One of the most personable and interesting wrestlers from the '90s, Ahmed Johnson, often comes up in "Where are they now?" sessions with fans. SLAM! Wrestling has found the answer to that question, and learned that Johnson wants to return to the spotlight.
Johnson (real name Anthony Norris) now lives in Houston, Texas and has kept himself in great shape with the help of a personal trainer, which should not be a surprise to his fans. What might surprise is that he returned to school, and received a degree in criminology from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. During his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his daughter Nina, who is six years old, and going to the movies.
His last big run came in a sinking WCW in the late '90s to 2001, and his deal was not picked by the WWF when it bought the promotion.
During his WWF run earlier in the decade, Johnson became the first African-American to hold a WWF singles title, the Intercontinental title, taking it on July 23, 1996 from Goldust (Dustin Rhodes) at a King of the Ring pay-per-view. Although he was never defeated for the belt, he would have to forfeit the title due to a kidney injury. He was also the first Kuwait Cup champion in 1996.
"If I came back with WWE, I would want to be on Raw," Johnson told SLAM! Wrestling. He dreams of facing Brock Lesnar, who has not yet back with the promotion either.
Johnson left the WWF on his own terms. "I also have some things to explain to Vince (McMahon) about my departure a couple of years ago," Johnson said. "I just left on a Monday Night Raw without explaining things to Vince or the agents. I could not do the angle they wanted me to do that night."
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Johnson was born in Indiana, but grew up in Auburn, Florida, Pearl River, Mississippi, and then moved to Texas. He was a natural athlete in football, basketball, wrestling, and track in high school. But he can't talk about his upbringing without unpleasant memories of family strife. "I had very abusive father, who is still alive as we speak; he beat my mom constantly and I tried to help her but he would beat me as well."
Johnson went to college at the University of Tennesee, which led to two seasons -- 1990, 1991 -- kicking around the Dallas Cowboys squad as a middle linebacker.
After his football career ended, he joined the Army as a part of the Deltas. "It went well until I beat up my captain," laughed Johnson. "We went out on patrol and he gave me orders something I thought was very unfair that was kind of cowardly. Name calling started and I did what I did to him."
After the Army, Johnson worked as lion tamer for premier trainer Dave McMillan at Circus World in Florida. He helped train lions, tiger, panthers, and leopards with McMillan. "That was very interesting man. Totally."
Following such a varied career, pro wrestling was a perfectly sane next choice.
He fell into the training school run by Steve Casey and Ivan Putski in Houston, with fellow trainees Booker T and Stevie Ray Huffman.
"Stevie Ray and I man we were tighter than tight," said Johnson. "People used to think we were brothers. We lived at the same complex at the time, we were wrestling fanatics, him moreso then me. We used to watch the old, old, old, old, old, old, NWA tapes, Mid-South tapes. Then we started to tumble, we use to climb around and wrestle and then along the streets, we were pretty tough guys, Stevie Ray and I. We kind of made a name on the streets as far as not being the ones to mess with. Ivan Putski opened up a wrestling school here in Houston. We all decided to go give a shot, Stevie Ray, Booker T., and I . We all went to the school man and give it a shot and all three of us were like top of the class as always and kind of went from there."
After their wrestling training, they all started in the Texas-based Global Wrestling Federation in 1992. Johnson was known as Moadib.
"It was not run the best. The people who ran it did not know exactly what they were doing but they had a market in Dallas, Texas that was unbelievable," Johnson said. "They could have been contenders with ECW and WCW. They really could have been something if the right people did the right things instead of money being stolen." On most nights with Global, Johnson and the boys might take home $20 if things went well. Others who got their early starts in the GWF were Scott Putski and JBL.
Up next, Johnson arrived in the Memphis-based USWA, having been seen by Terry and Dory Funk, Jr. in Dallas. Johnson found the USWA to be a "pretty good" training ground. He had no problems with USWA boss Jerry Lawler.
"There were rumors of Jerry Lawler being a racist, but he always treated me great," said Johnson. "He was a cheap ass that did not pay, but treated me very fair. ... I'd rather you not pay me and be a straight shooter with me than you be paying me a bunch and be a big liar. He was great man, he treated me great." Johnson also credits Joe Blanchard, Nitika Koloff and Paul Orndorff for various early advice in his career.
Tony Norris today
Then the WWF came calling in late 1995. Dubbed Amhed Johnson, his first pay-per-view was at Survivor Series of that year on Shawn Michaels' team. This newcomer to the big league found himself teamed with Michaels, Davey Boy Smith & Psycho Sid (Vicious), taking on Yokozuna, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon & Dean (Shane) Douglas. Michaels, Smith and Johnson were the survivors, with Amhed scoring the duke over both Hart and Yokozuna. It was quite the push.
His first major feud was with Jeff Jarrett. Johnson doesn't mince words when it comes to Double J. "Jeff Jarrett was one of the guys who had a problem, and let me know by his actions that he did not like me very much."
Then, on June 23, 1996 in Milwaukee at the Mecca Arena, Johnson pinned Goldust in 15:34 to win the Intercontinental belt.
According to Johnson, the glory of the title win was dimmed by racial tension, both from fellow wrestlers and fans.
"Rikishi and I went to the car one time and somebody had scraped my car with 'Congratulations nigger' on it. Then I was getting letters saying 'Go get your own sport, Nigger.' But that was expected, man." He also had reservation at a hotel changed to "Uncle Tom."
The title run went until he was injured by Faarooq (Ron Simmons). Upon his return to action in 1997, Johnson was set to be a key player in '97 with a heel turn and aligning with the Nation of Domination. A torn ACL injury put him out for a time, and derailed him.
NOTE: We'll have more on Amhed Johnson's career, including his time in WCW and more about a planned comeback, in the coming weeks.
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Amhed Johnson in action in Memphis, 1995
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Lewis Curry is a long-time passionate wrestling fan from Baltimore, Maryland who is giving this whole writing thing a try. He can be reached at email@example.com.