The slave trade destroyed families but most of all created a caste system where blacks were treated as less than humans. They were segregated and kept away by the whites, even in sports. This was always the case till a pa ẹ setter shows up and for wrestling it was Edward “Bearcat” Wright, a second generation boxer and wrestler.
Wright became best known as the first Black World Heavyweight champion in a wrestling promotion. Starting off as a boxer, Wright quit in 1959 with a 8-0 record to make his wrestling debut.
With segregation, however, in place, he fights and chances were limited. He could only partake in black on black wrestling bouts and once even once crowned the World Nero Heavyweight Champion.
At 6’6, 275lbs, Wright was no pushover. Not a great wrestler, decent at best, he still always got the job done. One does have to wonder if he could have been more of a wrestler as he only got to play the heel (bad guy) in wrestling matches. Styling his fighting style using those of Venezuelan wrestler and former boxer Ciclon Negro, Wright used to brawl. He finished off his opponents with The Claw, a move that demands utmost hand strength which he usually demonstrated by tearing in half phone directories.
He was similar to many heavyweight Black wrestlers brought in at the time: a good brawler, athletic, charismatic, and could have a good match depending on the opponent.
Wright’s date with history started when, on a show in Gary, Indiana, he declared that he wouldn’t wrestle in Blacks only matches. This led to his ban by the state athletic commission but he instead moved to territories that allowed him fight against non-blacks.
He had great drawing power, especially as a heel. This, above all else, led promoters to start desegregating the wrestling scene as they saw the value of black fighters. Wright’s entry and success led to the opening of the floodgate, alongside black fighters like Thunderbolt Patterson, Bobo Brazil, and Abdullah the Butcher who around the same time started appearing in desegregated wrestling matches.