Slick ‘The Doctor of Style’ | Beauty, Brains, & Betrayal | Origins

When one thinks of Slick, the mind immediately flashes to the dapper, cane brandishing nare-do-well that would stop at nothing to secure the victory for his charge, or walk away looking less than “in style” while doing it. He arrived in the WWF during the great recruiting influx of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but his lineage has roots in branded with the Lone Star, and a lineage in the business that goes back a generation. To understand the journey and appreciate the gimmick, we must meet the man. So saddle up kids, we’re headed to Tejas, just outside the Big D. This is Managers of Wrestling’s Past Part 2, Beauty, Brains, & Betrayal.

Born in Fort Worth during the Christmas season of 1957, Kenneth Johnson had wrestling in his blood. A natural talker from the time the doctor slapped his bare behind. His mother was a native of the area, and his father was one Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones. The R stood for guts. He had cut his teeth in the business during a time when black wrestlers weren’t just given opportunities. Thus opening the door to many territorial markets for the men and women of color that were actively working. Freight Train Jones was one of those journeyman wrestlers that traveled the country during the heyday of the NWA. It was during his run in Texas that he met his wife, Brooksie, with whom he had Kenneth and three daughters.

Managers of Wrestlings Past Part 2
Photo / WWE

Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2

Being around the business at an early age, even if his father wasn’t always home, naturally led him to want to be involved with it as he grew into manhood. The local Texas All-Star Wrestling was one of the meat and potatoes shows he consumed a regular diet of, and through osmosis, and study he learned the psychology of the face/heel relationship. No matter what the territory in Texas, there was no mistaking who the good guy or bad guy were. It was a true hotbed for the sport in those days, and yes, I said sport.

After getting the rub because of his dad, along with showing some speaking ability and natural charisma, he started working for TASW in his early twenties. They put him in the role of working as a manager, which is where he stayed for the whole of his career. He cut his teeth with southern favorites, Lord Humongous and Madd Maxx, as his first team. After working there for a year or so, he saw that it was time to move on and try his luck elsewhere, and the life on the road for him started taking off.

Rufus was working the Central States territory, ran by Bob Geigel, and had successful runs there since the early seventies, so he chose that area to move to for his next port of call. The Central States was one of the most fertile places for a young performer to not only grow themselves as athletes but for out the ring talent like Kenneth, it was an opportunity to blossom the character he had been working on. It was at CSW that the Doctor of Style came into his own, or at least cemented those foundations.

Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2

One of the reasons for this was that Geigel didn’t stifle talent when he saw that they were beginning to draw. Just the opposite, he encouraged them. He put the newly minted Slick with some of his heel workers that were in a rotation of matches against, none other than dear ole dad, Freight Train Jones. Rufus had been a tag team with Reed that had worked as the Soul Patrol in Kansas. The arrival of Slick split the two and turned Reed heel. This was the first time Slick saw firsthand the heat and money you could draw with a successful betrayal angle.

That must have been a special time in both of their lives. Very seldom do father and son work alongside each other in that capacity. The two drew good money together, but in this business, nothing lasts forever.

Slick and Butch Reed had become some of the hottest drawing heels in the territory, and it was time for them to move on to bigger ponds. It was the arrival of Bruiser Brody that set things into motion. When he arrived, he worked babyface and was jumped by Reed, with Slick right there at his side. This led them into a loser leaves town match, which Brody naturally won. The duo used the opportunity to move to the most prosperous company on the East Coast.

The World Wrestling Federation was the place to be, and everyone in the business knew it. The two men were brought in as a team, and Slick soon became the hot new manager to be working with. In what can be certainly be considered the best time in the history of the business for valets and managers, he often stood out among his peers, who were the best at what they did.

Slick – Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2

Slick
Photo / WWE

The Doctor of Style danced and cheated his way into the hearts of fans. Albeit the angry heart of their ire, but a heart nonetheless. With Slick at his side, the now bleached blond “Natural” Butch Reed was climbing the heel echelon. He weaseled and stiffly fisted his way through every match in the mid-card ranks. 1986 would prove to be a good year for Slick. With Reed chasing after the red hot, Koko B. Ware at that time into the event of that year – WrestleMania III. If you are going to get into the company, let alone with a push, then a month before one of the biggest events in the company’s history is a pretty damn good place to start. Johnson had been around the business long enough to realize this, but sadly, the Natural did not.

