Bill Apter reported this morning (June 10) that retired Georgia wrestling legend Johnny Walker died recently. The man who was most famous for his work under a mask as Mr. Wrestling II was 85.
Sad news to report. Johnnie Walker aka Mr. Wrestling II passed away yesterday in Hawaii. To go into all of his accolades would take pages and pages, but we here at the CAC are heartbroken and would like to pass along our deepest condolences to the family at this time pic.twitter.com/StyVgGpYFc— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) June 10, 2020
The North Carolina-native started wrestling in the 1950s using his real name. He picked up the nickname “Rubberman” because of his ability to, as Wrestling Revue wrote in 1960, “ooze and bounce out of intricate holds that had ruined many a top-notch wrestler.”
Walker first donned a mask as The Grappler on the Florida circuit in the 60s. But it was when Jerry Jarrett was booking Atlanta and needed a replacement for his departing star Tim “Mr. Wrestling” Woods that the journeyman veteran got his most famous gimmick.
Mr. Wrestling II, or just “Two” as Georgia Championship Wrestling fans called him, had success throughout the 70s and early 80s - both as a singles performer and in tagging with with Woods. Walker had ten runs as NWA Georgia Heavyweight champion and five NWA Georgia Tag titles on his lengthy list of career accolades.
It was during this time that a peanut farmer and politician Jimmy Carter, and his mother “Miss” Lillian, came to call Two their favorite wrestler. Carter famously invited Walker to attend his Presidential Inauguration in 1977, but declined when the Secret Service told them he would have to break kayfabe and appear without his mask.
Before briefly joining the WWF during Vince McMahon’s national expansion, in 1983 - 1984 Two played mentor and rival to a young Terry Allen in Mid-South wrestling in an angle that helped launch Magnum T.A. to stardom.
Walker retired to Hawaii, where he worked in management for Hawai’i Championship Wrestling. He briefly came out of retirement at age 73 to partner with his protege Mr. Wrestling III to win the promotion’s tag titles. “Three” was former ECW & Ring of Honor star and current NXT producer Steve Corino.
Thank you for the amazing memories and honor Mr. Johnny. Rest well my friend. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/ENWW46IDvp— CORINO (@StevenCorino) June 10, 2020
Walker was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Wrestler of the Year for 1975.
His wife Olivia designed his mask, and made robes for Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, and the Killer Bees. She died in 2000. The Walkers are survived by their three sons.
Thanks for the memories, Two. Rest in peace.