Fallen Soldiers Gone But Not Forgotten Full List Of Deceased Wrestlers 08
List of Deceased Wrestlers with Photos
This List of Deceased Wrestlers & includes Photos & Some History about the Wrestler, his or her Family & Friends Comments & their Impact on the Wrestling World.
Miss Elizabeth Death – Drug Overdose
Miss Elizabeth – Dead at 42 from drug overdose. Photo: wwe.com
1960-2003 (age 42)
Wrestling fans around the world were shocked on May 1, 2003. Miss Elizabeth, valet to the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage was dead at just 42 years old. The once-dubbed “First Lady of Wrestling” suffered from an apparent drug overdose.
Minutes prior to her falling into unconsciousness, everything appeared normal. Well, everything except the fact that she was in Lex Luger’s home at the time. Lex and Liz, both married at the time, were involved in a secret affair. Lex frantically called 911 when he discovered Liz wasn’t breathing.
Although she is gone, Miss Elizabeth’s career in wrestling is still well remembered by fans of the WWF’s golden era… and perhaps even a few who were watching Monday Nitro in the late 90s.
Elizabeth suffered from a drug overdose at the home of Lex Luger in Marietta, GA. Photo: wwe.com
It’s hard to believe that someone who appeared so gentle and soft spoken on screen would end up dead from a drug overdose in her 40s. Many fans seem to point fault for Elizabeth’s downfall toward the direction of Lex Luger. Lex was a well documented drug user at the time, but we’ll get to that toward the end of the article. First, let’s take a look at some of the better times.
A Career That Began Behind the Camera
Miss Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Ann Hulette on November 19, 1960 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Elizabeth’s father owned a local television station, and it seems she had intentions of working for him even from a young age. At the University of Kentucky she studied communications, and after receiving her bachelor’s degree, she took a job operating the camera at the station.
While working, Elizabeth met Randy “Macho Man” Savage. At the time, Savage was wrestling for his father’s organization – ICW (International Championship Wrestling). ICW was airing on Elizabeth’s father’s station and by December 1984, Randy and Elizabeth were married.
Miss Elizabeth Steps into the Spotlight, the Mega Powers are formed.
In October 1987, The Mega Powers were formed. Pictured: Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Photo: wwe.com
In June 1985, Randy Savage became one of the WWF’s new stars. His entry into the story lines involved a competition to see who would be his manager. Miss Elizabeth landed the job.
In the fall of 1987, Miss Elizabeth became a pivotal part in Randy Savage’s story line.
During a match for the IC title, Liz stepped into the ring to try and stop the Honky Tonk Man from assaulting Randy with his guitar. Honky Tonk shoved Elizabeth aside and she ran backstage to ask the mighty Hulk Hogan for help.
On cue, the Hulkster cleared house, and Hogan and Savage shook hands, ultimately forming a new alliance. The Mega Powers were born.
Jealousy Unravels the Powers
Randy Savage shows signs of jealousy over Hulk Hogan’s involvement with Miss Elizabeth. Photo: wwe.com
The Mega Powers were a major story line in the WWF for nearly two years. The tag team was on fire, but bouts of jealousy were emerging from Randy whenever Miss Elizabeth would pay attention to Hulk Hogan. It was classic story telling during the boom of the 80s wrestling explosion – perhaps what made it so believable, was the fact that Randy Savage was always said to be very protective and jealous over Elizabeth, even when the camera’s weren’t rolling.
The alliance ended in 1989, during a live NBC broadcast of “The Main Event” (an occasional spin off of the more recognized Saturday Night’s Main Event).
In a segment that is probably one of the most infamous backstage altercations in WWF history, Savage attacks Hogan with the belt, while a stunned Miss Elizabeth watches in horror. Heel turn 101!
The two battled at WrestleMania V, but not before drama ensued over whose corner Miss Elizabeth would be in. Always classy, Liz remained neutral.
A Wedding to Remember
Although Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth parted ways on screen, they remained married behind the scenes. Their in-ring personalities were reunited again though, and in 1991, they had a kayfabe wedding at SummerSlam.
The joy of the moment was cut short when Jake “The Snake” Roberts presented Miss Elizabeth with a treacherous cobra. For the next few months, a feud between babyfaced Randy and Jake kept WWF fans glued to their screens.
Drama at WrestleMania VIII
In April 1992 at WrestleMania VIII, Miss Elizabeth and Randy’s on screen love story once again became a vehicle to bring conflict to the ring. Ric Flair proclaimed that he had dated Miss Elizabeth before she knew Randy. The revelation led to a match at WrestleMania VIII, where Savage was victorious.
Off the screen, Elizabeth and Randy Savage had already separated. The two filed for divorce and public statements were issued about the break-up to share the news with fans. It was one of the first times up to that point in WWE history where personalities’ off-screen lives were acknowledged.
Liz signs to WCW
Miss Elizabeth joined WCW toward the end of her career. Here she is with Ric Flair and the late Nancy Benoit. Photo: wwe.com
After leaving the WWF, for a short time Elizabeth worked for ESPN, covering boat racing events. By 1996 she was back in the world of wrestling with WCW. When she first returned, Miss Elizabeth once again played the part of Randy Savage’s manager. Savage had made the jump to WCW late in ’94. Elizabeth was involved in a number of WCW story lines and eventually became one of Ric Flair’s managers.
End of Wrestling Career, Affair with Lex Luger
Off screen, in 1997 Elizabeth married a Florida attorney named Cary Lubetsky – the couple divorced just 2 years later.
By 1999, Liz had become linked with wrestler Lex Luger. Although both were married, the pair began a secret relationship off screen. Ultimately, Lex and Miss Elizabeth were terminated from WCW, although not because of their affair. Their contracts were voided in August 2000, and the two would never again appear ringside.
The Sad Last Days – Miss Elizabeth Death
Liz and Lex were both married, having an affair together at the time of her death in 2003. Photo: wwe.com
All sources indicate that Elizabeth was undergoing a rough period of time in the final years of her life. Police were called in to settle a domestic dispute on April 19, 2003, and it seemed that both Elizabeth and Lex began to spiral out of control.
Luger was arrested for striking her, released on bond and arrested again two days later for getting into an accident while driving under the influence. On May 1, 2003, Lex placed a frantic call to emergency services in Marietta, Georgia, saying that Elizabeth was not breathing. Paramedics rushed her to Kennestone Hospital, and Miss Elizabeth’s death was confirmed at 5:45AM.
An investigation was launched to determine Miss Elizabeth’s cause of death. Due to the history of domestic violence, Lex was questioned, but there was no evidence that he was at fault. He was however, still arrested – the police finding over 1,700 prescription pills in his home, along with steroids and growth hormones. The coroner would rule that Miss Elizabeth’s cause of death was toxicity due to a combination of pain pills and vodka.
Luger would end up divorced from his wife, and suffered serious health problems in 2007. He was temporarily a quadriplegic, eventually regaining the strength to walk and drive. He is sober now, and heavily involved in his faith, though he appears half (generously) the physical size as he did at the height of his wrestling days.
Luger recounts details of Liz’s death
Lex Luger recounts the events surrounding the death of Elizabeth on a February 2017 episode of Eric Bischoff’s podcast, showing remorse:
Pictured here, a much smaller Lex Luger with Scott Hall. On a February 2017 episode of Eric Bishoff’s podcast, Luger recounts details of the night when Elizabeth overdosed. Photo: reddit
“I’ll never forget. It was the early morning hours when Liz passed away.” “We were having an evening watching movies together, kicking back, sipping on some Vodka, and popping pills. I realized she had stopped breathing.”
“Five minutes before that she was standing at the microwave… I was heating up some food and she literally got up and stood right next to me and wanted to help.” “I look back now at the fragility, the recklessness and carelessness. We didn’t know what we were playing Russian roulette with.”