Just as quickly as the rub had come to Reed, it disappeared. He had been given the green light to chase Ricky Steamboat for the coveted IC Title. But after missing a series of dates, however, that opportunity was given to the Honky Tonk Man. This resulted in one of the greatest runs anyone has ever had with that title. Possibly one of the strongest heel runs of that decade in the WWF.

Reed went to work against Superstar Billy Graham and then newly minted babyface of Don Muraco. He also worked the inaugural Royal Rumble and was put out by Randy Savage in round one of the Wrestlemania IV Tournament. My personal favorite of all the Manias. Not long after that, Slick, Reed, and the WWF parted ways. Butch Reed, naturally, went to work for WCW. Developing his Hacksaw gimmick there in the year that followed.

Slick – Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2

Photo / WWE

To say the Slickster had his eyes set on bigger and better things would be the understatement of 1987. His intro music was one of the stand out tracks to hit the company since the rock and wrestling connection began. Who can forget the much venerated Piledriver album? He had also acquired the behemoth that was the One Man Gang not long after his arrival in May. But it was when the former Big Bubba Rogers came into the fold that things started to really take shape for the trio.

In a side angle that many reviled, but one that hit a chord with the fans, was when Slick announced that the brawly biker, the One Man Gang was actually of African descent. Fans looked at each other and the Doctor of Style in disbelief. But not as much as when Akeem the African Dream appeared! Dancing and twisting before the crowd in that loud ass yellow and blue gear. It was, in the estimations of this historian, one of the most drastic and well-played character shifts. Possibly even more so than the one that Adrian Adonis had pulled off a year earlier. George “Akeem” Gray never really got the credit he deserved for that gimmick flip. But he definitely earned it in the months that followed.

Slick

Alliance with The Big Boss Man

Big Bubba had donned a new set of gear himself, but the Bossman was always behind those dark glasses and black hat. Even before he hailed from Cobb County. When the two men joined forces and took on the moniker of the Twin Towers, the game was over. They took over the ring the ring and dominated anyone that they came up against. With uncanny speed for a big man, the Bossman crisscrossed the ring with lethal precision in his impact. Then when their opponents were beaten to a pulp, the big Akeem would splash ’em flat and splatter em for the 1-2-3.

The ever roving eye for money of Vince McMahon saw the potential in the duo. To finally bring to pass the dissolution of the biggest babyface tag team draw he had ever had, The Mega Powers. After a series of singles matches between the four men, they both co-captained teams in the main event of the 1988 Survivor Series. This led to a schmoz finish. The two eventual Saturday Night’s Main Event headlining between variations of the four men with Miss Elizabeth getting drawn into the mix.

Slick – Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2

Managers of Wrestlings Past | Part 2
Photo / YouTube

After the Royal Rumble in January the following year, all the fires had been stoked to red hot in the furnaces. And it was all coming to a boil at the Main Event II at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. This was the final gas thrown on the Mega Powers fire that would lead to their implosion. And their eventual demise at WrestleMania V. It was, and maybe still is, the biggest draw of any betrayal angle in the WWF(E). The trio of Bossman, Akeem, and Slick were there to help guide that ship into the harbor with some of the best heelwork at that time. They gave just enough and let the natural heat between the two egomaniacs take over. It was great and holds up to the test of time.

Slick maintained his status in the heel manager foray into the next decade. Helping many men to get over along the way. But it was his work with Reed and the Towers that really demands attention from the youth of today. The art of the crafty manager is a dying thing these days. Kenneth Johnson, the Dr. of Style, knew it better than most ever will. He retired from the WWF active roster in 1991. He was injured by the British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith. It’s very possible the injury was partly a work to help Slick leave. It’s also quite plausible that he was indeed hurt by the blown up Bulldog of that era. Yeah, you know what I mean.

Education

In 2007 Johnson achieved and received a Master’s Degree in Theology from Campbellsville, Kentucky. He is also an ordained minister today. He has remained active in the company when needed, and inducted the Bossman into the Hall of Fame in 2009. The fact that Slick, nor One Man Gang are in the HOF, is a disgrace. A black eye on the company, in my opinion. There are so many men that helped either build the company up.  They elevated it in a time of evolution that is absent from the Hall. And again, in my opinion, it just isn’t right. They earned their rightful place among their peers. Slick is sixty-two years old, alive and well, living in Louisville, Kentucky. Thank you for all you gave to the business, Jive Soul Bro. Peace.

Managers of Wrestlings Past Part 2
Photo / WWE