For all his faults, a young, healthy Ahmed Johnson was wholly capable of having a good match when everything clicked. With his NFL look and athleticism, he was a force to be reckoned with in the WWF from late 1995 to early 1998. Generally well taken care of by his opponents in spite of his shortcomings as a worker, he was instantly inserted into feuds with well-established heels, ultimately failing the grace part of the “under fire” test. Johnson had his moments of looking like a star, but was pushed beyond the level of what his training had prepared him for, and more often than not seemed completely lost in the WWF ring.
You know all the things “a natural” does? Ahmed Johnson didn’t. He was as smooth as an unsanded board, and his movements in the ring made it seem like he was playing some sport other than wrestling. He took an Irish whip like the ropes were a blocking sled and his opponent an assistant coach on a high school backfield. He did, however, have a small arsenal of powerhouse moves that he executed extremely well — his spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge finisher would make Scott Steiner blush — and, most importantly, “the look” that Vince McMahon covets in a top star. Ahmed stood somewhere between The Ultimate Warrior and Bill Goldberg on the roll call of action figure wrestlers from the 90s who couldn’t wrestle, but had the right mix of charisma, physicality, and intensity to be in the spotlight.
His curtain jerking match with Jeff Jarrett at the 1996 Royal Rumble stands as a testament to what Ahmed could do on a good night with the right opponent. The cowardly, stalling heel Jarrett brought out the best in the lumbering, but athletic Johnson. (Side Note: I defy you to find a single properly-executed Irish Whip in this match.)
(P.S., The only clip we could find of this match is part of a larger clip of the entire show , so please excuse the 4 minutes of Royal Rumble hype beforehand)
Give Ahmed credit: he sells effectively throughout Jarrett’s long period of offense, and he clearly wants to please the crowd, going so far as to employ an Undertaker-esque suicide dive. It ends with him landing directly onto his head. Of course, our hero doesn’t sell the mistake a bit, and Mr. Perfect does his best on commentary to emphasize the impressive, athletic part of the dive and not the embarrassing, painful one. The apparently-impervious-to-head-trauma Johnson then climbs to top rope, pulls a spot out of the 2 Cold Scorpio playbook and lands on the mat in a manner that “injures his leg” (a staple of all mid-90s Jeff Jarrett matches) and also looks like it could injure the heck out of your leg. The finish is pure Jarrett silliness (and resulted in a concussion for Ahmed), but Johnson comes away from this match looking like a capable storyteller and a “close-enough-to-fake-it” athletic big man.