Born Sylvester Ritter on December 31, 1952 in Wadesboro NC
Ritter played football at Fayetteville State University, twice earning honorable mention All-American status, and is a member of The Sports Hall of Fame. He graduated with a political science degree.
Ritter debuted working for Jerry Jarret in the late 70s
He would bounce to the continental Wrestling alliance under the name Leroy Rochester
From there he would move to Hart’s Stampede Wrestling as Big Daddy Ritter, where he captured the North American Heavyweight Championship twice.
In the early 1980s Ritter moved to Mid-South Wrestling, where booker “Cowboy” Bill Watts gave him the name and gimmick Junkyard Dog
He lost many of his initial matches in Mid-South but would eventually become the number one face in the company.
He would have feuds with the like of The Freebirds, Ted Debiase, Kamala and king Kong Bundy
In the summer of 1984 Ritter would join the WWF
Ritter won what most consider to be WWF’s first PPV, The Wrestling Classic
Before defeating Randy Savage in the finals, he would beat Moondog Spot and The Iron Sheik.
JYD’s most notable feuds in the company came against King Harley Race, the Funk Brothers, Adrian Adonis, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and “Outlaw” Ron Bass before he left the company in October 1988.
Ritter would make his debut for the National Wrestling Alliance on December 7, 1988 at the Clash of the Champions IV.
JYD began a main event run in May 1990
He quickly became embroiled in a feud with Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship. After gaining disqualification and non-title victories in house show matches, JYD would give Flair a televised defeat by DQ on June 13 at Clash of the Champions XI.
He would then be part of the short-lived Dudes with Attitudes faction along with Sting, Paul Orndorff, and El Gigante.
On February 17, 1991 he would win his first WCW title, teaming with Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich to defeat Dr Z (Randy Culley), Dutch Mantell, and Buddy Landell and gain the WCW Six-Man Tag-Team Championship
JYD would hold the title until June 3, when they were defeated by The Freebirds in Birmingham, Alabama.
He would then leave the promotion in August.
After dropping a significant amount of weight to improve his conditioning, Junkyard Dog returned on February 29, 1992 at SuperBrawl II
He would fight with a number of tag team partners until leaving the promotion for good in 1993.
Ritter would continue to wrestle in the indy circuit as well as training a number of up and coming wrestlers including former WWF wrestlers Rodney Mack and Jazz..
His last major appearance was at ECW’s 1998 Wrestlepalooza.
He was killed in a single vehicle car accident near Forrest MS returning from his daughter’s high school graduation in Wadesboro, NC at the age of 45.
His daughter, LaToya Ritter, and his sister, Christine Woodburn, had the honor of representing him when he was inducted into the WWE HOF in 2004.