“One minute she was there… realizing she’s not breathing, panicking, calling 911. The tragedy of that – to witness that first hand.” “Talk about a low point when I’m in jail that night when I’m trying to… take in what had just happened, then they told me Elizabeth had just passed – I thought she was going to make it. I was arrested on I think 17 felony counts with all the drugs they found in my house.”
Luger continues, mentioning his thoughts of committing suicide while in jail.
Elizabeth and Luger in an undated Photo.
“I can’t even put it into words. That was the only time in my life, I don’t talk about it often… I had the thought of climbing on top of the stall divider in the bathroom, if I took the right kind of bump I could end it all, if I hit my head just right… it looked like I had it all, the total package, I thought I had the drugs under control, but it ended up getting control of Elizabeth and I, with were very tragic consequences… it was a very dark time. I made a lot of bad decisions that lead to it.”
A Lasting Legacy
This may be a stretch, but without Miss Elizabeth, WWE wrestling may not be what it is today. She played a pivotal role in one of the most dramatic storylines in WWE history – the late 80s magic that was the Mega Powers.
A 2015 WWE.com ranking of the 50 most beautiful performers of all time put Liz in the #1 spot.
While Miss Elizabeth’s death tragically came much too soon, it’s certain she will live on through her legacy in the world of professional wrestling, and not her post-wrestling struggles with substance abuse.
Miss Elizabeth Grave
Miss Elizabeth’s grave is located at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, KY.
Miss Elizabeth’s grave in Frankfort, KY. Photo: wwe.com
Mitsuharu Misawa Death – Cervical Spinal Cord Injury
Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa dies in the ring after taking a back suplex. He was 46.
1962-2009 (Age 46)
Mitsuharu Misawa inspired people from around the world, thrilling them with his heroics as Tiger Mask II and inspiring others to emulate his style in the ring.
Misawa’s hard work led to him becoming one of the most decorated wrestlers in Japanese wrestling history, and one of the most respected workers in the world. Misawa founded the promotion Pro Wrestling NOAH; creating another exciting Japanese wrestling promotion.
Sadly, Misawa joined the ranks of wrestlers who died in the ring, when a move gone wrong took his life at age 46.
Misawa’s Wrestling Origins
Born on June 18, 1962 in Yūbari, Hokkaidō in Japan, Mitsuharu Misawa’s lifelong ambition was to become a professional wrestler. Misawa wrestled at the amateur level, placing fifth in 1980’s FILA (Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associée) World Championship.
Mitsuharu Misawa (working as Tiger Mask II) with Genichiro Tenryu
After distinguishing himself in the amateurs, Misawa was trained by professional wrestling legends Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Shohei Baba, and Dory Funk, Jr. He began his pro career working for All Japan Pro Wrestling, then sought seasoning in Mexico’s EMLL.
A Masked Superstar
Mitsuharu Misawa worked as a preliminary wrestler for several years until he caught the break of a lifetime.
When masked wrestling sensation Satoru Sayama decided to give up his identity as Tiger Mask in New Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan sold the rights to All Japan Pro Wrestling. All Japan decided Misawa would become the new Tiger Mask. At this point, Misawa’s star was on the rise, but he hadn’t reached the top of his game yet.
The Night a Star Became a Legend
Despite working a different style than the original Tiger Mask, Misawa proved a worthy successor, carrying on the Tiger Mask character and keeping his popularity. Tiger Mask II wrestled a number of top opponents including Chavo Guerrero Sr., the Dynamite Kid, Kuniaki Kobayashi, and Atsushi Onita.
When All Japan lost one of its top stars Genichiro Tenryu, a replacement was needed. The decision was made to unmask Misawa and have him wrestle under his real name. In May 1990, Tiger Mask took off his mask and challenged Jumbo Tsuruta to a match. On June 8, 1990 Misawa wrestled the legendary Jumbo Tsuruta, shocking the wrestling world when he pinned Jumbo.
Wrestling legend has it Tsuruta was booked to win the match, but the crowd was chanting Misawa’s name so loudly that promoter Giant Baba made a rare last-minute change, booking Misawa to win instead. On that night, Misawa transformed from a rising star into a legend. Many Puroresu fans see this as the beginning of a golden age in Japanese wrestling. While Misawa was but one component, he was a major figure in this era.
Mitsuharu Misawa takes on Toshiaki Kawada
A Legendary Run
Misawa became one of the most revered figures in wrestling, with a work rate that consistently produced must-see matches. Even fans who didn’t watch Japanese wrestling caught news of Misawa’s amazing bouts, five-star classics with Kuniaki Kobayashi, Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue, Kenta Kobashi, and many others.
Whether he competed in singles matches or tag team matches, Misawa delighted audiences with his performances and won title after title in All Japan, including its Triple Crown Heavyweight championship five times.
Wrestler and Promoter
In 2000, Mitusharu Misawa founded Pro Wrestling NOAH after a dispute with his former employer, All Japan Pro Wrestling. 23 other wrestlers left as well, following Misawa to his new promotion.
Misawa continued wrestling full-time, including appearances in the United States’ Ring of Honor promotion.
Mitsuharu Misawa Death
On Saturday June 13, 2009, Misawa was working a tag team match when his opponent Akitoshi Saito suplexed him, knocking Misawa out.
Mitsuharu Misawa with long time tag team partner Yoshinari Ogawa
Misawa had been wrestling hurt for some time with a neck injury and shoulder injury. It is believed Misawa landed wrong taking the suplex, severing his spinal column (it’s also believed Misawa’s neck injury contributed to his death).
The bout was stopped and Misawa taken out in an ambulance. However, by the time the wrestling sensation arrived at the hospital, he was dead.
Misawa was 46 years old, just days from his 47th birthday. Misawa was survived by his wife Mayumi and their daughter.
Moondog Spot Death – Heart Attack
Larry Booker, best known to wrestling fans as Moondog Spot, dies in the ring. Photo: wwe.com
1952-2003 (Age 51)
Larry Booker was one of wrestling’s legendary brawlers, including his early career as Larry Latham and later work as Spot, one of the wild tag team known as the Moondogs. Latham is considered one of the pioneers of hardcore wrestling for his brutal and bloody work. Sadly, Latham’s life would be cut short during a match when he died from a heart attack on November 29, 2003 at a Memphis, Tennessee card billed as “Jerry Lawler’s Birthday Bash.”
The Blond Bomber
Larry Booker began wrestling in the mid-1970, catching his first break as Larry Latham. The 6’2” 298-pound scrapper teamed with Wayne Ferris (later known as the Honky Tonk Man) to form the Blond Bombers, a heel tag team that captured the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship in Memphis Wrestling.
The Bombers entered wrestling lore when they worked a wild tag team match against Jerry “The King” Lawler and “Superstar” Bill Dundee that spread out of the ring and around the arena, including a furious fight near a concession stand. The event became known as “The Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl” and is still talked about decades later.
Transforming into Moondog Spot
In 1981, the team of Rex and King, the Moondogs, captured the WWF Tag Team Championship. With their ripped up blue jeans, wild facial hair, and oversize rawhide dog bones (convenient for clobbering opponents with), the Moondogs were portrayed as the wrestling equivalent of two rabid dogs.
Moondog Spot interviewed by Mean Gene at the Wrestling Classic, Nov. 7, 1985. Photo: wwe.com
Unfortunately, travel issues arose for the Canadian born Moondog King and he was unable to enter the United States. Eventually, Booker was selected as his replacement, becoming Moondog Spot (The WWF reported King had been hit by a car he’d been chasing) and holding the WWF Tag Team Championship.
