Today (January 15, 2019) would have marked Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday. A prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, Martin lived a rich and fulfilling life. He helped to stir about change in our country and his dream lives on today in the hearts and minds of many. I’m a fan of great speeches. When certain words are strung together in a way that flow majestically, it can really resonate deeply with me and touch me to my very core. With that said, one of my favorite speeches that has flown under the radar came from Mr. USA Tony Atlas. I’m proud to replicate his 2006 WWE Hall of Fame speech. Damn was 2006 a great year for speeches (see Bret Hart and Mean Gene Okerlund). I loved Tony’s speech so much that I used parts of it in a graduate course I took in 2007 when I had to play out a patriotic role. The class gave me a standing ovation and thought I was crazy for coming up with something so extravagant on the fly, but truth be told I had seen Tony’s speech probably a dozen times on my Wrestlemania 22 DVD by that point. They even nominated me for an Oscar Anyway, without further ado, please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, TONY ATLAS!
Known for his incredible strength and astonishing agility, Tony Atlas is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the world of professional wrestling. A former Mr. USA, Atlas is one of the first body builders to ever enter the wrestling industry.
In the mid 1970s, Atlas made a name for himself in the NWA. After Atlas muscled his way through the NWA, it was on to the World Wide Wrestling Federation. It was there that Mr. USA became a nationally known superstar, competing against legends such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Wonderful, Big John Studd and Sgt. Slaughter. Atlas also had memorable matches against Hulk Hogan, even press slamming the “Immortal One.” Tony takes pride in the fact that he was never pinned by the Hulkster.
The highlight of his career came in 1983. Tony Atlas and his partner, Rocky Johnson, made history. By defeating the Wild Samoans, Mr. USA and Rocky Johnson became the first superstars of African American descent to win a tag team championship in the World Wrestling Federation.
Tony Atlas is a leader in the world of power lifting, an icon in the world of body building, and a legend in the world of professional wrestling. Tonight we are proud to welcome in the WWE Hall of Fame, Mr. USA Tony Atlas.
King: In this business, you’re lucky if you find that special tag team partner. Here to induct Tony Atlas tonight is his former tag partner and best friend, Special Delivery Jones!
Tonight I’m here to induct my best friend, Tony Atlas.
Tony Atlas and I met 1980, in Allentown, Pennsylvania… long time ago. We talked, we became very close friends, and we decided to talk to office, maybe we could become tag team partners. Finally, they turned us wide open. Tony Atlas and I became one of the best tag teams, that time, around Pennsylvania, New York, Baltimore, Maryland — all the way around Maryland. Anyway, let me get there… I’m getting excited, excuse me.
Tony said to me, “SD, we need the straps.” I said, “OK, we have to wrestle Saito and Mr. Fuji.” We tried and we tried and we tried. I could not do it. I was the one that killed the tag.
So, I had to step aside. When I stepped aside, Rocky Johnson came to town. They became the first African Americans to ever win the WWE tag team championship. I think I did the right thing, because I couldn’t carry the load and Rocky Johnson was a better partner… BUT… I made a mistake. It didn’t last 3 weeks. They fought, they fought, they had mistakes, they had problems. And I had to push Rocky away and I went back to Atlas. We became partners again.
We traveled the world. Tony and I were in Spain at one time. I saw some body builders doing some stuff in a gym. I asked them where is the gym where all the power lifters are? They told us it was in another town, I can’t remember the name right now but anyway… we flew all the way to Barcelona… listen to me, Barcelona — JUST to meet those guys.
Tony Atlas and I flew there, six hours it took. When we got there they brought the Olympic lifters to meet us. They say they wrestlers they suppose to be strong. Tony Atlas says to me “Bossman” — he calls me Bossman a lot — “I’m hungry.” I said, “We not gonna eat, we have to do this, we have to represent WWE.” He said, “OK Bossman.”
We got in there and I did my little 510 pounds. Think I was a big shot, that’s what I thought. They pushed me aside. Tony says, “Bossman, stand behind me.” When Tony got on the bench ladies and gentlemen, he lifted SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY pounds and all the guys — they took off.
I didn’t stop there. We went on to Vienna, Austria. I found out where they were lifting also. I went in, I said to them, “I have a man here who can OUTLIFT EVERYBODY.”
They said, “No wrestlers can outlift us. We are Olympic.”
I said, “OK my brother.”
I brought in Tony.
I said, “Tony sit down, rest yourself.”
Tony went up again. He started off with 400 pounds, went all the way up to SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY POUNDS. And one of the guys said, “He IS an Olympic lifter!”
I didn’t stop. We went on to Egypt for WWE — those are the places that we went FOR THIS OFFICE.
When we got to Egypt one guy told me that we have to go to Cairo, on the other side of the river, which they say is the Nile. I said we are going to do it. I got a bus, I pay the guy, we went over.
I said “No, I want to show the world that Tony Atlas is one of the best we ever had in this business.”
When I got there there were lifters, lifters from the Olympics. One of the guys looked at us and said, “I saw this guy in a book some place, they call him Mr. USA right?”
Tony went on the bench and Tony did SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE pounds, walked away. He said “Bossman, I’m hungry.”
I didn’t stop there. He said, “SD, when are you going to stop? Bossman stop it.” I said I’ll stop, but I didn’t.
We went to Norway for this office — this WWE office — those are the places that we went together, doing what we love.
