Ringside Remembrances – R.I.P. 2010
Jay Shannon draws upon four decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
Of all the columns that I write, during the year, this is my least favorite. I began this “tradition” two years ago when my first wife, Linda, died. It was my way of letting everyone know what a great wrestling fan she was. It was also a way to bid a tearful farewell to the men and women who moved on to the next reality. This year, we have lost so many. There was a mix of the elderly and the far-too-young, men and women alike.
I wish to send a special thanks to Gary Will for all his help with this article. His Wrestling History website (http://www.garywill.com/wrestling/decwres.htm) provides a list of deceased wrestlers. I would never have been able to do this sad column without his dedication to showing respect to those that have passed on. Thanks, Gary.
“God’s finger touched him, and he slept” – Lord Alfred Tennyson
During the early 1970s, Jim teamed with a young Jerry Lawler to gain tag team gold, multiple times. White began his career in 1957 in Chicago. He was a mainstay in several of the NWA territories up until retirement in the 1980s. His last wrestling appearance was as a second to Jerry Lawler on 11/07/2008. Jim passed away on January 7th after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Tony Halme was one of Verne Gagne’s brightest students. He worked throughout Europe and Japan under his given name. The Finlandian was given the new identity of Ludvig Borga when he entered the WWE. While he never gained WWE gold, he did make life miserable for Tatanka and Lex Luger. After his pro wrestling career, Halme went into MMA. He lost to Randy Coutier, in Randy’s first pro fight. In 2003, Halme returned to his native Finland and was voted into Parliament. Halme ended his own life with a pistol shot to the head, in his apartment, on January 9th.
Ed was one of the most colorful personalities to ever work in the Midwest. Before he became a promoter, he wrestled a bear, worked as an alcoholic doctor/manager in one town and the mysterious Doctor X in another. Ed was old-school hard-nosed when it came to the business. Wrestlers and other personalities didn’t get away with much with Ed. In later years, Ed became a liason between numerous organizations. Ed was one of the first to see the importance of organizations working together and sharing talent. Ed was also credited with designing and creating numerous wrestling championship belts, including the current NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt. He passed away on January 15th.
He was one of the founding members of the New Japan roster. He fought in the ring for four years and then retired to the role of referee in 1976. He would spend the next 23 years wearing the striped shirt for the Japanese organization. He briefly retired in 1999 to spend more time with his family. He would return for occasional refereeing duties for the next 10 years or so. He passed away on January 15th. One of those who survived him was his child, Katsuyori Shibata (also a pro wrestler).
Ida Mae Martinez
Sometimes spelled Ida May, she was one of the pioneers of female wrestling. She began her career in 1950 after being trained by the legendary Billy Wolfe. Ida Mae toured the country, feuding with many top female stars like Mildred Burke and Fabulous Moolah. She recently co-starred in the documentary “Lipstick and Dynamite”, which was a look at female wrestling from the 1940s forward. Ida Mae passed at the age of 79 on January 18th.
His real name was Freddie Joe Brisco. He grew up in Oklahoma and started his wrestling career in 1965. His first title run was a pair of NWA Missouri Junior Heavyweight championships in 1965. He then moved on to the Tri-State area, before relocating to Florida. In 1969, he teamed with his real-life brother, Gerald, to form one of the most successful teams in the country. He won the NWA Heavyweight title, twice (beating Harley Race and Giant Baba). One of the greatest matches for the Briscos came on January 16, 1982 when they defeated Terry and Dory Funk, Jr for the NWA North American tag team titles. It was considered a wrestling clinic. Jack actually went into semi-retirement in the late 70s to open the Brisco Brothers Body Shop in Florida. Jack made a few appearances, over the years. At Wrestlemania XXIV (2008), Jack and Jerry Brisco were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Jack passed away on January 31st, at the age of 68.
He was born on July 8, 1917 in Quebec. He was one of six wrestling brothers. The Baillargeons were one of the first true “families” in pro wrestling. Their children and grandchildren have also competed in the sport. Before becoming a pro wrestler, Charles worked the carnival circuit as a strongman. Most of his wrestling arsenal was power-based. Charles passed away from natural causes on February 10th. He was 92 years old.
