Every Tuesday, we take a look at an outlandish character from wrestling’s days gone by. Sometimes laughable, sometimes revolting, but always preposterous, they’re part of what makes pro rasslin’ so great. Ranging from slightly peculiar to downright ludicrous, these are the wrestlers that time has rightly forgotten.
Today we’ve got one of my favorite racially driven gimmicks ever, Saba Simba. As you can probably tell by looking at the picture to the right, Saba Simba was in fact Tony Atlas. He was one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions with Rocky Johnson and one of the first men to ever pin Hulk Hogan, albeit not cleanly. He also gained national exposure by winning the Mr. USA competition on three occasions, resulting in him adopting the “Mr. USA” moniker later in his career. Despite these accomplishments, the WWF felt that Atlas wasn’t a strong enough character to succeed by his own merit. No, he’d need a fantastic gimmick to win over the masses. As the calendar changed from 1990 to 1991, Atlas re-emerged as Saba Simba. A warrior from a little known Ugandan tribe, Saba Simba competed in attires that reflected his proud heritage. Wearing a massive headdress and lacking footwear, Simba carried a wooden spear and shield with him, dancing his way down to the squared circle to the beats of a WWF-produced faux African tribal song. Never popular and often considered racist, Saba Simba was not long for this world. To make matters worse, Roddy Piper ridiculed the character unmercifully from the commentary table during it’s unveiling, citing the inherent ridiculousness of having Tony Atlas behave in such a manner. After criticism over the racially inspired gimmick became too strong to ignore, the Saba Simba character would be dropped entirely. Atlas returned to the WWE in 2008, but Saba Simba was never heard from again.