One of Plains, Ga.’s 650 or so residents claims to be the famed, masked Mr. Wrestling II of grappling lore.
Well, sort of.
John Walker, a fourth-grade teacher and Lions Club president who is seeking a seat on the Plains City Council, says he regularly donned a mask in the ring for pay from about 1975 to about 1992, mostly in South Carolina, but occasionally in Georgia, too. And he says he used the name “Mr. Wrestling II.”
A former schools superintendent and county commissioner, Walker has touted his exploits in the ring since moving to Plains four years ago and on flyers he recently distributed promoting his campaign for Plains City Council.
But the bona fide Mr. Wrestling II is Johnny Walker of Honolulu, Hawaii, who gave the 61-year-old John Walker a talking-to on the phone on Saturday after being told that someone might be claiming his identity.
But the conversation between the Walkers apparently didn’t go too badly.
“I did get a phone call. No, I wouldn’t say it was unfriendly,” said John Walker, who refused to elaborate.
John Walker answered questions politely, but offered little detail about his wrestling career or how it turns out that he and the more famous wrestler have the same first and last names. He says he didn’t have a manager and fought in matches arranged by promoters unaffiliated with wrestling organizations, and that he certainly didn’t make as much money as his Hawaiian counterpart, who could not be reached for comment.
John Walker says he doesn’t know who came up with the moniker “Mr. Wrestling II” first – he or the famous grappler — but doubts it was him. He also said there could have been others performing as “the character”, as he put it, of Mr. Wrestling II. He would not say whether he has the famous Mr. Wrestling II’s authorization to use his name.
“The truth is that once wrestlers go under the mask, there’s no damage done to anyone as long ad everything is followed with protocol, with following the character,” he said.
Later in the interview and in an e-mail exchange, Walker expressed regret that the story about his wrestling career might overshadow his efforts to improve city government. He also said that he is no longer distributing flyers promoting his masked wrestling days, and he declined a request to provide current photos or old pictures in his wrestling garb.
“This has become ridiculous and lost all point of reason for me being involved in politics,” he said. “If anyone votes for me because of a mask and wrestling, I’m not sure why. They obviously are oblivious to what is real in the community. Are they voting for a character, or someone who can help them?
John Walker said that his priorities to the City Council would include setting an example to citizens by lowering council salaries, resolving deficiencies in the Police Department, and controlling roaming dogs.
Mr. Wrestling II was among the most poplar wrestlers in the Southeast in the 1970s and early 1980s. While carefully concealing his identity from the public, Mr. Wrestling II was involved in notable feuds involving The Assassin, The Spoiler and Jack Brisco. He also performed as Johnny “Rubberman” Walker and “The Grappler.”
Ironically, then-president Jimmy Carter of Plains and his late mother, Lillian, said Mr. Wrestling II was their favorite wrestler. Legend has it that Johnny Walker was invited to Carter’s inauguration, but didn’t attend because the U.S. Secret Service would have required him to remove his mask.
In another ironic twist, John Walker has portrayed Carter’s brother, Billy, in the community’s theatre production celebrating the town that the president made world-famous.
Plains Mayor H.E. “Boze” Godwin III, who will be re-elected without opposition this fall, says he’s heard Walker’s claim to wrestling fame, but hasn’t paid any attention to it.
“I’m not a wrestling fan,” he said.