George “Red” Eakin
George was born in Winnipeg, Canada on September 19, 1929. He was a fantastic amateur wrestling that eventually went pro in 1952. He did some touring but chose to stay mostly in the Winnipeg area. He wrestled for more than 20 years. His final match, on November 15, 1975, had him teaming with a rookie Roddy Piper against Joe Carona and The Scorpion. Eakin passed away on February 21st at the age of 81, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
John Angelo Poffo was born on April 10, 1925 in Downers Grove, Illinois. Poffo had a solid wrestling career, both as a singles and tag team performer. He won numerous titles, over the years. He was managed by both Bronko Lubich and Bobby Heenan. Following his retirement, Poffo worked as the promoter for the International Championship Wrestling organization. He trained his sons, Randall aka Randy Savage and Lanny, to follow in his footsteps. Poffo also took a turn as a physical education teacher. Poffo set a world record in 1945 when he completed 6,033 sit-ups in only four hours. Poffo was married to his wife, Judy, in 1949. They were together for more than 60 years, until Angelo passed away on March 4th.
Sandy was brought into the wrestling business by his older brother, George. The Canadians worked for numerous promotions, over the years. They were known as The Flying Scotts. After retiring from an active in-ring career, Sandy worked in the offices of Jim Crockett Promotions, and later World Championship Wrestling. He would eventually leave WCW to help Jim Cornette create Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Scott died on March 11th from pancreatic cancer.
“Gentleman” Jerry Valiant
John Hill was born in Hamilton, Ontario on July 8, 1941. He worked in Australia as “Stomper” Guy Mitchell. He also worked under the name Jerry Heenan, the storyline brother of Bobby Heenan. When he moved to the WWWF, he was renamed Jerry Valiant. He was put in a Brother Act with Johnny and Jimmy Valiant. They were a very successful trio. In recent years, Jerry’s health had declined and he ended up in a nursing home. He passed away there, at age 68, on March 11th.
Joe was born in Bonbillett, France on January 17, 1920. His given name was Francois Miquet. He had a brother, Felix Miquet, who worked the European theater. Joe formed two very successful teams. In wrestling, he worked with Corsica Jean (Jean Louis Roy). They were sometimes billed as the Corsica or Corsican Brothers (the later a take-off on the characters created by Alexander Dumas). Joe’s second successful team was a marriage to lady wrestler, Sarah Lee. They were together for more than 45 years, until Sarah passed in 2008. Joe was 90 years old when he passed away on March 14th in Nashville.
Baron Mikel Scicluna
He started his career in Toronto, Canada in the late 1950s. He was in the same class as Waldo Von Erich. “The Baron” worked mostly in Canada and the US Northeast. By the 1970s, Scicluna had become of one Vincent J. McMahon’s favorite performers. He was mostly a Talent Enhancer for the next 20 years. He faced, and lost, to every WWWF/WWF/WWE champion from Buddy Rogers through Bob Backlund. He retired in the summer of 1983 and became a truck driver. He made a few appearances, including an Old-Timer’s Battle Royal in 1987. He passed away from liver cancer, at the age of 80, on March 20th.
He was one half of the Dirty White Boys, along with Tony Anthony. He also worked as Tom Davis. He worked primarily as a Talent Enhancer in WWE, WCW, and AWA. He also did a brother act with Mike Davis, as both a version of the Rock ‘n’ Roll RPMs and the Dirty Davis Brothers. He retired in 1995. Later in life, Tom’s weight ballooned to around 430 pounds. He suffered from sleep apnea and other weight-related issues. According to his long-time partner, Candi Devine, Tom died from a combination of health issues on March 29th.
He was one of the first professional wrestlers to openly admit being a homosexual. The admission, according to Kanyon, cost him his wrestling career. He was a former WCW World tag team champion with “Diamond” Dallas Page. Kanyon suffered for many years, according to his family, from bipolar disorder. In late March, he began to threaten suicide. On April 2, 2010, Chris’ brother, Ken Kanyon, discovered him unconscious in Chris’ Queens, New York apartment. He was later pronounced dead and an autopsy determined his death came by way of an overdose of anti-depressants.
