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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. 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.
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.
Debuting as Rock Monroe in 1945, Monroe began his career by wrestling in traveling carnivals. He changed his name to Rocky Monroe in 1949, and adopted the nickname "Sputnik" in 1957.
He became 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) 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. As a result of this, he was frequently arrested by police on a variety of trumped up charges, such as mopery. He would then hire a black attorney and appear in court, pay a fine, and immediately resume fraternizing with black citizens and drinking in their bars. 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.
Monroe having become the biggest wrestling draw at the time, soon refused to perform unless black patrons were allowed to sit in any seat at the Ellis Auditorium. As a result, his wrestling shows were desegregated and the shows then completely sold out with Monroe's many black fans filling the auditorium. Soon, other southern sporting events, recognizing the enormous financial benefits, began to desegregate as well.
Monroe died in his sleep on November 3, 2006 in Florida. He was 77 years old.
In popular culture
- A Los Angeles-based rock band is named after Monroe.
- In May 2007, HBO announced that they would make a film based on Monroe's life. In September 2007, Julien Nitzberg confirmed that the first draft of the film's script had been completed.
Championships and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Gulf Coast/CAC Honoree (2000)
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling
- Mid-South Sports
- National Wrestling Alliance
- Humanitarian Award (2012)
- NWA Mid-America
- NWA Tri-State
- NWA Western States Sports
- NWA North American Tag Team Championship (Amarillo version) (1 time) – with Ken Lucas
- NWA Western States Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Baby Blimp
- Southwest Sports, Inc.
- United States Wrestling Association
- Memphis Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 1994)