RIP: Mr. Wrestling II (1934-2020)

Bill Apter and the National Wrestling Alliance have both announced the death of Johnny Walker, better known in his heyday as Mr. Wrestling II.  He was 85.

Walker was born in Charleston, SC, and trained by the great Pat O’Connor.  He spent his formative years primarily in the Houston territory as the Rubberman Johnny Walker, so named because Paul Boesch was impressed with his flexibility.  He temporarily left the business in 1964 before returning three years later as the original Grappler in Florida.

Paul Jones and Eddie Graham asked him to dedicate more time to wrestling in 1972 and made him “Mr. Wrestling II”, a protege of the original Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods (who was soon to retire after the infamous plane crash).  It worked; he was the hottest wrestler in Georgia since Bob Armstrong and in his heyday was one of the most popular wrestlers in America.  A particular fan of his was then-governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter; when Carter ascended to the Presidency in 1976, he invited Walker to attend the inauguration as a special guest.  (Walker declined when he learned he had to be unmasked for security reasons.)

In the early 1980s, Mr. Wrestling II went on to Bill Watts’ Mid-South territory and was cast as a mentor to a younger wrestler named Terry Allen.  The two were Mid-South tag champions in 1983-84, but lost the belts to the Midnight Express.  During this match, Walker turned his back on a bloodied Allen, insisting they concede rather than fight on.  What could have been a future feud, though, was cut short as Allen was signed to Jim Crockett Promotions and renamed Magnum TA.

Walker, as Mr. Wrestling II, was a 10-time Georgia champion, 2-time Florida champion, 1-time Alabama champion, 1-time Deep South champion, 1-time Mid-South North American champion, and in various territories an astonishing 29-time tag team champion with various partners.  In addition, PWI considered him the #1 babyface of 1980 and the Wrestler of the Year in 1975.  He is in the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame, and the WCW Hall of Fame.

Our condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with Walker’s family at this time.