He was called “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” (mostly by Gene). His other nickname was “Big Thunder”. Kiniski had a very successful football career. After retiring, he was introduced to Dory Funk, Sr. who (along with Tony Morelli) agreed to train the large Canadian. His first match was a win over Curly Hughes on February 13, 1952. After a brief run in Texas, Gene moved to California. He worked both as a singles and tag competitor. In 1954, he got his first chance at the NWA World title. He challenged but lost to Lou Thesz in two straight falls. Gene was not disheartened and he continued to work California. He would eventually move back home to Canada for an extended run. In 1960, Gene joined the AWA and unseated Verne Gagne to win their World title. He also teamed with Hard Boiled Haggerty to take the company’s World Tag Team titles. Gene was the first man to try and capture all three major World titles (WWWF, AWA and NWA) in the same year (1964). He didn’t succeed but he did cement his legacy. 2 years later, on January 7, 1966, Gene defeated Lou Thesz in St. Louis to capture the elusive NWA World title. He held the title for slightly over 3 years, until dropping it to the son of the man who trained him. On February 11, 1969, Dory Funk, Jr. took the title from Gene in Tampa, Florida. Gene settled in at NWA All-Stars and worked the final 14 years of his career there (with a few side trips to other groups and countries). Gene then began training his two sons, Nick and Kelly, to become pro wrestlers. Both were reasonably successful but never quite matched their father’s level of success. Gene also did sporadic acting over the years. Gene was 81 when he died on April 4th from advanced brain cancer.
Katsuji Adachi was born in Japan in 1942. To help support his family, Katsuji began wrestling professionally at the age of 14. He quickly gained the respect of the older wrestlers and the fans. In 1973, Katusji was brought to NWA Central States and renamed Tokyo Joe. He worked with Kung Fu Lee and Jumbo Tsuruta in and around St. Louis. Eventually, Katsuji moved north to Stu Hart’s Stampede promotion. Stu liked and trusted Katsuji enough to ask him to help train his son, Bret, in the infamous “Dungeon”. Bret has often talked with great respect about Mr. Adachi and Mr. Sakurada (Kazuo Sakurada), who he gives equal credit, along with his father, for turning him into the pro he became. Hito retired in 1986, after winning literally dozens of titles and took a position as lead trainer (behind Stu) in the Hart Dungeon. He fully retired by 2003 and spent the next few years between Osaka, Japan and Calgary. He battled diabetes, which led to a leg amputation. He passed away on April 20th from complications related to his diabetes.
He was the “other” Gorgeous George, the European one. George Grant used a similar gimmick to the American “Gorgeous” George. Instead of tossing Georgie Pins to his fans, Grant pitched roses to the crowd. The roses were symbolic of Grant’s suggested royal lineage. He was a staple on British television in the 1950s and 60s, before an extended run in the states. The great comic, Benny Hill, even paid tribute to George during a wrestling skit on his long-running television show. After retirement, Grant became an evangelist and spent many years touring the world to spread God’s message. He was living in York, England when he passed away on April 21st. He was 85.
He was born on May 16,1921 in Utah. His given name was Robert Shibuya. He grew up in California. A local promoter saw Robert and offered him a position as a villain Japanese heel. As the anti-Japanese sentiment was still quite strong in 1952, Robert (now known as Kenji) was an instant hit. He worked throughout the United States and Canada during his career. He also did quite a bit of acting. He made several appearances on David Carradine’s Kung Fu series. Kenji often teamed with his “cousin”, Mitsu Arakawa. Kenji was married for 59 years and died on May 3rd from natural causes.
Salvador Cuevas Ramirez was born in Tijuana, Mexico on July 8, 1942. Ramirez began to sculpt his body in his teens. He would go on to win multiple Bodybuilding titles, including Mr. Mexico. After moving to Guadalajara, Ramirex began training under Diablo Velasco (a legendary Mexican trainer). As a birthday present on his 34th birthday, Ramirez was given the identity of Power Man and was allowed to work his first match. At 34, many others felt he was too old to work a match. He proved them wrong. He would move over to Mexico City, where he worked as both El Supremo and El Magnifico. El Supremo faced just about every major star to ever work the Mexican circuit, including El Santo. Supremo would later retire to Tijuana to train his son, Supremo, Jr., and to work for the boxing and wrestling commission in his province. Supremo appeared to be in good health before he died of a sudden heart attack on May 3rd.