Spot and Rex wrestled in Memphis after they dropped the WWF Tag Team Championship, battling the popular team of the Fabulous Ones in one of the territory’s hottest feuds. Eventually, Spot returned to the WWF, making his way into the second round of 1985’s The Wrestling Classic after upsetting Terry Funk. Spot teamed with Barry O and worked as enhancement talent during the WWF’s tag team heydays of the mid-1980s.
Moondog Spot returned to Memphis, now known as the United States Wrestling Association (USWA). There, he teamed with various Moondogs, winning the USWA Tag Team Championship multiple times.
Spot later opened his own wrestling school, but kept active on the independent circuit and made a few appearances in NWA-TNA in 2003.
Moondog locks up S.D. Jones on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling, 1986. Photo: wwe.com
Moondog Spot Dies in the Ring
On November 29, 2003, Moondog Spot teamed with his protégé Moondog Puppy Love to battle three other teams (including the Rock-n-Roll Express) in a four-team Concession Stand Brawl at a Memphis card celebrating Memphis legend Jerry Lawler’s birthday. During the match, Booker collapsed and fell unconscious after suffering a heart attack.
Lawler, who saw the footage afterwards, commented, “I watched the footage of the match and literally right up until he just slumped over, you would never have known anything was wrong. It must have been almost like getting shot with a gun because he was fine for the first five minutes of the match and then, instantly, he just fell back against the ropes in a sitting position.”
The match was quickly finished and medical personnel attempted CPR.
Booker was taken to Methodist Central Hospital where he was pronounced dead. It is believed Booker’s heart attack resulted from complications involving diabetes. He was 51 years old.
Sadly, Larry Booker joins a long list of other wrestlers who have died in the ring. We’ve compiled these names on our full list of deceased wrestler’s page, which you can sort by “Died in the ring” by clicking the “cause of death” heading.
Larry Booker was survived by his wife and seven children. He is buried at Zion Hill Cemetery in Dyer County, Tennessee.
Larry Booker’s grave in Dyer County, TN. Photo: findagrave.com
Mr. Fuji Death – Undisclosed Causes
Wrestling legend Mr. Fuji – dead at 82. Photo: wwe.com
1934-2016 (age 82)
The WWE has officially announced the passing of Mr. Fuji – real name, Harry Fujiwara. It’s reported that he died early in the morning on August 28th, 2016.
A family man: Mr. Fuji (real name, Harry Fujiwara) with his grandchildren, Chelsea and Peter. Photo: instagram.com/surf5rgurl
We’ve spoken with Harry’s granddaughter, Chelsea. She speaks of her late grandfather: “He was a loving father and grandpa and he was as sweet as he was “devious”. His dry humor and smile was contagious and we will miss him dearly. I’ll keep the memories but would love to hear everyone else’s memories of him. ”A cause of death has not been made public, although Fuji did not appear in the best of health in recent years. At his 2007 WWE Hall of Fame induction he was confined to a wheelchair. After leaving the wrestling business in the late 90s, Fuji owned and operated a training dojo in Tennessee. He is said to have lived a simple life, at one point having a part time job as a ticket usher at a local movie theater.
Classic Fuji! Photo: wwe.com
Wrestler turned Manager
Before becoming the infamous heel manager that we all remember from the 80s and early 90s, Mr. Fuji was a successful wrestler. He was a tag team champion throughout much of his wrestling career in the 70s and 80s – partnering with Toru Tanaka and Mr. Saito in the WWWF (later renamed the WWF, and eventually renamed WWE). Fuji was truly a master heel, both as a wrestler, and as a manager. Who could forget Fuji throwing salt into his opponent’s eyes? It became Fuji’s trademark.
Mr. Fuji managed several notable wrestlers in the 80s, including Demolition. Photo: wwe.com
As a wrestler, Fuji was retired by 1985. But that didn’t keep him out of the action. Throughout the rest of the 80s, Fuji managed George “The Animal” Steel, as well as Don Muraco. He then took on several other notable clients including Demolition, Kamala, and the Powers of Pain.
Perhaps one of his most recognizable roles, in the early 90s, Mr. Fuji was managing samoan-turned Japanese sumo wrestler Yokozuna, who died back in 2000. The salt-in-the-eyes assists by Fuji helped catapult Yoko to main event status. As a kid watching the WWF at the time, they were truly the duo you loved to hate.
In the early 90s, Mr. Fuji was the manager of the late Yokozuna. Photo: wwe.com
With Mr. Fuji in his corner, Yokozuna would go on to capture the WWF championship on two separate occasions. In 2007, Mr. Fuji was inducted into his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. Our condolences to the friends and family of Harry Fujiwara.
Nancy Benoit Death – Murdered by husband, Chris Benoit
Nancy Benoit – Murdered by husband, WWE star Chris Benoit. Photo: wwe.com
1964-2007 (age 43)
Professional model Nancy Benoit had all eyes on her when she would appear at ECW and WCW events. During her time in the world of professional wrestling, she was most well known for her role as “Woman” in the WCW. She managed a number of notable wrestlers; however, since the shocking details of the Nancy Benoit death story were released to the public, she has become most well known for the tragic way in which she died.
The suburban Georgia home of Nancy and Chris Benoit – crime scene tape at the front gates.
A Gruesome Discovery Begins the Nancy Benoit Death Story
On June 25, 2007, John Laurinaitis, the then Senior Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWE contacted the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Laurinaitis was concerned because no one had heard from Nancy Benoit or her husband, fellow professional wrestler Chris Benoit. Law enforcement officers visited the Benoit family home.
Nancy’s decomposing body was found in a bedroom on the second floor of the house. She was tied up and wrapped with a towel. A Bible laid beside her. Nancy’s 7-year-old son was also found dead in the home, as was Chris.
What Is Known About the Nancy Benoit Death Story?
Nancy interviews The Sandman during her ECW run (1993-1996). She would go on to manage him. Photo: wwe.com
Since the Nancy Benoit death news broke, friends and family members have revealed that the Benoit’s were suffering from marriage problems prior to Nancy’s death. Based on an extensive investigation, police determined that Nancy was killed three days before her body was found. Her date of death was June 22, 2007. She was 43 years old at the time. Investigators concluded that Chris had strangled her with an extension cord. At one point she suffered a blow to the head. The following day, her son was murdered by his father while he slept. Shortly after, Chris hung himself.
Details of the Nancy Benoit Death Medical Examination
An extensive autopsy was done after the discovery of the bodies in the Benoits’ home. It was determined that Chris had sedated his son with prescription sleeping pills prior to killing him. Levels of pain killers and sedatives were found in Nancy’s body as well. Although she was badly decomposed, the medical examiners concluded that she was not drugged at the time of her death. Rather, the drugs were being taken for legitimate medical purposes.
Nancy (left) escorts Ric Flair to the ring along with Elizabeth. Photo: wwe.com
Controversy after the Nancy Benoit Death News
The investigation into the Benoit murder-suicide brought scrutiny to the WWE. It was revealed that Chris had been abusing anabolic steroids. Investigators believed that the drugs may have distorted Chris’ way of thinking, leading him to commit the violent acts. A term often thrown around is “roid rage.”
The negative publicity for the WWE resulted in a Congressional investigation of professional wrestling to determine whether or not wrestling organizations were ignoring or even sanctioning prescription drug abuse.
Controversy also arose when the magazine “Hustler” published nude Photographs of Nancy Benoit a few months after her death. The Photos were taken 23 years prior. Many people thought the act was distasteful and accused the publication of trying to capitalize on the Benoit family’s tragedy.
Nancy Benoit was cremated. It’s not public knowledge who her ashes were given to.
