Louisville pastor discusses history-making career as a pro wrestling manager
Kenneth Johnson was the first African-American manager in the World Wrestling Federation, or what's now known as the WWE.
Sunday, December 7th 2014, 11:10 AM EST
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The new pastor at the Shiloh Baptist Church really knows how to hoot and holler.
He captivates his congregation with the candor and character of a traditional southern preacher, though people may notice something different about Kenneth Johnson, that's perhaps a little untraditional.
The pastor has a past. He was once known as Slick,a "jive soul bro." He was also referred to as the "Doctor of Style."Johnson was the first African-American manager in the World Wrestling Federation, or what's now known as the WWE.
"I had the gift of gab as they called it in the business and the ability to entertain, so wrestling kind of sought me out. I never really sought it out," Johnson said.
He discovered his microphone skills early, preaching his first sermon when he was just 9-years-old. He studied theology at Arlington Baptist College after graduating high school, but he says money was tight, which caused him to drop out.
Johnson's father had been a professional wrestler, Rufus R. Jones, so when the family business came calling, Johnson answered.
"I was there for seven years, I had a seven year run with WWE," Johnson said.
Slick rode the iconic wave of pro wrestling's 80's heyday. He was a fixture working alongside the biggest superstars in the industry.
Ironically, Johnson played a bad guy for most of his career, all the while he was pastoring a small church in Texas and witnessing the gospel backstage at wrestling events."I was able to lead some people to Christ."
Faith helped Johnson navigate a business that at times gets slammed for drug and alcohol abuse and wrestlers who die young. "I'm quite candid. This is entertainment so when people say well don't you have conflict, no I don't have conflict because this is all fiction. This is real," he said.
Johnson also said, "The ministry is not my profession, because a profession is something you choose. I didn't choose this. God chose it for me. This is my calling in life."
He left wrestling in 1993, but not before his inner spirit came to life. As one door closed, another opened.
He went back to Texas and completed his college education and started preaching across the country. "I got to Louisville because I got a yearning to start pastoring again."
At Shiloh, Johnson faces a church trying to make its own comeback, as its wrestling with the shame of its former leaders. The late Reverend Henry Humphrey was convicted in a million dollar fraud scheme. "Morale has got to be lifted. I think I have a gift to do that, so we can engage enthusiastically in kingdom building," he said.
Slick's job in pro wrestling was to talk people into the seats, and fill the house for a much bigger talent. It's not too different than from what Kenneth Johnson's doing today.
He's gone from superstar to servant.
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