100 in 100: Anson County’s Sylvester Ritter, The Junkyard Dog

Ritter was posthumously inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012

Anson County’s Sylvester Ritter was a standout football player at Fayetteville State, but he instead took his talents to the World Wrestling Federation as The Junkyard Dog. (Photo courtesy of WWE)

North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.

Anson County

Sylvester Ritter

You might not know Ritter by his given name or his performances on the football field, but put a chain around his neck and have him climb into a ring to the sounds of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and he becomes much more recognizable as wrestling superstar The Junkyard Dog.

Ritter was one of the most popular personalities in the business and among the first black wrestlers to be promoted as a headliner while selling out major venues such as the Louisiana Superdome whenever he was on a card during the 1980s. A former offensive lineman at Anson County High School and Fayetteville State, he was best known for the upper body strength that he regularly used to pick up and body slam opponents.

Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 280-plus pounds, Ritter was given his wrestling persona by promoter “Cowboy” Bill Watts in 1984 and he rapidly advanced through the ranks. He won world titles in both the World Wrestling Federation, National Wrestling Alliance and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Dog was not a ‘great’ technical wrestler, he worked out, he had a great body in his prime, but the thing that he had more than anybody I’ve ever seen was charisma,” his friend and fellow competitor Ted DiBiase said in the book “Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons.” “He had charisma coming out of his ears.”

Ritter began his athletic career on the gridiron, where he twice earned honorable mention Division II All-American honors and earned entry into Fayetteville State’s athletic Hall of Fame. He graduated from the school with a degree in political science and remained active in wrestling until his death in a 1998 car accident as he was returning from his daughter’s high school graduation in Wadesboro.