Nick Bockwinkel Death – Undisclosed Causes
Nick Bockwinkel – Dead at 80. Photo: wwe.com
1934-2015 (Age 80)
Nick Bockwinkel enjoyed a long and successful career in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA), boasting tag team and singles world championships. Working as a cocky scientific heel, Bockwinkel taunted fans with his expansive vocabulary and uncanny ability to steal victory from certain defeat. Outside the ring, he was respected by his peers and the industry, lending prestige to any project he worked on.
A Family Tradition
Nick was born on December 6th, 1934, the son of pro wrestler Warren Bockwinkel.
AWA All-Star Wrestling: Nick Bockwinkel and Curt Hennig engage in a bloody matchup. January 25, 1987. Photo: wwe.com
Nick attended the University of Oklahoma on a football and wrestling scholarship until a knee injury ended his football career. Undaunted, Nick trained under his dad along with talented wrestlers such as Lou Thesz, Lord James Blears, Gene Kiniski, and Wilbur Snyder. Although he was drafted into the army in 1958, he still found time to wrestle.
Wrestling is known for its stereotypical characters, ranging from foreign menace heels to cocky heels. Bockwinkel distinguished himself by employing scientific wrestling until a situation called for bending or breaking the rules. Bockwinkel’s interviews were subtly different too. Bockwinkel spoke with a calm and ease that set him apart from heels that screamed and hollered. He became known for his use of polysyllabic words (wrestling lore has it that Bockwinkel kept several dictionaries with him during his travels so he could expend his vocabulary).
Bockwinkel infuriated fans with his condescending talk and hundred-dollar-words.
Climbing the Ladder to Success
AWA All-Star Wrestling: Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens, November 6, 1973. Photo: wwe.com
Verne Gagne’s AWA was where Bockwinkel’s hard work began to pay off. However, things didn’t start off well. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams discusses Bockwinkel’s struggles to get over as a heel. That changed when he was paired with veteran grappler Ray Stevens and manager “Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan.
The Bockwinkel/Stevens team became renowned, winning the AWA World Tag Team Championship three times. Bockwinkel even dabbled in Hollywood, appearing in an episode of The Monkees and the original Hawaii Five-O. The ever-competitive grappler even served as a contestant on the game show Hollywood Squares.
On November 8, 1975, Nick Bockwinkel reached the top of the AWA Mountain, defeating Verne Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Bockwinkel was a wily champion, utilizing the disqualification rule to keep his belt when challengers threatened his belt (Bockwinkel would get himself disqualified, knowing the title could not change hands on a disqualification). He also could count on help from the other members in the Bobby Heenan Family when things got tough in the ring. Bockwinkel battled the AWA’s crème de la crème as well as wrestlers in other promotions including Jim Crockett Promotions, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and Maple Leaf Wrestling where he fought WWWF Champion Bob Backlund in an inconclusive title vs. title bout.
Mid-South Wrestling: Nick Bockwinkel squares off against Junkyard Dog. October 2, 1982. Photo: wwe.com
Bockwinkel’s skills and drawing ability led to him being considered as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, but he reportedly turned it down because the AWA paid better for less appearances.
After Verne Gagne retired from the AWA active roster in 1980, Bockwinkel continued his role as the AWA’s heel champion, defending the belt against veterans and newer stars such as Hulk Hogan and Rick Martel.
As the 80’s continued, Bockwinkel remained a main eventer, but the AWA itself was dying. Like many of his colleagues, Bockwinkel left the company for the WWF; in his case working as a road agent and color commentator.
A Familiar Face
Already a legend, Nick was a recurring figure in wrestling. After the WWF’s budget cutbacks led to his departure, Bockwinkel was seen in WCW, working its 1993 Slamboree: A Night of Legends show. There, he wrestled former NWA World Champion Dory Funk Jr. to a draw.
The next year, he began working in WCW as a storyline commissioner.
In 2000, he worked a similar role for the short-lived Japan Pro Wrestling Association and in 2007, the Cauliflower Alley Club elected him president. In 2007, the WWE inducted him into its Hall of Fame and in 2010, the seemingly always in-demand veteran served as a lumberjack in a Legends Lumberjack Match on Monday Night RAW.
Considered by many as the AWA’s greatest world champion, Bockwinkel battled health issues later in life. In 2009, he underwent triple bypass heart surgery.
Nick Bockwinkel died on November 14, 2015 at the age of 80. The New Year Daily News noted “undisclosed causes” for his death. According to Slam! Sports, Bockwinkel had been battling memory issues before his death. Bockwinkel was cremated in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was survived by his two daughters from his first marriage.
Nicole Bass Death – Stroke
Nicole Bass – Dead at 52. She suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Photo: wwe.com
1964-2017 (age 52)
Nicole Bass died on Friday, February 17th, 2017. She was 52. Earlier this week, Meltzer reported that she had suffered from a stroke. Apparently she was unable to recover. Bass was a professional bodybuilder before transitioning to wrestling.
Nicole Bass Wrestling Career
First getting her feet wet in ECW, Nicole would eventually make her way to the WWE by 1999. Even with limited wrestling ability, Bass came along at the right time and right place in the WWE’s booming Attitude era.
In her WWE run, Nicole Bass was first booked as Sable’s bodyguard. Photo: wwe.com
Armed with a unique look, the WWE was hoping to strike gold twice, essentially booking Bass as a carbon copy of Chyna – a dominant female who could hang with the boys. Chyna was of course a rousing success for the WWE. Unfortunately Nicole’s wrestling career would never reach those heights.
Although her WWE tenure was brief, Bass received considerable TV time during her run. She made her debut at WrestleMania XV where she worked as the kayfabe bodyguard to Sable (just like Chyna when she first entered the company as Triple H’s muscle).
Nicole Bass and Val Venis defeat Jeff Jarrett and Debra at the Over the Edge PPV in 1999. This was the same PPV where Owen Hart fell to his death. Photo: wwe.com
Bass would eventually work a program with Val Venis, where the duo feuded with Jeff Jarrett and Debra McMichael. The feud climaxed with a mixed tag team match which took place at Over the Edge ’99 – the same PPV in which Owen Hart was killed after a fall from the arena rafters.
Nicole Bass’ departure from WWE was sudden. It was ultimately reveled that Bass was suing WWE staff member Steve Lombardi for sexual harassment. Lombardi is best known to fans as jobber, The Brooklyn Brawler. In 2003 the sexual harassment case was dismissed.
Nicole Bass in Pop Culture
Nicole Bass was a regular on the Stern show. Here she poses with Howard after her May 3, 2016 appearance. Photo: howardstern.com
Nicole Bass has appeared in several independent films. Her most recognized role came in 1997, her film debut, where she played herself in a brief role in Howard Stern’s Private Parts. Bass would go on to become a regular in Stern’s Wack Pack – a unique group of personalities who make regular appearances on Stern’s radio show for entertainment and comedic purposes.
Health and Legal Struggles
In June of 2015, Bass made headlines when she was arrested for shoplifting from a Stop & Shop grocery store in Queens. She had over a thousand dollars worth of groceries and beauty products in a cart, which she wheeled out the front door without paying. Prior to this, Bass had documented struggles with substance abuse including steroids.
Sadly, her health issues would get the best of her.
Nikolai Volkoff Death – Undisclosed Causes
Wrestling legend Nikolai Volkoff has died at age 70
1947-2018 (Age 70)
Days after being treated and released from a Maryland hospital from dehydration, wrestling legend Nikolai Volkoff has died at age 70.
A cause of death has not yet been made public.
Real name Josip Nikolai Peruzović, the Croatian turned villainous Russian worked nearly three decades, making his debut back in 1967.
Nikolai Volkoff was quickly signed by Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWWF, and by 1974 he was battling company golden boy Bruno Sammartino.
