Sylvester Ritter (December 13, 1952 June 1, 1998), better known by his ring name, the Junkyard Dog (or, simply, JYD), was an American Professional Wrestler from Charlotte, trained by Sonny King and NC best known for his work for "Cowboy" Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling then for WWE in the late 1970s until the late 1980s.
He started his career in Tennessee in 1977 before moving on to the Hart Family's Stampede Wrestling promotion. He made his name in Mid-South, where he became the first black wrestler to be a top star in a promotion. He became extremely popular in Mid-South, to the point where, during his feud with the Fabulous Freebirds after they had "blinded" him with hair cream, they needed police escorts to and from the arenas. He eventually went to WWE where he was still very popular but without the same success. He also competed over the course of his career in Georgia, in World Class, in the USWA, in Mid-Atlantic, in WCW and various independents, including defeating Kevin Sullivan at a cross-promotional show put on by ECW, the Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation and the ASWA in Essex, MD on November 14, 1993.
Among his in-ring achievements, he was a former NWA Mid-America Tag Team Champion (As "Leroy Rochester" with Gypsy Joe), a former Stampede North-America Heavyweight Champion (As "Big Daddy Ritter"), a former 2x Mid-South Louisiana Heavyweight Champion, a former 4x Mid-South North American Heavyweight Champion, a former 8x Mid-South Tag Team Champion (1x with Buck Robley, 1x with Terry Orndorff, 1x with Killer Karl Kox, 3x with Dick Murdoch, 1x with Mr. Olympia and 1x Mike George), a former WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Champion (with Tommy Rich and Ricky Morton) and former USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion.
His last public appearance was as a guest at ECW WrestlePalooza 98, May 3, 1998, which was held in Marietta, GA, where he was honored as a "hardcore legend" along with Dick Slater, Bob Armstrong and the Masked Superstar. He died in a car accident on June 2, 1998. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 and to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.
"Grab Them Tropes":
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Fellow football player Butch Reed was presented as his student and hopefully eventual successor should Junkyard Dog ever need to leave Mid-South Wrestling. Reed eventually did succeed Junkyard Dog, but it took a lot longer than intended due to his own betrayal of Junkyard Dog in an attempt to speed up the process.
- Afro Asskicker: Sported one back in Mid-South.
- Animal Motif: He would even snap and bark
- Arch-Enemy: Butch Reed, the Fabulous Freebirds, Ted DiBiase, the Funk Brothers (Terry, Hoss [Dory Jr.] and Jimmy Jack [Jesse Barr]), Harley Race, The One Man Gang.
- Ass Kicks You: For one of his standard moves was the "Butt Butt", a standing Hip attack.
- Badass Teacher: He started Rodney Mack and Jazz on their training before his death.
- Bash Brothers: Ted DiBiase, Tito Santana, Dick Murdoch, George "The Animal" Steele
- Chained by Fashion: He was rarely seen in public no wearing "Ruby" in some highly visible fashion.
- Chain Pain: His Weapon of Choice. As a perpetual baby face he didn't use it on his foes that often however.
- Charlie Brown from Outta Town: Stagger Lee, in Mid-South, after Ted Dibiase cheated in a Loser Leaves Town match by hitting Junkyard Dog with a loaded glove.
- Collector of the Strange: Before he started getting the winner's paycheck more often than not he supplemented his income by pushing around a cart he called "The Junk Wagon", filling it with things people didn't want but he could potentially make money with. This lead to the "Junkyard Dog" ring name in Mid-South.
- Crowd Chant: "JYD JYD JYD!"
- Dented Iron: He's a member of the Sports Hall Of Fame who would have played for the Green Bay Packers if not for knee and back injuries cutting his football career short. These same things somewhat limited his movements in the professional wrestling ring and had him acting as a jobber for a very long time, but he was such a huge sports star already that people were willing to overlook this and he quickly became the top face of Mid-South once he started winning.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: "Grab Them Cakes", a song about backsides.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: One of the greatest names who ever worked for the big Stamford promotion who never had any title.
- Extremity Extremist: Besides the head, the man had a mean right hook.
- Fallen Hero: His drug and weight problems prevented him from getting to the top in WWE despite his popularity.
- Force and Finesse: He was the force to Gypsy Joe's athleticism when they were a tag team.
- Friend to All Children/Dance Party Ending: After winning, he'd usually invite children from the audience into the ring to dance.
- Finishing Move
- Thump (powerslam), it was even written on his thigts.
- Name of Power: It is a point of contention among marks if a name is necessary but the powerslam is not a finisher more often than not these days.
- Gimmick Matches: As Big Daddy Ritter in Stampede, he and Jake "The Snake" Roberts had the first ever ladder match.
- Genius Bruiser/Hidden Depths: Graduated with a degree in political science from Fayetteville State University.
- Happy Dance: Right after a victorious match.
- Hard Head/No-Sell: Possibly his most recognizable standard move.
- I Have Many Names: Leroy Rochester, Big Daddy Ritter, Stagger Lee and the Junkyard Dog.
- Legacy Character: Brodus Clay, for his habit of bringing in kids to dance with him after his matches.
- Leitmotif: Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."
- Non-Indicative Name: He has the junkyard look with his perpetual chain wearing. The chain was neither red nor holding any additional decorations, raising the question of why he called it "Ruby".
- Popularity Power: Drawing big figures for WWF in spots where not even "The 24 Inch Pythons" could.
- Power Stable: As a Heel in Stampede, he was part of Foley'snote Army.
- Power Trio: In NWA era WCW with Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich as one third of the World Six Man Champions.
- Soul Brotha: Loved by fans and most of his peers alike.
- Squash Match: At The Wrestling Classic, he flattened his second-round opponent Moondog Spot in a mere 27 seconds. In fact, it was so fast that he just counted his own pin because the ref hadn't gotten down to the ring yet.
- Tag Team: As noted above, 8 times champion in Mid-South and 1 in Mid-America. Not very often in WWF but amongst his tag-partners you can find Davey Boy Smith, Sgt. Slaughter and even The Hulkster.
- Temporary Blindness: The Fabulous Freebirds conspired to blind him with hair cream so that he wouldn't be able to see the birth of his daughter. Junkyard Dog attempted to get a measure of revenge before his sight recovered by wrestling one Freebird, Michael P.S. Hayes, in a dog collar match where lack of sight would not be as much of a hindrance.
- Use Your Head: Would get on all fours and charge at his opponents to headbutt them.
- The Workhorse: His Junk Wagon. At the very beginning, just a mere gimmick accessory, it was shopping cart full of weapons ranging from his trademark chain to Pipe Pain that he used to roll every time he was outnumbered in a match.
- We Used to Be Friends: Ted Dibiase was his tag team partner before betraying the more popular Junkyard Dog and temporarily succeeding in getting him out of Mid-South Wrestling.
- Wrestling Family: His nephew got started in professional wrestling as Redd Dogg, later known as Rodney Mack in WWE.