Tony Atlas was known by many nicknames, ‘Mr. USA,’ ‘The Black Superman,’ ‘Black Atlas’ but there was no denying that during the 1970’s and 80’s, he was a pro wrestling superstar. Atlas had a physique that seemed it was chiseled out of granite. He was one half of the first ever African American WWF tag team champions along with Rocky Johnson in the Soul Patrol. Tony wrestled all over the world and in countless territories…winning championships along the way.
While Tony Atlas was a world renowned star inside the squared circle, he lived his life just like it. As fast as money came in, the money went out. He would spend money on drugs like cocaine and marijuana, steroids to maintain his larger than life physique and women…lots and lots of women. Atlas was living the life of a millionaire, but in reality, the most Atlas ever earned in a year for professional wrestling was $125,000.
Oh sure, the money was still plenty…but his bad habits outside the ring were simply weren’t covering all of the costs. At one point in his career, Vince McMahon considered giving him a run as WWF Intercontinental champion. Unfortunately for him, it never happened as Atlas’ drug issues started to affect his performances. Soon, Atlas was out the door and he wrested for a number of places including the AWA, World Class and the WWC in Puerto Rico.
It was in Puerto Rico where Atlas witnessed the gruesome murder of Bruiser Brody. After Brody’s death, many of the foreign talent left the island, one of which was Atlas himself. The problem was, most of the territories were gobbled up by Vince McMahon and the WwF. With many of the territories gone and with the WWF not an option at that point…Atlas was left without work.
Also around this period, Tony was going through a very bitter divorce from his wife. Much of Atlas’ money was tied up with lawyers and legal fees. Atlas began storing some of his money with a friend for safe keeping, but just like a classic heel turn, that friend took the money and ran. When his divorce was finalized, half of his earnings went to his ex wife. Adding insult to injury, the Internal Revenue Service claimed that Atlas neglected to pay his taxes and whatever money he had left…went to them.
Just like that, Tony Atlas was left penniless and without a home as his ex was awarded the house they shared. Luckily, promoter Mario Savoldi came in contact with Atlas and hired him to work for his ICW promotion in the New England area. Atlas was making roughly one thousand dollars a week working for Savoldi. Unfortunately, that promotion also folded due to Vince McMahon’s national expansion.
It was now 1990, Tony Atlas was for the first time in his career, out of options to wrestle. Nobody wanted him and with no money…Atlas was left completely homeless. Atlas wandered the streets and would sleep under park benches. He often didn’t eat for days at a time.
Soon, the muscular 250 pound frame whittled down to 195 pounds. While homeless and starving, Atlas discovered a Burger King in the area. Atlas said he would sneak into the dumpster behind the restaurant and wait for the employees to dump the garbage in after hours. Atlas would then sift through the trash and find whatever food the Burger King didn’t use that night and eat. This went on for a few days, until the Burger King manager noticed Atlas climbing out of one of the dumpsters.
The next night, locks were placed on the dumpsters and Atlas could no longer go in to get food. As winter came, so did the freezing temperatures. Atlas would wear all of his clothing at once which included 5 shirts and four pairs of pants. He would often have some of his possessions stolen in the middle of the night while he was sleeping.
One day, a woman discovered Atlas sleeping under a park bench and offered him help. Atlas was literally partially frozen in ice from his body sweat freezing in the sub zero temperatures. At first, Atlas rejected the woman’s help….but realizing he was near death from freezing outside…Atlas accepted the woman’s help.
Atlas went to the home of the woman, where it took hours for him to physically get warm and thaw out from the cold. The woman shaved Atlas’ hair and according to Atlas, when he looked down at the floor…he could see bugs crawling out of his hair. He went into a hot shower and his body went into immediate shock. Paramedics came to assist him. Eventually, Atlas came to and he would spend the next few weeks with the woman.
He started going back to the gym to work and would often notice a police officer giving him looks. One day, that officer approached Atlas and Atlas thought he was going to be arrested for something he did while he was homeless. As it turned out, the cop recognized him as being the wrestler Tony Atlas. The two began talking and the cop suggested he call Vince McMahon. Atlas went to the police station and called Vince and McMahon offered him a job back with the company.
McMahon had an idea of how to use Atlas in the WWF and Saba Simba was born. Atlas was once again making decent money and every week he would send the women 500 dollars to thank her for her generosity. After Saba Simba’s run with the WWF ended, Atlas returned to the woman’s home. The woman handed Atlas all of the money he sent to her.
Confused, Atlas asked her why didn’t she spend the money and the woman replied that she saved it for him. She encouraged Atlas to go to get certified as a personal trainer with that money, so if and when his wrestling career ended..he would have a job to fall back on. Atlas did indeed use that money to get certified and continued his career with brief stints in WCW and the independents..as well as another return to the WWE.
As for that woman that gave him a second lease on life….her name is Monika and Atlas wound up marrying her.