Ladd started wrestling in 1961. As a publicity stunt, some wrestlers in the San Diego area challenged Ladd to a private wrestling workout. Before long, Ladd was a part-time competitor in Los Angeles, during football’s off-season. Ladd became a huge draw in short order. When knee problems cut his football career short, Ladd turned to the more financially lucrative business of wrestling full-time in 1969. After a run as a fan favorite, Ladd became one of wrestling’s most hated heels during the 1970s, as well as one of the first black wrestlers to portray a heel character. He riled crowds with his arrogant and colorful demeanor during interviews, especially with his less than politically correct nicknames for opponents such as Wahoo McDaniel (whom he referred to as “the Drunken Indian”), and Mr. Wrestling (whom he called “the Masked Varmint” and insisted that he was an escaped criminal). Ladd also gained infamy through use of his controversial taped thumb, which Ladd claimed was from an old football injury. Often, when Ladd appeared to be in serious trouble during a match, he’d walk out of the arena and accept a countout loss. This practice has since become known as “pulling an Ernie Ladd” in some circles.
Known for his immense size and power, it was a natural for Ladd to engage in feuds with other giants, including a famous feud with André the Giant (whom Ladd referred to as “Andre the Dummy” or “The Big Fat French Fry” during interviews).
In certain areas, Ladd’s wrestling nickname was “The King”, and he would wear an ornate crown to emphasize it.
In other wrestling associations, he was “The Big Cat,” and walked in with a big cowboy hat.
Ladd challenged Bruno Sammartino one time at Madison Square Garden for the WWWF title when Bruno reigned, handily pinning Earl “Mr. Universe” Maynard the month prior. He also challenged Pedro Morales for the same title during the latter’s reign. In 1978 he wrestled WWWF champion Bob Backlund. When the International Wrestling Association had its brief run in the New York area, Ladd lost a 2 out of 3 fall match to champion Mil Mascaras, 2 falls to 1 (he pinned Mascaras the first fall, was disqualified in the second, and was pinned by Mascaras in the third). This match took place at Roosevelt Stadium, in Jersey City, NJ.
After leaving the WWWF, Ladd ventured to the Mid-South territory promoted by Bill Watts.
While in the Mid-South area, Ladd feuded with Paul Orndorff, Ray Candy, and Junkyard Dog. He also served as a manager to Afa & Sika, the Wild Samoans. Ladd also had a decent run as part of a tag team with “Bad” Leroy Brown in the early 1980s. Ladd would also assist Watts as a booker behind the scenes, and had a large part in the development of Sylvester Ritter as the area’s top draw.
Ladd retired from wrestling in 1986 due to recurring knee problems.
In 1986, Ladd returned to the WWF as a Color Commentator, He called the 20 Man Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 2 (which featured NFL players), He also teamed with Gorilla Monsoon & Johnny Valiant at the broadcast booth during The Big Event at C.N.E. Stadium in Toronto, Canada, then afterwards, Ladd quietly left the WWF.
He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995.
- November, 28, 1938
- Rayville, Louisiana
- March, 10, 2007
- Franklin, Louisiana
Cause of Death
- colon cancer
- Franklin Cemetery
- Franklin, Louisiana