everything I’ve seen watching his work in NWA/WCW/ECW/WWF/WWE. He held many titles, starting with a nine month reign as tag champion with Butch Reed; clearly they had something as they defeated multiple top level teams during that time. Having the opportunity to feud with the Horsemen would be a good sign of being a respected team at that time.
While some people like to give Ron Simmons credit as being the first African American pro wrestling World Champion, that distinction belongs to Bobo Brazil. While this may be true, Ron Simmons WAS the first African American WCW World Champion, as stated earlier he beat Vader for the title, this was a pretty trying time for me as a fan, with two of my favorites facing off for the title. While only carrying the WCW title for 5 months, the man made history and has been respected for that accomplishment since the day it occurred, the man left an impact that paved the way for the likes of Booker T and The Rock. Many fans of the current era don’t really know about what he did early in his career, most of them think of him as “the Damn guy,” which is very unfortunate.
Probably the most absurd moments in his career also lead to one of his best runs in the business. When Ron Simmons debuted in WWF(E), after a very brief run in ECW, he appeared as Sunny’s hired gun to take out Ahmed Johnson. He wore this ridiculous silver “gladiator” helmet and a blue and black singlet that was supposed to make him look like a gladiator, but made for one of the more hideous looking ring ensembles in wrestling history. While the new name of Faarooq Asad was bestowed on him, as happens with many workers who come in from other companies, luckily it wasn’t a death sentence. I knew who he was from night one, and loved that he had made it to the big time finally.
While watching Ron Simmons in the WWF(E) he started running one of my all-time favorite factions, which I’ve suggested bringing back to the modern WWE programming, the Nation Of Domination. This was where Ron shined, he was an absolute beast in this role. He never carried a title during this run, but much like Jake Roberts, sometimes it’s better to be remembered than to be champion. After his run in The Nation he was brought into The Ministry of Darkness (another favorite faction of mine) as a member of The Acolytes alongside Bradshaw (JBL) who had been in a stagnant role up until this point in his career in WWE, which lead into one of the most memorable tag teams in this history of WWE. It’s a shame that Ron Simmons never made it to the top of the card in WWE as I feel he could have easily carried the main event picture on his shoulders, especially in the militant Faarooq role.
The final part of Ron’s career was the beginning of what the younger fans remember him for today. After a run as Hell’s Henchmen, which lead to the creation of The Acolytes when The Jackyl was fired, Simmons and Bradshaw created the Acolyte Protection Agency. This was one of those weird moments when a comedic team was actually taken seriously. While the absurdity of their “office” being a door on wheels in an open area would make you laugh, their constant beer swilling, cigar smoking, and poker playing made them look cool to the audience. They were hired guns, taking on face and heel alike, capturing the tag titles 3 times in their run together, and relying on brute strength to take out team after team.
There were so many different moments through this man’s career I just don’t have enough space to put them all into one article. From his feud with Cactus Jack, to his run against Shane Douglas and Mickey Whipwreck in the original ECW, the run as the militant black man in WWF, and the final wind down as a tag team with JBL as the APA, this man dug a massive trench in the history of wrestling. I still remember The Acolytes “taking liberties” with Public Enemy on Heat, disturbing but a great watch if you go back and check it out. It’s amazing looking back on the long, illustrious career of the only man I can think of in both the WWE and college football Halls of Fame, maybe one day we’ll get a DVD highlighting his career. You can bet your ass, when it finally comes about, the only word we’ll be saying at the end is…DAMN!