We were pioneers. “Tony, just call yourself a pioneer for WWE” — that’s what I told him.
In Norway I met some guys. They said they weren’t too good, we got a gym and all. One guy went up to 600 pounds and stopped. I told Tony, “Please don’t do it, please don’t. He has all his family here…”
Tony did SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY pounds and we walked away.
He looked at me, “You gonna stop. If you don’t stop, Bossman, I’m gonna pop you one of these.”
We were very very close friends, we are still very close. We call each other like 3, 4 times a month just talking about LIFE. Tony is one of the greatest in our business. He won the Atlantic championship, he won tag team championship. He won the championship in Puerto Rico, he is one of the best we ever had in our business.
And he did not stop there. He went on to do bodybuilding and won the Mr. USA contest. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored. Tony, tonight your name will be with the best of the best in our business and the Hall of Fame. Congratulations my brother, and God Bless you.
Tony Atlas makes his way out to the sold out capacity crowd at the huge Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois.
The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, gives Tony Atlas a nudge nudge wink wink.
WEEELL… first of all, I like to uh… I like to thank… the wrestling fans.
Because, without you fans, there be no Hulk Hogan…. *crowd cheers*
There be no Ric Flair…. *crowd cheers twice as loud*
There be no Tony Atlas… there be nothing. You guys — I have been to arenas where the snow is up to my hip — wrestling fans come out to see it. I been down in Florida with one of the greatest wrestlers and a very good friend of mine by the name of Dusty Rhodes the American Dream *crowd cheers*
I been in Mid Atlantic with another great wrestler by the name of Ric Flair — the Nature Boy *crowd cheers*
I had the honor of wrestling Olympic champion Ken Patera *minor applause*
I had the honor of matching STRENGTH with the man that HAD the 23 inch guns — SUPERSTAR Billy Graham!
You KNOW… what I gonna say right now is from the heart, because it’s probably my last time for saying anything to such wonderful people.
But my mother, Beatrice James White, gave birth to NINE kids. Worked TWO jobs. They called it a SPLIT SHIFT. She got up in the morning went to work at 7 O’Clock, work until 2 went back at 4 worked until 11. I’m from Virginia, raised up in the SLAVE SHACK where we didn’t have wooden floors — we had dirt on the floors. I got up and scrubbed dirt floors. We didn’t have dishes in the house; my mother brought home newspaper, dumped food on the newspaper, we sat there and ate… with no dishes in the house.
I graduated from high school with the same pair of pants I started school with. We were DIRT POOR. But I was BLESSED. Because, regardless of if you born in a mansion on the HILL, or you born in the SLAVE SHACK in Virginia… I was born in the greatest country in the history — the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
And EVEN THOUGH… even though they say that Mr. USA represent body building… when the people WAVED THEM AMERICAN FLAGS… when the people hollered U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A… I feel PRRROOOOUD to be an American!
And if you APPLY yourself, if you work hard, keep your nose clean and do as you’re told, and really really put forth a good effort, in the United States of America I don’t care where you was born, or how you came up, or what color you are, or what race you are, or what GENDER you are, you can make it because YOU ARE… in the UNITED States of AMERICA!
*crowd goes absolutely nuts*
And IN THE UNITED States of America I met a very good friend by the name of SD Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, and the list go on and on and on but right now I want to give a special thank — y’all folk don’t know this but I don’t mind telling you because I AM in America and I AIN’T ASHAMED OF NUTTHIN’!
I want this lady right here to stand up. Stand up, Monica, please darling.
Now, in 1989 I found myself homeless… I made a lot of money but as the old timers say, “It ain’t what you made it’s what you saved.” I shoulda listen.
Because my mother always told me, “A hard head makes a soft behind.” I shoulda listen to mom… ‘coz she always say “Don’t lemme tell you again BOY!”
This lady took in a homeless man… fed him, didn’t know who I were.
She took in a homeless man, fed him, built him back up, and educated him. Now I’m a certified personal trainer because of this lady here.
And I’m gonna say something else I DON’T CARE who don’t like it. 3 months later Vince McMahon called me… and made me some money, get me back on my feet. Thank you Mr. McMahon I don’t care WHO DON’T LIKE IT!
Being a professional wrestler was the greatest thing that ever happened to a poor ol’ Virginia boy, raised up in the sticks of Virginia, with nothing to eat. But I’m not complaining now, because I love my ham hock and beans. More so than them steaks and them lobsters — what them little snails y’all guys eat — that Escargot stuff? Now if y’all be eating that then don’t be making fun of MAH BEANS.
And one day somebody asked my wife, “Why you marry Tony Atlas?” She said, “He makes good pork chops!” *blinks while crowd laughs*
Anyway, I don’t want to take much more time. From the bottom of my heart, I love all the people in the wrestling business. I love all the great fans that made the wrestling business, because without you fans there would be none of us.
And all I got to say is God bless each and every one of you. And always remember, you live in the greatest country in the history of the world — U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A! Thank you!
Another wildly entertaining and inspiring speech, one can learn a lot from Tony’s life experiences. There is a lot of crap that goes on in this world but at the end of the day, I like to believe in the goodness of the human race. Of course there’s a select handful that tries to ruin it for everybody else, but stories like Tony’s warms my heart. How Monica, a completely random stranger, took in a homeless man, fed him, gave him shelter and rebuilt him from the ground up. Amazing tales like this remind me that genuine kindness and compassion — even in the smallest way — goes a long way.