HBK & Racial Concerns Complicated Title Picture Plans For Ahmed Johnson In WWE

While his career in wrestling didn't last as long as anticipated, Ahmed Johnson certainly left his mark in WWE. He was the first Black man to ever hold the WWE Intercontinental Championship, winning it in June 1996, and ultimately never losing the title in the ring; he was forced to vacate the belt due to an injury.

In an interview with "Ten Count," Johnson talked about how seriously he took winning the title, believing that he performed well both in and out of the ring to show how Black wrestlers could be champions. As such, winning the belt was less about winning the title for Johnson, but about showing that Black wrestlers could be accepted and proving doubters in the locker room wrong.

"I didn't know how to feel," Johnson said. "I was just feeding off the crowd, the way they were applauding, standing up. That just made me feel so good. At that point, it wasn't about the belt, it was about being accepted. And we were in, what? Green Bay, Wisconsin? There ain't too many Black people [there]. 

"And to see the fans react the way they did, it touched my heart. It changed my mind about a lot of things ...The fact that I heard Shawn Michaels tell Vince that people weren't ready for a Black champion. And the people definitely showed them that they were ready."

Ahmed Johnson Claims Shawn Michaels Politicked To Keep Him Out Of WWE Title Picture

While Johnson claimed there was no friction between him and Michaels, he also made it clear that Michaels was a hindrance to his push. This included, according to Johnson, Michaels even going as far as to tell Johnson to stop using high-flying moves during a meeting in McMahon's office.

But Johnson's biggest accusation is that Michaels got in WWE owner Vince McMahon's ear and prevented Johnson from challenging The Undertaker for the WWE Championship at Canadian Stampede. Johnson claimed that not only was he scheduled to beat The Undertaker for the title, but that the stated reason behind him missing the match — an injury — wasn't true.

"I was still going, willing to go for the match and be ready," Johnson said. "But Vince had a change of mind. I believe all the junk that Shawn Michaels and some of the other boys put in his head, about 'Oh, they're not ready for a Black champion.' But you've just seen me win the Intercontinental belt, so you know I'm ready. You know the fans are ready. But Shawn Michaels, he kind of ran the coop back then; he was the head dog back then. So what he said kind of went."

If you use quotes in this article, please credit "Ten Count" and provide an h/t to Rllegends for the transcription