Late in ’74, Volkoff moved over to Verne Gagne‘s AWA, wrestling under the moniker “Boris Breznikoff” (though he carried with him the same evil Russian gimmick). He was managed by the late Bobby Heenan during his AWA run.
A decade later and Nikolai Volkoff would find himself back with the WWWF for a memorable run – by this time the company was under the control of Vince McMahon Jr. and shortened to the “WWF”.
From left to right: Nikolai Volkoff with tag partner the Iron Sheik and manager Freddie Blassie
In 1985 at the first WrestleMania, Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Shiek defeated The U.S. Express to capture tag team gold. Of course, working as heels, they won the belts in controversial fashion – Volkoff using manager Freddie Blassie‘s cane to secure the victory.
Nikolai Volkoff will best be remembered for his heel heat, which was in another stratosphere. Singing the soviet national anthem upon his ring entrance enraged the fans. The United States, after all, was at the height of the cold war in the 80s, and kayfabe was still a thing. Fans would commonly pelt Volkoff with trash while he showed off his singing chops.
By the early 90s, Volkoff was in “semi-retirement” from in-ring action, though he still made sporadic one-off appearances for the WWF/WWE up until 2014.
Nikolai Volkoff was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
He leaves behind his wife of 48 years and two daughters.
Several other notable wrestlers have died in 2018 including Vader, Masa Saito, Big Bully Busick, and Bruno Sammartino.
Outlaw Ron Bass Death – Burst Appendix, Surgery Complications
Ronald Heard, known to wrestling fans as “Outlaw” Ron Bass, dies at age 68 after a burst appendix. Photo: wwe.com
1948-2017 (Age 68)
In the days prior to his death, Heard suffered from a burst appendix, leaving him hospitalized.
Sadly, he did not make it out of Tampa General, passing away from surgery complications.
Remembering the Outlaw
With a burly physique, menacing handlebar moustache, cowboy hat, and signature bull whip, aptly named Miss Betsy, Bass was equipped with everything necessary to get him over as a heel in the 70s and 80s.
Outlaw Ron Bass, assisted by his bull whip “Betsy”, chokes Hacksaw Jim Duggan who desperately reaches for his 2×4. Prime Time Wrestling, 1988. Photo: wwe.com
Contrary to his heel gimmick, friends of Heard spoke highly of his character outside the ring. Lanny Poffo, brother of the late Macho Man Randy Savage told the Tampa Bay Times “he wasn’t really a bad guy, he was one of the good guys. He will be missed.”
Gerald Brisco added “he had a heart of gold.”
Outlaw Ron Bass Wrestling Career
Bass first worked the NWA territories throughout the early 70s, followed by a run in All Japan capturing tag team gold with Stan Hansen. He saw prominent runs in Georgia Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida. His run in Florida is most notable for his angles with Barry Windham. Outlaw gained national notoriety in the late 80s after signing with the WWF in ’87.
Although he never stepped out of the WWF’s midcard, he did manage to take part in several PPVs including the 1987 Survivor Series, the first ever Royal Rumble, WrestleMania IV, and the ’88 King of the Ring. He feuded with babyfaces including “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and the late Junkyard Dog. Bass briefly wrestled on the independent circuit before retiring from the ring in 1991.
Outlaw Ron Bass on a 1987 episode of WWF’s Prime Time Wrestling. Photo: wwe.com
After retirement, Bass seemed to live a quiet life in Florida, occasionally popping up at conventions. In 2016 he was named as one of over fifty wrestlers suing the WWE as part of a high profile class action lawsuit that involves concussion related symptoms.
Wrestler Deaths in 2017
2017 has been off to a particularly rough start for wrestling fans. We’ve already seen the losses of George “The Animal” Steele, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, Ivan Koloff, Nicole Bass, among others. Heard leaves behind a son, Joe Heard. Our condolences to the friends and family of Ronald Heard.
Owen Hart Death – Blunt force trauma from accidental fall
Owen Hart dies in the ring after a horrifying fall from the rafters. He was 34. Photo: wwe.com
1965-1999 (age 34)
Owen James Hart was a professional wrestler who reached the pinnacle of success before suffering a tragic and public death in the ring. The Owen Hart death remains an infamous black mark on professional wrestling.
Owen was Canadian; born on May 7, 1965 in Calgary, Alberta. Hart came from a large family of twelve children. His family was a wrestling family. Hart’s father, Stu, was a Stampede Wrestling promoter and WWE Hall of Famer. His brother Bret also gained fame as a professional wrestler. Owen went on to have a storied career in wrestling that included being the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion, twice winning the WWF Intercontinental championship, becoming the victor in 1994’s King of the Ring, and four times winning the WWF World Tag Team Championship. The Owen Hart death cut his promising career short.
Early Career (1986-1988)
In spite of being from a wrestling family (or perhaps because of it) Owen Hart was initially reluctant to make wrestling his career. He began wrestling while still in high school. Once out of school he trained at his father’s gym and worked for his father’s organization Stampede Wrestling. He also spent time wrestling in England for Max Crabstree’s Joint Promotions. Hart teamed with Ben Bassarab and won the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship in 1986. That victory and his overall skill earned Owen Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1987. During that period Owen feuded with Johnny Smith and Dynamite Kid after losing the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship to them.
Like many professional wrestlers, Hart also spent time in Japan. He went there in 1987 and wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).
First Stint with the WWF and the Independent Circuit (1988-1991)
Owen’s early victories while wrestling in Stampede and in Japan brought him to the attention of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). He signed with the WWF in 1988. In order to avoid casting him simply as Bret Hart’s younger brother, the decision was made to provide Hart with a masked alter-ego for the ring. Because his wrestling style included a lot of flying-style maneuvers that persona was first called The Blue Angel before being renamed the Blue Blazer.
Owen during his original Blue Blazer run in the 80s. Bringing the gimmick back (as a spoof) in the late 90’s would prove to be a fatal decision by the WWF. The Blue Blazer’s (Owen Hart) botched entrance from the rafters led to his in-ring death at the Over the Edge pay per view. Photo: wwe.com
The Blue Blazer made his first appearance in a PPV match at the ’88 Survivor Series. He was eliminated by Valentine but his team went on to victory. Hart’s initial stint with the WWF was most spent wresting in the midcard.
After leaving the WWF in 1989, Hart went on to wrestle on the independent circuit. He returned to Stampede but that closed in December of 1989. Hart lost his Blue Blazer mask and retired the character in a match against the Mexican wrestler El Canek. In 1991 Owen did a stint with World Championship Wrestling.
Return to the WWF: The New Foundation; we are Family (1991-1992)
Owen Hart returned to the WWF in 1991. He joined his brother Bret Hart and their brother-in-law Jim Neidhart, Bret and Jim had been a tag team called the Hart Foundation but they split up when Bret wanted to pursue a solo career. Owen and Jim teamed up to form a team called The New Foundation.
When Jim left the WWF, Owen had a short run competing in singles. He was briefly paired with Koko B. Ware for the Survivor Series in 1992. In 1993 Owen helped Bret in his feud with Jerry Lawler.
Owen steps out of the shadows of his brother, Bret “The Hit Man” Hart – pinning him for the victory at WrestleMania X. It would be the first of many rematches to come between the feuding brothers. Photo: wwe.com
Sibling Rivalry (1993-1995)
In 1993 Owen began a long and well remembered feud with his brother Bret. They were placed on a team, along with their brothers Bruce and Keith, for the Survivor Series. In the middle of a match they collided and Owen was eliminated. After the match Owen returned to the ring and had an argument with Bret. Their brothers tried and failed to calm things down. Owen left the ring as the crowd booed him. The following night he attempted to challenge Bret in the ring. Bret refused to accept the challenge.