He was a former Sumo Wrestler (reaching the rank of Rikishi). His given name was Masao Kimura (or in Japanese, Kimura Masao). It was Masao’s older brother that initially steered him away from pro wrestling to the art of Sumo. In the late 50s, he moved to Japan’s PWA promotion to be trained by Toyonobori, and later Billy Robinson. In the late 60s, Kimura went on an American tour. While in the states, he challenged Dory Funk, Jr. on three different occasions for the NWA World title. In 1970, Kimura was a participant in the very first Steel Cage Match to be held in Japan. Over the years, he would become associated with both the Steel Cage and Death Match. In fact, Kimura is credited with the birth of the infamous Steel Cage Death Match that would be the inspiration for the modern Hardcore style of wrestling. He wrestled for every promotion in Japan during his 40+ year career. In 2004, he was made the Most Honorable President of the NOAH promotion. He held that position until his passing on May 24th. Kimura was 68 when he died of pneumonia.
Gary Brumbaugh was the real-life brother to the more famous Sputnik Monroe (Rock Brumbaugh). Jet had the shortest career of the three “Monroe Brothers”. Jet was originally brought in to manage Sputnik and Rocket but later joined the team as a grappler. When Rocket decided to head for Arizona, Sputnik and Jet relocated from New York to Atlanta. In Atlanta, Jet switched back to a managerial position. He would primarily work as a manager for the rest of his in-ring career. Oddly enough, when he left wrestling, he stayed in management…as the manager of a Walgreen’s Drug Store. He died on May 12th.
There were more than one person to use the name Rocket Monroe. The one who passed away, this year, was Maury High. He was an outstanding football player for his Tennessee high school football team, until a knee injury ended his gridiron career. Maury was rabbit hunting with a friend, who just happened to be a pro wrestler. Johnny Alexander, the friend, invited Maury to come work out with him and three of the other wrestlers. The local promoter liked Maury’s athletic build and speed and offered to train him. In 1960, Maury debuted as Rocky Montez. Rocky would wrestle, part time, for the next several years.
When Sputnik Monroe agreed to head to the Mobile, Alabama area, the local promoter (Rocky McGuire) wanted to find a “New” Rocket Monroe. As mentioned above, the original had moved to Arizona. The blond streak was applied to Maury’s hair and he was Rocket. When Sputnik left the Gulf Coast area, Rocket stayed behind. He eventually enlisted another “brother” in Flash Monroe and the duo held the tag belts on several occasions. Maury officially retired from the business in 1979. Maury moved to Riverside, GA and spent many years as a building inspector and wrestling coach for a local high school. He died on June 7th.
Aurelian Smith, Sr. was born near Sherman, Texas on August 6, 1932. He worked in the oil fields to support himself until his wrestling career got rolling. He started in the Dallas and Houston markets but later relocated to Georgia. Smith wrestled under several names: Jake Smith (his son would later take the first name as his own), Tiny Smith and Tiny Anderson. When he moved to Oklahoma, he was re-christened Grizzly Smith (due to his rugged look). Grizzly teamed with Luke Brown to form a very successful team known as The Kentuckians. They feuded heavily with The Assassins all over the Southern Corridoe. Eventually, Grizzly moved to Canada and became Ski Hi Jones. He teamed with Don Leo Jonathan to feud with The Assassins. After Canada, Smith returned to the Dallas area to work for and with Fritz Von Erich. Smith would have one final good run with The Kentuckians in 1971. After that, he retired to become a promoter in Louisiana. He would later partner with Bill Watts to build the Mid-South territory. After it was incorporated into World Championship Wrestling, he became a road agent for the group. He would later take a backstage position with the WWE. Smith fathered several children. Three of them became wrestlers. Aurelian Smith, Jr. would become Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Robin Smith would do a run as “Rockin’ Robin”. And Michael Smith would take the name of a Texas patriot…Sam Houston. Grizzly Smith died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease on June 12th.
Michael Verdi was one of the hottest properties on the East Coast indy scene. He began his wrestling career, for CZW, in 1999. Verdi, as Trent Acid, worked for Juggalo Championship Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Unplugged and Pro Wrestling Syndicate, as well as a dozen or so smaller promotions. Acid would form the Backseat Boyz with Johnny Kashmere, after feuding with Kashmere for some time. Acid would hold more than two dozen different championships during his too-brief career. On April 2, 2010, Verdi was arrested for possession of heroin. ON May 12th, he was sentenced to 23 months in prison. The case was up for appeal when Verdi suddenly died on June 18th. There has never been an official cause of death released in this case.
