Even in the dark days of segregation, Bobo Brazil was able to transcend issues of race. African-Americans looked at him as a role model. And even
spectators with racist attitudes couldn't contain themselves from leaping to their feet and cheering for the popular Superstar.
Brazil was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, before relocating to East St. Louis, Illinois, and, eventually, Benton Harbor, Michigan, where his
restaurant, Bobo's Grill, became a local landmark.
In the ring, Bobo had memorable skirmishes with such stars as Dick the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine, Haystacks Calhoun and Killer Kowalski. Despite his
friendly demeanor outside the ring, Brazil was a tireless brawler who seemed to invite his opponents to break the rules in order to counter their
maneuvers with his own arsenal.
It was universally acknowledged that Brazil had the hardest head in the sport, toppling rivals with his storied "Coco Butt."
In Brazil's time, black fans were forced to sit in separate sections from white devotees at certain venues, and Brazil was banned from many hotels and
restaurants. He handled this adversity with a dignity that inspired many of his peers to discover the same qualities in themselves.
A number of promoters would only book African-Americans against other African-Americans, fearing that any other combination could lead to race riots.
Brazil thrived in these types of confrontations, beating back dangerous foes like Abdullah the Butcher and Ernie "The Cat" Ladd.
But fans refused to settle for watching Bobo compete against a limited repertoire of opponents, and the promoters were forced to respond. Brazil was
willing to take on virtually anyone. Although he spent the majority of his career as an enormously well-liked wrestler, he had no qualms about mixing
it up with the other so-called "good guys." On at least one occasion, he wrestled to a draw with Andre the Giant -- an impressive exploit, considering
their size difference.
During Bruno Sammartino's first title reign in WWE, Brazil was one of the rare fan favorites to challenge for the championship. Fans were often mixed
in reactions to these clashes, cheering both combatants. Washington, D.C. was a particularly special city for Brazil. There, James Dudley, a WWE
insider remembered for being the first African-American to run a major arena, would fire up the crowd by jogging to the ring, waving a towel as Bobo
trotted behind him. After a particularly strenuous match with Brazil in Washington, "Classy" Freddie Blassie theorized that the fans would have
committed murder, had Bobo asked.
The Superstar's most famous rivalry was with the original Skiek, a crazed grappler fond of hurling fireballs at his rivals, or carving them up with a
pencil hidden in his trunks. For decades, the Shiek and Brazil drew each other's blood, and traded a version of the U.S. title back and forth in
Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.
Bobo also held the U.S. crown in the Mid-Atlantic states -- the version that eventually evolved into the U.S. Championship currently defended in WWE.
WWE Hall of fame