For a time the feud seemed to die down. The brothers teamed up for a shot at the WWF Tag Team titles. In January of 1994 the pair competed in the Royal Rumble. A bad knee was troubling Bret. He had a difficult time tagging Owen in. Owen became enraged when Bret’s knee caused the referee to stop the match. He kicked Bret’s injured knee and walked off. Afterwards he was seen by viewers yelling at Bret backstage.
By this point Owen was starting to be viewed as a heel. At WrestleMania X Owen pinned his brother. However, later in the main event, Bret was the one who went to win the WWF title; defeating Yokozuna. When Owen won the King of the Ring Tournament he adopted the nickname “The King of Harts.”
The brothers continued their feud in 1994. They faced off in the ring many times in both singles and tag team matches. The lumberjack match that they fought for the WWF Championship stands out among their matches. In the August 17, 1994 match, Owen initially won the championship. However, the match was started again due to interference and Bret was declared the winner and champion.
With the help of brother-in-law, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Owen wins the 1994 King of the Ring. After the victory, Owen would go on to refer to himself as “The King of Harts”. Sadly, he would be dead within 5 years. Photo: wwe.com
Owen continued to be a heel. During the Survivor Series he tricked their mother into throwing in the towel for Bret. At the Royal Rumble in 1995 Owen interfered during Bret’s match with Diesel and prevented him from taking back the championship. When the brothers faced each other in the ring again Bret decisively beat Owen.
Later Career (1996-1999)
In the wake of his feud with his brother, Owen and Yokozuna won the WWF Tag Team titles at WrestleMania XI. He also changed managers. Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji were Owen’s new managers. The unlikely duo of Yokozuna and Hart continued to pair up at various matches until the Owen Hart death.
An unlikely duo: 500+ pound Sumo meets Canadian heel. In 1995, Owen and Yokozuna held the tag team championships for 175 consecutive days. Within 4 short years, an in-ring accident would claim the life of Owen. Photo: wwe.com
Owen also frequently paired up with both his brother-in-law Davey Smith; who was known as the British Bulldog. Despite the pair winning the tag team titles at In Your House, they had a rocky relationship on screen. They began a feud of their own that became clear when Hart accidentally disqualified Bulldog at the Royal Rumble. When Bulldog won the new WWF European Championship the rift widened. By March of 1997, Hart challenged his partner for another shot at the European Championship. Bret Hart appeared in the ring and talked to them both about the importance of family. This would end their feud.
The Hart Foundation (1996-1997)
Both Owen and Bulldog teamed up with Bret, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman to form the Hart Foundation. The Hart Foundation was a stable of anti-American heels. Owen then won the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Hart and Bulldog lost their tag team title on May 26, 1997. That resulted in a feud between Owen and Stone Cold Steve Austin. That feud carried over to a match on the July 14, 1997 episode of RAW. Hart and Bulldog and were defeated by Austin and Dude Love.
At SummerSlam, Owen messed up a pile driver and injured Austin’s neck. While Austin did help Hart beat Faarooq at In Your House: Bad Blood he did so only to defeat Owen and claim the Intercontinental Championship for himself. It was shortly after that Bret, Bulldog and Jim Neidhart all left the WWF and the Hart Foundation crumbled.
The Black Hart (1997-1998)
In the wake of his family members leaving the WWF, Owen changed his image. He adopted the names “The Lone Hart” and “The Black Hart”. The Black Hart had a more aggressive, anti-social personality. Hart feuded with DX. On the December 29, 2997 episode of RAW he challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. Hart won by disqualification when Triple H interfered.
Owen went on to win the European title from Triple H. Triple H sought revenge. He challenged Hart to a match for the title. During the match Chyna hit Hart in the knee with a bat and tossed him back in the ring. This allowed Triple H to place him in an ankle lock and win the match. The Black Hart teamed up with the Rock to create The Nation of Domination. The Nation had a feud with DX. Shawn Michaels called Hart a nugget of feces that refused to be flushed. DX mocked Hart for that and the term “nugget” followed Hart for the rest of his career up until the Owen Hart death.
The Blue Blazer Returns (1998-1999)
After the Nation of Domination slowly dissolved Hart brought the Blue Blazer back. He teamed up with Jeff Jarrett. Then Owen made a show of quitting the WWF. As soon as he quit the Blue Blazer appeared. This Blue Blazer was an over the top heel. It was a comic angle. Hart denied being the Blue Blazer and Jeff Jarrett dressed up as the Blue Blazer so that Hart could stand next to him and deny being Blue Blazer. The pair won and then lost the Tag Team title in 1999. They remained a team until the Owen Hart death.
Owen Hart Death
The Owen Hart death was one of the most shocking in professional wrestling history. It happened on May 23, 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri. Hart was taking part in the Over the Edge PPV, scheduled to face The Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship. At the time, he was wrestling under The Blue Blazer gimmick.
The plan called for the Blue Blazer to make a dramatic entrance to the ring from the rafters. He was expected to release himself from the safety harness when he was just above the ring. The Blazer would then get tangled in the harness and fall flat on his face, amusing the crowd. This move required the use of a quick release mechanism on the harness. Hart had performed a similar stunt before.
Tragically, there was a problem with quick release mechanism. It opened too early and Owen fell to his death. Television viewers of the match did not see the fall. A pre-taped video was being shown on television and on the monitors that the crowd in the arena were watching so the majority of the audience did not see Owen fall.
Owen Hart is tended to by medical professionals after an accidental fall from the rafters. Photo: reddit.com
Commentators Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler told everyone watching that the stunt was not a scripted angle. Hart was brought to the Truman Medical Center where, after attempts to bring him back failed, he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was blunt force trauma and internal bleeding.
The Owen Hart death caused immediate controversy. The decision to continue the show after he was brought to the hospital was debated. Many of the wrestlers waiting to go on, including The Rock, were friends of Owen’s. They described the confusion that took place just after Hart fell. They also described their own shock and grief. The Rock stated that he wanted to go to his friend’s side in the ring but couldn’t. There was concern it would make the accident seem like part of an angle.
Hart’s widow firmly believes continuing the show was wrong and not what Owen would have wanted. The Owen Hart death continues to be discussed and the response to it debated to this day.
Owen Hart Grave
Owen Hart’s grave is located at the Queens Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The plot is located at Section I, Block 25, and Plot 17.
Owen Hart’s grave in Queens Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo: unknown
Owen Hart memorial bench at the Queens Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Calgary. Photo: Greg Chard
Ox Baker Death – Heart Attack
1934-2014 (Age 80)
In-ring deaths do happen, albeit infrequently. However, one wrestler credited with killing two opponents in the ring is Ox Baker, an imposing man whose finisher the heart punch, earned him notoriety throughout his career. Given Baker’s size and appearance, he didn’t need it, but that didn’t stop promoters from billing him as a man with a lethal finisher.
Baker terrorized the territories and even inspired fans to riot. He proved to be multi-talented, working not only as a wrestler, but an actor, trainer, and cook.
Ox locks up an unfortunate opponent.
The Imposing Iowan
Douglas A. Baker was born on April 19, 1934 in Missouri, but grew up in Waterloo, Iowa. Baker excelled at high school athletics but was kicked out of school for reasons unknown. After two years’ service in the military, he trained under wrestling legend Pat O’Connor (amongst others) before debuting in 1962. At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, he stood out, even among other big men in the industry. But it wasn’t until Baker changed his gimmick from a glasses-wearing dimwit into an imposing monster that he found success. Baker would state in an interview with Slam “I was only a fair wrestler, but I was a great talker!” Whatever the case, he got over and found success in the squared circle.
Baker’s Famous and Fatal Finisher
Ox Baker began using the finisher known as the heart punch, a move he patterned on Stan “The Man” Stasiak’s heart punch (Baker would rename the move ‘The Hurt Punch’ after Stasiak objected to Baker using the finisher).
