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Johnny Kwango (1920-1994)

Real NameJohn Lagey

Lifespan - 4/20/20 - 1/19/94

5’8” 189 lbs. - London, England

Athletic BackgroundWrestling, Soccer

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesBully Johnson, Black Kwango

Peak Years - 1960s

Place in HistoryJohnny Kwango is one of the most famous wrestlers in British history in spite of rarely working in main events, never holding any titles and being a person of color.  John Lagey’s mother was a strongwoman and wrestler in the German circus and her son followed her into the entertainment realm.  He was a ballet dancer, an accomplished Jazz drummer and pianist and later appeared on stage and screen.  The story has always been that his older brother was Black Butcher Johnson, who was a black wrestler of note in his day.  Making his own start in the post-war years, the man that became known as Johnny Kwango spent time as Bully Johnson (playing off his brother’s notoriety).  By the 1960s, Kwango was a well established talent and he made more appearances on ITV’s “World of Sport” than most.  One reason for his fame is that Kwango worked with Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo frequently and both were main event level stars.  However, Johnny Kwango was never promoted as a main star on his own.  Perhaps due to his race, perhaps due to his abilities, perhaps due to other personal factors, but it is curious.  While he is best remembered as a British talent, Johnny Kwango toured all over (and notoriously fathered children all over) and was billed as an African champion.  He was, when Prince Philip (the husband of Queen Elizabeth) asked him where he was from in Africa, famously lost for words.  Kwango was a natural entertainer and fans loved watching him use his trademark jawhold and headbutt on hapless villains.  As he became older, Kwango relied more on gimmicks to please the fans and continued to be a midcard attraction.  After retiring from the ring, he became a referee, although it was a bit odd to have such a famous wrestler as the third man in the ring.  Johnny Kwango passed away in 1994, not long after “World of Sport” had died, and he is among those fondly remembered characters of the sports’ glory years on television.