Toni Lea Collins was born in Freer, Texas on August 19, 1964. She began working for the World Class group, in 1984, as a production assistant. Eventually, she would meet and, later marry, “Gentleman” Chris Adams. Toni’s first significant on-screen appearance came in 1986. She aided her “blinded” husband after he was supposedly injured by the late Gino Hernandez. Over the new few years, she would become more and more of an on-screen performer. She began to manage, full time, in 1989. Toni experienced one of the first female “wardrobe malfunctions” when Tojo Yamamoto ripped open her blouse on a World Class/USWA broadcast. Her biggest feud was joining her husband, Chris Adams, to face off against Adams’ student, Steve Austin, and ex-wife, Jeannie Clark. Before beginning her managerial career, Toni did take some time off to give birth to a son, Christopher Adams, Jr. In the early 90s, the relationship between Toni and Chris, Sr. became volatile. Court records stated that Chris’ drug and alcohol problems were out of control and he assaulted his wife around that time. She would disappear for just over 2 years. When she returned, in 1993, she worked as Brian Christopher’s manager/valet. She took the new name of Nanny Simpson. Toni retired, for the final time, in 1995. She would marry twice more after retirement. In early June, Toni was rushed to the hospital in Louisville, KY with an abscess infection of the abdomen. This infection was very similar to what is alleged to have ended David Von Erich’s life in 1984. Toni was released from the hospital but later rushed back in full cardiac arrest. She was 45 years old when she died on June 24th.
Lance Kurtis McNaught was born in Carroll, Iowa on March 12, 1981. McNaught relocated to the San Antonio, Texas area in the late 90s. He was accepted into Shawn Michaels’ wrestling school, along with Bryan Danielson (WWE’s Daniel Bryan). The duo was sent to FMW, in Japan, on December 1, 1999. Cade spent three months in Japan before coming back to the states. He worked numerous indy shows before coming to the attention of talent scouts near the end of 2000. Cade worked for three different developmental territories (MCW, HWA and OVW). Cade entered the WWE as the Talent Enhancer known as Garrison Cade. He would later be partnered with Mark Jindrak to form a reasonably successful team. Eventually, the WWE Draft would split up the Jindrak/Cade team. Cade suffered an injury in July, 2004 and spent some time off TV. He would eventually come back to OVW and work his way back to the main WWE Roster. In August, 2005, Cade’s name was changed to Lance Cade and he was partnered with Trevor Murdoch. They had several runs with the tag team belts in WWE. Eventually, the team would split when Trevor got into the whole Karaoke thing and Cade couldn’t stand it. On October 14, 2008, Cade was released from WWE. Jim Ross said a mistake, by him, led to Cade’s release. Cade began to have health problem around the time of his release. He suffered some sort of seizure on an airplane, though the details have always been somewhat sketchy.
After his WWE release, Cade almost immediately took indy bookings in the states. He and Murdoch would travel to Japan, where they were received favorably by the fans. Cade spent the better part of his final two years in Japan. In early August, 2010, Cade had come home to San Antonio to visit family and friends, His wife, Tanya, noticed that her husband hadn’t been feeling well. Cade died on August 13th. The official autopsy claimed a mix of drugs, combined with cardiomyopathy, led to his death. He was 29 when he died.
Ted Allen Lipscomb was born on Movember 17, 1955. At Cass County High School, in Georgia, he participated in wrestling, basketball, baseball and cross country. He got his first experience on the microphone, while in high school, by calling various sports over the local radio station. He made his wrestling debut in 1975. He spent a great deal of his career as one-half of one of the most successful teams in the Southern U.S., The Nightmares (along with Danny Davis). After nearly 20 years in the business, Ted Allen retired. He returned in 2004 for a three-year run on the Reunion circuit. Allen’s lifeless body was discovered on August 19th by his long-time girlfriend and mixed tag partner, Kyle Mathews. Ms. Mathews had been a student of Allen’s before their romance began. Allen was 54 when a heart attack took him from us.
