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WWE: "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd

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posted on Jun, 26 2004 @ 11:13 AM
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Ernie Ladd has made a name for himself in several fields of endeavor. He was a dominating football player at both the college and pro level, and has been closely involved with the Republican party for nearly 35 years. He was also one of the premiere professional wrestlers of the 1960s and 1970s. Long-time fans in the Northeast particularly remember the havoc he wreaked in the Federation throughout the 70s as one of the largest and most hated heels the territory had ever seen.

He was a star lineman for Louisiana's Grambling State University in the late 50s, and was recruited in 1961 by the AFL's San Diego Chargers. He was a member of the Chargers 1963 AFL Championship team, and appeared in four straight AFL All-Star Games from 1962-1965. In addition to the Chargers, he also played for the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs. At 6'9" and over 300 pounds, Ladd was one of the largest players of his era, and his amazing quickness for his size earned him the nickname "Big Cat".

The wrestling world began to beckon Ladd in the early 60s, while he was still a Charger. As a publicity stunt, some San Diego-area wrestlers challenged the Big Cat to a private workout session in the ring.

Ladd soon began wrestling for the Los Angeles promotion part-time during the football off-season. Due to his reputation as a pro ball player, Ladd quickly became one of wrestling's hottest draws, and was eagerly sought after by promoters across the nation. As if his mainstream name wasn’t enough, Ladd also caught mat fans attention by becoming one of the sports most despised villains, often stirring up crowds with his cocky and colorful interviews, and through the use of his infamous taped thumb. Ladd's heel status is particularly noteworthy because he was one of wrestling's first African American villains during a time when promoters feared such a character would provoke riots due to widespread racism.

He first appeared in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1968. It would remain one of the main promotions in which he wrestled for the next 12 years. Managed by the Grand Wizard, he was a persistent challenger to Federation Champions Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales and Bob Backlund, although he never won the title. His feuds with fellow behemoths Andre the Giant, Haystacks Calhoun and especially Gorilla Monsoon, are the stuff of legend.

After wrestling, Ladd had no problem finding something else to do, because he had long been an active crusader for the Republican party. Particularly, he's been a friend of the Bush family since the 60s, and has campaigned for both George Bush and George W. Bush. At the beginning of the year, George W. made Ladd a special deputy to his Presidential Inaugural Committee. In addition to his political activity, Ladd is part of a Christian ministry that travels to prisons and provides services to inmates.

The squared circle has played one of many parts in the multi-faceted life of the Big Cat. But it's clear that that part holds a very special place in his heart.

WWE Hall of fame




 
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