Johnny Walker “Mr. Wrestling II” passes away at age 85

Johnny Walker, who was a massive star in the Southeastern U.S. and famous for his role as Mr. Wrestling II – has died at the age of 85.

Johnny Walker, who was a massive star in the Southeastern U.S. and famous for his role as Mr. Wrestling II – has died at the age of 85.

Bill Apter reported the news of Walker’s passing on Wednesday after receiving word for Walker’s son Robert.

John Francis Walker was born on September 10, 1934, in Charleston, South Carolina, and began wrestling after being trained by Pat O’Connor and Tony Morelli.

Prior to his Mr. Wrestling II character, he was well-known as Johnny “Rubberman” Walker, a nickname due to his impressive flexibility and was given by Houston promoter Paul Boesch. As “Rubberman”, he worked throughout several territories and came to Canada working for Stampede Wrestling in Alberta.

He wrestled as ‘The Grappler’ in Florida becoming their Southern Heavyweight champion in March 1971 when he defeated Rene Goulet and dropped the title several weeks later to Terry Funk. In the territory, he also teamed with Boris Malenko winning the Florida tag titles in June 1972 that lasted five days when they lost to The Zodiac (Bob Orton Sr.) & Taurus (Dennis Hall).

Walker was semi-retired in 1972 and owned a ran a gas station in Tennessee when he was convinced to come to Georgia and team with Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods). The caveat was that Walker would have to wrestle under a mask and was the creation of Mr. Wrestling II, that he will be always be remembered as.

As Mr. Wrestling II, he was famous for his knee lift and the chant of ‘2,2,2’ from the audience.

As a team, they won the Georgia tag titles several times together with the first in August 1974 while feuding with Gene & Ole Anderson. Their final reign occurred in September 1980 defeating The Assassins and dropped them to Terry Gordy & Michael Hayes. Woods was also wrestling after the 1975 plane crash that he was involved in and would retire several years later. Woods died in November 2002.

As a singles star, he won the Georgia heavyweight title eleven times between 1973 and 1980. The first took place in March 1973 when he won a 16-man tournament for the title and feuded with Bill Watts for the title. The title would switch often by Mr. Wrestling II was always part of the mix working with Ron Fuller, Buddy Colt, Harley Race, Abdullah the Butcher, Nikolai Volkoff, Dick Slater, and Bill Eadie.

His final reign as champion was in January 1980 defeating Masked Superstar (Eadie) and losing it for the last time to Austin Idol in Atlanta.

A famous story that always was brought up was that Jimmy Carter’s mother Lillian was a massive fan of Walker and would go watch him wrestle in Columbus, Georgia. This led to a relationship between Walker and the Carter family that included Walker being invited to Carter’s presidential inauguration in January 1977. Walker did not attend and always cited the fact that that the secret service wanted him to not wear and the mask and he wouldn’t make that concession.

Walker later headed to Mid-South Wrestling to work as a mentor and trainer for a young Terry Allen, who later became Magnum T.A. The two won the UWF tag titles together in the territory on Christmas Night 1983 from Butch Reed & Jim Neidhart and held them until March losing to the Midnight Express.

This sparked the split between Walker and Allen, who would feud over Walker’s Mid-South North American title culminating with Allen defeating Walker for the title in May 1984.

In his final years, he did work for the WWF as they were expanding nationally but was never a large part of the promotion and left in 1986.

Prior to retiring in 1990, he worked for Continental Championship Wrestling and Southern Championship Wrestling.

In 2007, he came out of retirement at age 73 and wrestled a match in Hawaii alongside Steve Corino in Wahiawa.

His late wife Olivia was a noted seamstress who created robes for numerous wrestlers including Ric Flair, Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Tommy Rich, along with musicians and other celebrities. Olivia died on October 2, 2000.

While attending the NWA’s Legends Fest in August 2010, Walker suffered a heart attack that required triple bypass surgery several weeks later once he was ready physically to handle the procedure.

He was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2014 in a class that included Bruiser Brody, Stu Hart, Leroy McGuirk, Don Muraco, Bill Eadie, Sherri Martel, Don & Jackie Fargo, Gary Hart, and Lord Al Hayes.

Walker also had three children – John Jr., Robert, and Mike.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Johnny Walker.

Additional Notes:
Mike Mooneyham of the Post and Courier
Greg Oliver of SlamWrestling.net
Tim Woods bio in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter

About John Pollock 5515 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.