Mr. Wrestling II (Johnny Walker) Passes Away at Age 85

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Photo: Pro Wrestling Illustrated

Longtime fans of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) were saddened on Wednesday to find out that one of the most popular stars of the 1970s, Johnny Walker – who is best known for his masked run as Mr. Wrestling II from 1974 to his retirement in 1990 – had passed away. He was 85 years old.

Hailing originally from South Carolina, Johnny Walker was trained by former NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion Pat O’Connor and Tony Morelli, debuting under his real name in 1955. He bounced around various NWA territories such as Championship Wrestling From Florida, Mid-Pacific (Hawaii), Georgia Championship Wrestling, and others, where he was mostly used in an enhancement role. With his wrestling future not shaping up the way he’d imagined, he retired in 1964.

In 1967, he returned to the squared circle and this time, he exploded, primarily as a tag team specialist. Within just a few years, he was a 5x NWA United States Junior Heavyweight Champion, 9x NWA Mid-America (Memphis) Tag Team Champion, and captured the NWA World Tag Team Championship on six occasions. By 1972, he donned a mask and became briefly known as The Grappler, winning the NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Championship. By despite his rush of success, he had also semi-retired once again from the ring, opening his own gas station in Tennessee.

But the wrestling world wasn’t finished with him yet. Paul Jones, the promoter from Georgia Championship Wrestling, convinced Walker to return to the ring full time once more, this time under a mask as the successor (and occasional tag team partner) to the first “Mr. Wrestling”, Tim Woods. As Mr. Wrestling II, Walker adopted the familiar white mask and would surpass his “mentor” as one of the kings of Georgia wrestling – he would go on to become an 11x NWA Georgia Heavyweight Champion, and 7x NWA Georgia Tag Team Champion (four times alongside the original Mr. Wrestling).

In 1979, he began working with Mid-South Wrestling, where he would become a 2x Mid-South North American Champion and 2x Mid-South Tag Team Champion, including a run in 1983 with a young Magnum TA. He would turn on Magnum TA, helping bolster Magnum into the next level. His popularity was so big in the South, that when Georgia’s Jimmy Carter was elected US President, Walker was invited to the White House for his inauguration – an invite that Walker declined due to the Secret Service’s insistence that he remove his mask for the festivities.

Mr. Wrestling II playing with US President Jimmy Carter

In 1984, he finally jumped ship to Vince McMahon Jr.‘s World Wrestling Federation (WWF), but by then, his age and health were catching up to him and for two years, he was only sporadically used by the company, although he did have a length house show program against “Macho Man” Randy Savage throughout 1985. He departed the WWF in early 1986, returning to the South, where he worked for Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and other smaller promotions until his final retirement in 1990.

LWOPW sends out our deepest condolences to the entire Walker family, as well as Mr. Wrestling II’s fans, friends, and colleagues. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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