Acrylic and spray on 24″ x 24″ wood
Ron Simmons follows in a proud tradition of men who have competed both on the gridiron and in the squared circle. In football, he played for Florida State University where he was recognized as an All-American. He briefly played for the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits. One of his teammates in Tampa, Larry Pfohl, would also go on to wrestling fame under the name of Lex Luger. Simmons would then transition to wrestling, where in WCW he would join Butch Reed in the tag team Doom. Doom would feud with the likes of the Steiner Brothers, the Rock n’ Roll Express and the Four Horsemen, before breaking up and feuding with one another.
As a singles wrestler, he would soon face Luger for the World Championship, a match he would not succeed in. He would also face Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in their respective gimmicks Oz and the Diamond Studd. But it was in 1992 that he would face and defeat Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship that Simmons found himself the company’s first African-American to hold the title. The crowd reaction from his victory is one of the greatest in wrestling history, with fans losing control of themselves, jumping up and down, screaming and crying. It gives me chills every time I see it. He held the title for five months.
In 1996 he joined the WWE as Farooq to feud with Ahmed Johnson, later forming the awesomely-named stable The Nation of Domination, a group inspired with the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. Simmons would later lose control of the group to a young upstart by the name of The Rock. He would soon find himself partnered with John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield. The group was first called Hell’s Henchmen before being incorporated into the Undertaker’s storyline as the Acolytes. The two were a perfect pairing of hard-hitting, smash-mouthed bad-asses that blurred the lines of reality with the viciousness of their attacks. This was around the time I started watching wrestling, and they were instantly my favorite team. They really struck me as two guys you really wouldn’t want to be in a bar with.
No longer associated with the Undertaker, the duo rechristened themselves as the Acolyte Protection Agency, mercenary bodyguards available to the highest bidder. The team continued their smash-mouth matches, but would also have occasional barfight vignettes at a tavern in the town they were visiting. It was during the APA time that Simmons started incorporating what would become his trademark by saying ‘DAMN’ when something would disgust him. The team would disband as JBL went on to singles glory and Simmons left the company.
He still makes semi-regular appearances, largely in a comedic role. Some in-ring or backstage segment will get ridiculous with the wrestlers acting a fool, and the camera will pull back or pan over to reveal Simmons standing there with a disgusted look on his face, then loudly proclaiming, “DAMN!” It pops the crowd every single time, including me.
In 2008 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame for his time at Florida State, of which he was also entered into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame. In 2012 he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame due to his accomplishments as the first African-American WCW World Champion and his prominence in the Attitude Era with WWE.
About the piece: I did this one in a similar style to the JBL portrait, but in a red color scheme rather than the blue one of Layfield’s. I wanted the two to compliment one another, while still letting each retain their individuality. I painted the background with acrylic red and black house paint and some watered-down gesso. I then brought in the figure and used a little bit of the red and black to give it some zing. I then took a couple pieces of scrap foam board I had sitting around and used them to mask the lines for the horizontal stripes of spray paint. I then put a little more watered-down gesso on and it was good to go! DAMN!