Sputnik Monroe
Sputnik Monroe
Birth nameRosco Monroe Merrick
Born(1928-12-18)December 18, 1928
Dodge City, Kansas, U.S.[1]
DiedNovember 3, 2006(2006-11-03) (aged 77)
Florida, U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Elvis Rock Monroe
Pretty Boy Roque
Rock Monroe
Sputnik Monroe
Billed height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)[1]
Billed weight229 lb (104 kg)[1]
Billed fromWichita, Kansas, U.S.
Trained byJack Nazworthy[1]

Roscoe Monroe Brumbaugh (born Rosco Monroe Merrick; December 18, 1928 – November 3, 2006) better known by his ring name Sputnik Monroe, was an American professional wrestler and civil rights activist.[2] He was a headliner in many territories, and was best known in Memphis, Tennessee, where he and Billy Wicks set an attendance record that lasted until the Monday Night Wars boom period.[3]

Early life

Monroe was born in Dodge City, Kansas. His father was killed in an airplane crash one month before his birth. His formative years were spent living with his grandparents. Later, his mother remarried, and his stepfather, whose last name was Brumbaugh, adopted him at age 17. As a result, Monroe's legal name became Roscoe Monroe Brumbaugh.

He had a brother, Gary "Jet" Monroe, who was his manager during certain parts of his career.[4]

Professional wrestling career

Debuting as "Rock Monroe" in 1945, Monroe began his career by wrestling in travelling carnivals. He changed his name to "Rocky Monroe" in 1949, and adopted the nickname "Sputnik" in 1957 in reference to the Russian satellite Sputnik 1.

Monroe cultivated an "evil" heel gimmick. In a wrestling-related incident he had had an opponent locked in a worked submission hold, and threatened to break his arm. A local sheriff threatened to shoot Sputnik if he did to which Monroe replied that he would hold the opponent until he either gave up or starved to death; he eventually released him when the sheriff counted to three.[5] He drew heat from crowds by describing himself arrogantly as being made of "twisted steel and sex appeal".[6]

In 1957, while driving to a wrestling show in Alabama, Monroe became tired and invited a black hitchhiker he met at a gas station to take the wheel. Upon arriving at the arena, Monroe placed his arm around the man, which drew a chorus of boos and insults from the white crowd; in response to this Monroe kissed the man on the cheek.[6] Monroe would later use this underlying racism as a promotional tactic and become a noteworthy figure in Memphis cultural history. During a period where legal segregation was the norm at public events, and during a general decline in the popularity of professional wrestling, Monroe recognized that the segregated wrestling shows (whites sat in floor seats while blacks were required to sit in the balcony)[7][8] were not properly marketing to black fans. The witty, flamboyant Monroe began dressing up in a purple gown and carrying a diamond tipped cane and drinking in traditionally black bars in the black area of Memphis, where he would openly socialize with black patrons and hand out tickets to his wrestling shows.[6] As a result of this, he was frequently arrested by police on a variety of vague, trumped up charges, such as mopery.[6] In each case, he would then hire a black attorney and appear in court, pay a small fine, and immediately resume the behavior that resulted in his prior arrests. Due to this, and in spite of the fact that he was a heel at the time, his popularity soared among the black community. At his shows, although floor seats in arenas would be half empty with white patrons, the balcony would be packed to capacity with black patrons with many others unable to enter due to the balcony selling out.[9]

Monroe, having become the biggest wrestling draw in the territory, soon refused to perform unless patrons, regardless of their race, were allowed to sit in any seat at the Ellis Auditorium.[6] As a result, the promoter was obliged to desegregate his wrestling shows, which then completely sold out with Monroe's black fans, in some cases over 15,000 at a time,[6] filling the auditorium. Soon, other Southern sporting events, recognizing the enormous financial benefits, began to desegregate as well.[9]

He retired from wrestling in 1975 but returned to wrestle one last match in 1988.

Personal life

Monroe had three children, the youngest of them, Quentin Bell was also a pro wrestler. Monroe trained him.[10][11] His son died on September 10, 2022, at 61.

Death and legacy

Monroe died in his sleep on November 3, 2006, in Florida.[3] He was 77 years old. In May 2007, HBO announced that they would make a film based on Monroe's life.[12] In September 2007, Julien Nitzberg confirmed that the first draft of the film's script had been completed.[13] The song Sputnik Monroe by the norwegian band Gluecifer was inspired by Monroe.[14]

Championships and accomplishments


  1. ^ a b c d e Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Sputnik Monroe". Cagematch.net. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  2. ^ Sharp, John (March 7, 2019). "From Mobile to Memphis, Sputnik Monroe was a body-slamming civil rights pioneer". al.com. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b Brady, Hicks. "2006: The year in wrestling". PWI Presents: 2007 Wrestling Almanak and book of facts. Kappa Publications. p. 27. 2007 Edition.
  4. ^ "Sputnik Monroe Profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  5. ^ Loverro, Thom (2006). The Rise and Fall of ECW. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-41-651312-4. p. 14
  6. ^ a b c d e f Rossen, Jake (June 20, 2016). "The Pro Wrestler Who Fought Segregation in 1950s Memphis". Mental Floss. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  7. ^ staff (December 2, 2006). "Sputnik wrestled against prejudice". The Washington Times. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "Sputnik Monroe, RIP – Can't Stop The Bleeding". cantstopthebleeding.com.
  9. ^ a b "Interview with Jim Cornette". The Steve Austin Podcast. Archived from the original on 2019-11-14. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  10. ^ Gordon, Robert. It Came From Memphis. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. (pg. 38–39) ISBN 0-7434-1045-9
  11. ^ Mehr, Bob (November 11, 2006). "Sputnik Monroe used his rock-'em-sock-'em star status to muscle the way for desegregated". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  12. ^ "Nitzberg Penning Sputnik Biopic". ComingSoon.net. May 4, 2007.
  13. ^ "Interview with Julien Nitzberg about Sputnik Monroe movie Archived 2008-07-05 at archive.today
  14. ^ https://oldtimemusic.com/the-meaning-behind-the-song-sputnik-monroe-by-gluecifer/
  15. ^ Meltzer, Dave (2012-11-17). "Sat. update: Great TV show, WWE multiple releases, Austin talks WWE Hall of Fame, Best night for Bellator, PPV predictions, NWA Hall of Fame, James Storm headlines benefit show, Devitt takes another title". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  16. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2006) [2000.]. "(Memphis, Nashville) Tennessee: Southern Tag Team Title [Roy Welsch & Nick Gulas, Jerry Jarrett from 1977]". Wrestling title histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Waterloo, Ontario: Archeus Communications. pp. 185–189. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  17. ^ "Southern Tag Team Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  18. ^ *Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Heavyweight Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 268–269. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  19. ^ "NWA Texas Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  20. ^ Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Tag Team Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  21. ^ "NWA Texas Tag Team Title [E. Texas]". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  22. ^ "Memphis Hall of Fame". Wrestling-Titles.com. Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  23. ^ "2018 WWE HALL OF FAME LEGACY WING INDUCTEES ARE.... | PWInsider.com". www.pwinsider.com. Retrieved 2018-04-07.