Baker’s size made the heart punch seem like even more of a devastating move, but what set him apart was the legend that developed after he killed not one, but two opponents with it. Baker reportedly killed wrestler Alberto Torres during a tag team match in 1971 and wrestler Ray Gunkel in 1972.
However, there’s more to the story than promoters would have you believe…
In Torres’ case, he had a pre-existing condition – a ruptured pancreas while Gunkel had reportedly eaten a heavy meal before wrestling and had arteriosclerosis. Both men were proverbial ticking time bombs and Baker’s move played no more than a coincidental role in their deaths. In fact, promoters shamelessly credited Baker’s tag team partner the Claw with killing Torres initially. Only later would vulgar promoters build up Baker as the man who killed two opponents with his heart punch.
Whatever the truth, the notoriety surrounding the heart punch only added to Baker’s mystique.
The big man would find success in a variety of territories including Championship Wrestling from Florida, Jim Crockett Promotions, NWA Hollywood, and Southeastern Championship Wrestling. Baker worked outside of the U.S. including Calgary Stampede Wrestling, Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council, NWA New Zealand, and Australia’s famous World Championship Wrestling promotion (not to be confused with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling). Wherever he worked, he found himself winning championship gold.
Ox Baker knew how to work a crowd, as seen in 1974 when he interfered in a match between Johnny Powers and Ernie Ladd in Cleveland. Baker attacked Ladd, laying out “The Big Cat.” Wrestling fans rushed the ring, hoping to help Ladd out against Powers and Baker, with some reports indicating two fans had knives. Ultimately, Powers and Baker escaped, but such was the havoc Ox Baker could inflict not only in the ring, but out of it.
Life outside the Ring
Ox Baker’s look made him a natural for Hollywood. Baker is well remembered for his role in John Carpenter’s 1981 cult classic Escape from New York:
He also appeared in Jackie Chan’s Battle Creek Brawl and 1987’s Blood Circus. Baker’s ring exploits were also shown in the documentaries I Like to Hurt People and Card Subject to Change. Baker even appeared on The Price is Right in 1981.
The big man self-published his own cookbook, a collection of recipes and anecdotes from his many years as a wrestler. Baker opened his own wrestling school and trained a number of future stars including the Undertaker.
Ox Baker’s Last Days
Ox Baker endured the complications of aging, continuing to appear at wrestling shows and conventions, even if he had to use a wheelchair.
On October 20, 2014, Ox Baker died in Hartford, Connecticut at the age of 80. Ironically, the man known for his “lethal” finisher the heart punch, died from complications of a heart attack.
Baker was survived by his wife Peggy Ann Baker. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.
Paul Bearer Death – Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
1954-2013 (age 58)
Paul Bearer, best known as the manager of the Undertaker, dies at age 58. Photo: wwe.com
Best known as the charismatic manager of the Undertaker with an unforgettable high pitched voice, Paul Bearer was one of the most recognized wrestling managers in the WWE throughout the 90s and 2000s.
For Paul Bearer, real name William Moody, death was a part of life, as he was also a licensed mortician and worked for many years in the funeral industry before his employment in the wrestling world.
Sadly, the beloved wrestling personality’s death came much too soon at the age of 58.
Although TMZ reported Moody’s death as a heart attack, William Moody’s son, Daniel Moody offered us the following:
“He died of A-fib. He had a booking in Chicago, forgot to bring a jacket, got sick and was put into the hospital three days after returning home.”
Breaking Into the World of Wrestling
William Moody AKA Paul Bearer had wrestled as an amateur during the 1970s but ended up becoming a mortician in order to support his family.
Before he was known as Paul Bearer, Moody wrestled under the moniker “Percy Pringle”. Here he is in WCCW in the mid 80s. Photo: wwe.com
In 1985, Moody returned to wrestling as a manager for Michael Hayes with Florida Championship Wrestling. Working under the moniker “Percy Pringle III”, he also spent time with WCCW and USWA where he managed many notable wrestlers early in their careers, including the Ultimate Warrior, Lex Luger, Steve Austin, and Rick Rude.
In 1990, he auditioned for a role with the WWE and his background as a mortician made him the perfect choice to cast as the manager of The Undertaker.
Plagued by Health Problems
Although Paul Bearer was a huge success as the manager of The Undertaker and played an important role in many WWE story lines throughout the 1990s, he had a number of serious health problems. These health problems prompted him to take periodic breaks from the WWE.
The Power of the Urn: Paul Bearer hoists the urn to give new life to the ‘Taker. Photo: wwe.com
By 2002, Paul Bearer’s appearances had become very infrequent. Severely obese, Paul had gastric bypass surgery in November 2003. Doctors had hoped that losing weight could prevent Paul Bearer’s death at an early age and improve his overall health. While he did manage to lose weight, he still suffered from health problems.
Emergency gallbladder surgery was needed to save his life in 2004. He also struggled with sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops breathing for short periods of time while they sleep. In January 2009, less than 4 years before the Paul Bearer death, he lost his wife of 30 years to cancer. The event left Paul deeply saddened.
The Last Days of Paul Bearer
Despite his health problems and the grief he experienced over the loss of his beloved wife, Paul Bearer remained as active in wrestling as he could.
Just three days before Paul Bearer’s death, he attended the Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunion. The annual event is held in Mobile, Alabama. Although Paul had been in good spirits as always, he was confined to a wheelchair.
During the evening, he reportedly began to have trouble breathing. He was coughing very hard and wheezing and ended up leaving the event early, saying he had plans to see the doctor. After the event, Paul was hospitalized for a blood clot.
Paul Bearer didn’t just play a mortician on TV – he was one in real life before his career in professional wrestling took off. Photo: wwe.com
How Paul Bearer Died
Ultimately, Paul Bearer would never be released from that Mobile, Alabama, hospital.
During the course of the treatment for the blood clot, he developed a serious condition called atrial fibrillation (commonly known as “AFib”), which is essentially irregular heart beats that can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other heart complications.
Sadly, it proved to be too much for Moody.
Paul Bearer’s death was pronounced on March 5, 2013. A public wake for family and fans was held on March 9, 2013.
Backfired: On the August 24, 1998 episode of Raw, Paul Bearer orders Kane to destroy the Undertaker, but instead, The Undertaker destroys Paul Bearer. Photo: wwe.com
A Fitting Tribute to Paul Bearer
For Paul Bearer, death at an early age by no means meant the end of his celebrity. After news of his death broke, numerous retired and active pro wrestlers shared tributes to the beloved manager on social media and in interviews with the press.
On the March 11 episode of Raw, The Undertaker paid tribute to his former manager. To honor him, Paul Bearer’s death became a central to the plot of the show for several weeks with CM Punk using his memory to mock Kane and The Undertaker. At one point, he even stole the urn that supposedly held his ashes. It wasn’t until WrestleMania 29 that The Undertaker finally was able to get the ashes back from CM Punk. When he did, he dedicated his big win to Paul’s memory.
Posthumous Addition to the Hall of Fame
Outside of the ring, Paul Bearer was also honored by the WWE. In 2014, less than one year after the actual Paul Bearer death, he was formally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Kane attended the event to handle the official induction. The award was presented to Paul’s sons: Michael and Daniel. The Undertaker also made an appearance at the event in full costume to say one last goodbye to the wrestling legend.
Posthumously, Paul was also awarded the 2014 Lou Thesz Award from the George Tragos/Lou Thesz International Wrestling Institute for his contributions to the sport.
William Moody Grave
William Moody’s grave is located at Serenity Memorial Gardens in Theodore, AL.
