June 2, 1998: Junkyard Dog died in a single-car accident around 11:40 a.m. on Interstate 20 near Forest, Mississippi, as he was returning home from his daughter’s high school graduation in Wadesboro, North Carolina. Indications show that he fell asleep at the wheel and his car flipped three times.
He was laid in an unmarked grave at Westview Memorial Park in Wadesboro, North Carolina. However a marker was placed at his grave in November 2012.
Sylvester Ritter was a professional wrestler and football player, best known for his work in Mid-South Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation as the Junkyard Dog (JYD), a nickname Ritter received while working in a wrecking yard.
Entering the ring to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” with his trademark chain attached to a dog collar, JYD regularly headlined cards that sold out the Louisiana Superdome and other major venues. He was the first black wrestler to become “the undisputed top star of his promotion.”
JYD was one of the most electrifying and charismatic wrestlers in the country, particularly during his peak in the early 1980s. He was most known for his head butt and upper-body strength, the latter of which saw him regularly body slam wrestlers such as the One Man Gang, Kamala, and King Kong Bundy. The word “thump,” which referred to JYD’s power slam, was prominently displayed on his wrestling trunks.
Ritter had stayed active in professional wrestling until the time of his death, appearing at Extreme Championship Wrestling’s 1998 Wrestlepalooza event, just one month prior. He was the founder of the Dog Pound stable in independent Mid-South promotion, based in southern Louisiana. Among Ritter’s last contributions to professional wrestling was the training of former WWF wrestlers Rodney Mack and Jazz.
Ritter played football at Fayetteville State University, twice earning honorable mention All-American status. He is also a member of The Sports Hall Of Fame. He graduated with a political science degree and was selected by the Green Bay Packers organization, but knee and back surgery ended his football career.
His daughter and sister, LaToya Ritter and Christine Woodburn, represented JYD as he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 13, 2004, by Ernie Ladd, the day before WrestleMania XX.
LaToya Ritter died on October 19, 2011. While talking on the phone to a friend, there was a loud thumping sound. The friend called family members to go check on her because she thought LaToya fell down the stairs. Her brother went to check only to find her unresponsive and called 911. Paramedics were unable to revive her. She was 31 years old.
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