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WRESTLINGEPICENTER.COM: R.I.P


Ernie Ladd

Novewmber 28th, 1938 - March 10th, 2007

Wrestler: Ernie "The Cat" Ladd
Birthday: November 28, 1938
Hometown: Originally from Orange, Texas Billed from Orange Grove, Texas Retired in Franklin, Louisiana
Marital Status: Married to Roslyn Ladd
Height & Weight: 6'9" - 320 lbs
Trained by: Freddie Blassie
Debut: 1961
Previous Gimmicks: "The Big Cat", "The Cat"
Finishing Move: Kick to the Head
Favorite Moves: Thumb to the Throat, Guillotine Drop, Abdominal Stretch
Notable Feuds: Johnny Powers, Waldo Von Erich, Bruno Sammartino, Gene Kiniski, Dominic DeNucci, Dick the Bruiser, Ox Baker, Andre the Giant

Ernest "Ernie" Ladd, nicknamed "The Big Cat" was an American collegiate and professional football player and a professional wrestler.

The American Football League's San Diego Chargers selected the Grambling State University standout with their 15th pick in the 1961 draft. At 6'9" and 315 pounds, Ladd was arguably the biggest and strongest man in professional football during his era: 52-inch chest, 39-inch waist, 20-inch biceps, 19-inch neck, 20-inch calf, and size 18D shoes. (According to different sources, the tallest player in NFL history was Morris Stroud (1970 Chiefs) at 6'10", or Richard Sligh (1967 Raiders) at 7'0". The heaviest player in history was Aaron Gibson, at 410 pounds.) Ladd played in three AFL championship games, helping the Chargers win the American Football League title in 1963 with fellow teammate Earl Faison, both members of the original Fearsome Foursome.

Ladd spent the 1966 season playing for the Houston Oilers before moving in 1967 to the Kansas City Chiefs. There, with former Grambling teammate Buck Buchanan, he filled out what was probably the biggest defensive tackle tandem in history. Both Ladd and Buchanan are members of the Grambling State University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Boston Patriots center Jon Morris said Ladd was so big, he blocked out the sun: "It was dark. I couldn’t see the linebackers. I couldn’t see the goalposts. It was like being locked in a closet." Ladd was an American Football League All-Star from 1962 through 1965. In 1981, he was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.

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. 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.

Ladd wrestled for a number of different wrestling associations, including the World Wide Wrestling Federation where he was managed by The Grand Wizard of Wrestling. 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 I.W.A. 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 also owned and operated Big Cat Ernie Ladd's "Throwdown" BBQ Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana until August 29, 2005, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In the hurricane's aftermath, he ministered to Katrina evacuees at the Astrodome. He was a friend of WWE Smackdown commentator Jim Ross. Ernie Ladd also appeared in an episode of That '70s Show entitled "That Wrestling Show." He was in the locker room with The Rock, who was playing his father "Soul Man" Rocky Johnson, whom Eric & Red were seeking an autograph from.

Ladd retired from wrestling in 1986. He would occasionally do color commentary at certain WWF events, usually teamed with Gorilla Monsoon. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995. Ladd died on March 10, 2007, having battled cancer since 2004. He was 68 years old.