William Moody’s grave is located at Serenity Memorial Gardens in Theodore, AL. Photo: our family history
Paul Jones Death – Undisclosed Causes
Legendary wrestler and manager Paul Jones has died at age 75. Photo: pro wrestling illustrated
1942-2018 (Age 75)
Paul Jones, real name Paul Frederik, has died at age 75. Fans who grew up on 80s wrestling likely remember Paul Jones for his role as a heel manager.
With Jim Crockett Promotions, Jones led Paul Jones’ Army. The stable featured a who’s who of clientele including Rick Rude, Ivan Koloff, The Masked Superstar (Ax from Demolition), Superstar Billy Graham, The Powers of Pain, and many more.
But prior to the explosion of professional wrestling in the 80s, Jones saw huge success inside the ring, both in singles and tag team competition, working as “Number One” Paul Jones.
Before the feud: Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat were NWA Tag Champs on four separate occasions
A Star in the Territories
Paul Jones began his wrestling career in ’61 under the tutelage of Paul Boesch. By the late 60s, Jones found himself working in the south and Mid-Atlantic regions, wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions.
In tag team competition, Jones was paired with an impressive list of 70s talent including Nelson Paul, Wahoo McDaniel, Ricky Steamboat, Baron Von Raschke, and The Masked Superstar (who would go on to work as “Ax” from Demolition for the WWF). Jones later partook in a heated feuded with Steamboat – attacking him at the end of a two-ring battle royal in front of a stunned crowd.
Jones continued his heel momentum into the 80s, beginning a legendary program with “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant.
Life after Wrestling
By 1989, Paul Jones was more or less retired, save for sporadic appearances on the indie scene. According to Figure Four Online, Jones opened an auto body shop after retiring from the ring. Jones is regarded as one of the top heels of the territory days – a true master of drawing heat who could cut a scathing promo.
Paul Jones Death
On April 18, 2018, Paul Jones passed away at his home in Atlanta. He was 75. Paul leaves behind a son, Paul Frederik, Jr. No cause of death has been made public.
Pedro Morales Death – Parkinson’s disease
Wrestling legend Pedro Morales – Dead at 76. Photo: wwe.com
1942-2019 (Age 76)
WWE has confirmed the death of Pedro Morales. He was 76. Pedro Morales had a storied career in the wrestling world, dating all the way back to 1959.
Morales most notably spent time with the WWE (then, WWWF) from 1970-1975, before returning again in the early 80s. Morales was the first “triple crown” winner with the company – successfully capturing heavyweight, intercontinental, and tag team gold.
In between his WWE runs, Pedro Morales bounced around the territories, including runs with the AWA and Championship Wrestling from Florida. Morales was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995. According to The New York Times, Pedro Morales had been battling Parkinson’s disease. Several other notable wrestling stars have passed in 2019 including King Kong Bundy and on-screen personality Mean Gene Okerlund. Our condolences to the friends and family of Pedro Morales.
Peter Maivia Death – Cancer
Wrestling legend “High Chief” Peter Maivia – Dead at 45 from cancer
1937-1982 (Age 45)
Peter Maivia, legendary elder in the Anoa’I wrestling dynasty distinguished himself during his life as one of the toughest men in the business, a top star, and a warm human being.
Although the Samoan native only lived to 45, he passed on a rich legacy that few could have anticipated.
American Samoan Star
Leifi Pita Maivia Fanene was born on April 6, 1937 in America Samoa, living there until he moved to New Zealand, where he made his professional wrestling debut.
Working as Peter Maivia, the young star trained under New Zealand promoter and wrestler Steve Rickard.
He found championship success in New Zealand and Australia during the early years of his career. Although Maivia maintained contact with his Samoan homeland, he traveled the world, including a tour in England.
Maivia quickly established himself as a rising star and was seen as one of the first major Samoan stars in professional wrestling.
Peter Maivia’s exotic look made him a natural for Hollywood. He appeared in 1967’s James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, battling 007 in a great action scene and serving behind the scenes as the film’s unofficial stunt coordinator.
Surprisingly though, this would be Maivia’s only film appearance. However, Maivia’s appearance anticipated the future Hollywood career of his grandson, Duane “The Rock” Johnson.
High Chief Peter Maivia
Maintaining his ties with his Samoan people, Peter Maivia underwent the process of becoming a chief. This involved a very painful tattooing process.
In a 2015 interview with the Daily Mail, Maivia’s grandson, Duane “The Rock” Johnson described how “the High Chief underwent excruciating tattooing from his abdomen down to signify his position in the tribe in Samoa via traditional method – using a mallet, sharpened bone and ink – which should have taken weeks, but he had it completed in a matter of days.”
By all accounts, Peter Maivia was one of the toughest men in professional wrestling, but he was also considered one of the kindest and understanding.
However, even the gentle Maivia had his limits as seen when wrestling shooter Billy Robinson decided to antagonize the Samoan star past his breaking point. Like any wrestling story, the truth has become enshrouded in rumor and innuendo, but most people agree Robinson was making fun of Maivia, particularly his Samoan heritage. The normally reserved “High Chief” had enough and put Robinson through a window. Robinson, no pushover himself, was a bloody mess but ready for more. Robinson grabbed Maivia and prepared to deliver a suplex. Robinson’s mat skills were renowned and Maivia would have been seriously injured—if not killed, if Robinson suplexed him. Maivia bit into Robinson’s cheek, tearing out a piece of skin and effectively countering the move.
Another story has it Maivia even took out one of Robinson’s eyes, blinding him in one eye for the rest of his life.
At some point, other wrestlers intervened, breaking up the real-life donnybrook. As one might suspect, Robinson’s story is different, with the AWA trainer stating he and Maivia brawled, but that he (Robinson) ultimately knocked Maivia out with a punch.
Hitting the Big Time
Break-out success occurred in the 1970’s when Maivia began working in the NWA San Francisco promotion run by Roy Shire. The area had a significant Samoan-American population which made Maivia quick to get over. Maivia became a top star in San Francisco. He teamed with Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson, who eventually became Peter’s son-in-law after marrying his daughter.
Maivia also traveled to Texas where he wrestled in Paul Boesch’s Houston territory for about a year.
In 1977, Maivia’s skills and reputation landed him a spot in the World Wide Wrestling Federation. There, Peter wrestled as a popular babyface, forming a team with the late “Chief” Jay Strongbow.
The two competed for the WWWF Tag Team Championship, and while they came close to winning the belts, the tag team gold eluded them.
Maivia also battled WWWF champion “Superstar” Billy Graham for the belt. Although Maivia could not wrest the belt from Graham, he proved a formidable opponent.
In 1978, Peter Maivia shocked the wrestling world when he turned heel on WWWF champion Bob Backlund.
With “Classy” Freddie Blassie now managing him, Maivia feuded with his former friend Jay Strongbow:
Eventually Maivia campaigned for Bob Backlund’s WWWF championship. He came close, but failed to win the strap.
Promoting in Hawaii
After his run in the WWWF, Maivia worked in Los Angeles, as well as New Zealand where he wrestled Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
In 1980, Peter and his wife Lia moved to Hawaii where they began operating the NWA Hawaii territory. The couple were enjoying success when the unthinkable happened.
Peter Maivia was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 1981. In hindsight, the affliction was all the more tragic because Peter Maivia reportedly ignored the symptoms and his friends and family’s admonitions to see a doctor.
The mountain of a man passed away on June 13, 1982 at age 45, leaving behind his wife and two children.
Peter Maivia’s Grave
Peter Maivia is buried at Diamond Head Memorial Park in Oahu, Hawaii.
Peter Maivia’s grave, with a fan’s AZW championship belt, located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo: markanarchy / instagram
In 2008, “High Chief” Peter Maivia was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The 1980s also marked the passing of many other notable wrestling stars including Adrian Adonis, Bruiser Brody, David Von Erich, and Gino Hernandez.