James Saied Wehba was born on September 29, 1934 in Vernon, Texas. He began his wrestling career as Jimmy Wehba (often pronounced Webber). In 1966, Wehba began working for Fritz Von Erich. Fritz wanted to have Jimmy play upon his Middle Eastern heritage, so they worked together to come up with the name Skandor Akbar (which translates to Alexander the Great). Akbar worked primarily in the Texas market, but did a short run in the WWWF, where he was managed by Freddie Blassie. He learned a great deal from Blassie and when he was offered the opportunity to switch to managing, he jumped at the chance. He officially began managing as “General” Skandor Akbar in 1977. Akbar spent most of the next 30 years working in the World Class/USWA and Mid-South territories. He was shot at, doused in human urine, and threatened, numerous times. His “burning” of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan led to a near riot in New Orleans. In interviews, Jimmy said none of those things bothered him, as it was his character. The only time he was seriously frightened was when his family was threatened. After going into semi-retirement, Akbar continued to train young wrestlers. His biggest success was Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes. “General” Skandor Akbar passed away on August 19th from prostate cancer.
Anthony Osborne was born outside Columbus, Ohio on July 13, 1926. Tony was an amateur wrestler in high school He also wrestled while in the U.S. Navy. He was contacted by promoter, Al Haft, and offered a wrestling try-out. After impressing Haft, Tony was sent to Ali Pasha and Carl Pujillo for training. He name was adjusted to “Tough” Tony Borne. Tony mostly worked the Dallas and Portland markets, though he did take over the sapphire mask of Blue Demon for a short time in Mexico. Tony faced off against the NWA’s Pat O’Connor, Gene Kiniski and Lou Thesz, as well as the AWA’s Verne Gagne, in unsuccessful attempts to gain the World title. Near the end of his active career, Borne returned to Portland and helped with the training of men like Matt Borne/Doink (his son), Roddy Piper, Rick Martel and dozens of others. Borne also earned his real estate license and spent the last several years of his life in that business. He died on August 27th from heart complications.
Gertrude Elizabeth Vachon was born on January 12, 1962. While still a young child, she was adopted by Paul “Butcher” Vachon. Paul very much wanted to keep his daughter away from the wrestling business, but she was determined to follow in the footsteps of her father, uncle Maurice and aunt Vivian. The Vachon family united to give Trudy her basic knowledge of the sport. They then sent her to the Carolinas to learn from the leading female wrestler in history, The Fabulous Moolah. Vachon made her debut in 1985, working for Moolah’s all-female promotion. She later relocated to Florida, where she joined Kevin Sullivan’s “cult”. She was originally a shy little reporter called Trudy Herd. Her name was first changed to The Lock and later to Luna (short for lunatic). Her character was supposedly driven mad by Sullivan’s horrific treatment. Over the next few years, she worked most of the major groups, including a stint in the all-girl, Powerful Women of Wrestling (PoWW).
In 1992 Vachon was working in Puerto Rico. She contacted friends inside the WWF to try and get David Heath (Gangrel) a job. The WWF took both of them. Vachon was partnered with Shawn Michaels in a feud against Tatanka and Sensational Sherri (Martel). Luna had run-ins with several Divas during her first stay in the WWF and left by 1994 in protest of how women were being treated. After leaving the WWF, Luna worked a few indy shows and then went to ECW for a couple years. She was involved in a nasty feud with Stevie Richards, winning most of their battles. In 1997, she moved on to WCW. She got involved in the title picture by keeping Madusa from beating Akiro Hokuto. By the end of the year, she was back in WWF.
She worked as Goldust’s manager and later as the leader of The Oddities clique. Luna had issues with Sable almost from day one. Luna took exception to the Playboy playmate, even though she had done pictorials in both Playboy and Hustler magazine. Luna’s outbursts and physical fights would eventually cost her her position in the company and she was released in 2000. After leaving the WWE, she worked the indy circuit for the next 7 years. She would eventually retire and go to work for a tow truck company. Trudy was diagnosed as bipolar and fought the illness for many years. She fell on hard times, beginning around Christmas of 2009. Her home burned to the ground and she lost everything. She moved in with her mother and went into a deep depression. Help from fans and friends helped to bring her back. By early summer 2010, Vachon had moved into her own place and was doing well. On August 27th, Luna’s mom found her dead. The autopsy said the death was caused by an accidental overdose of oxycodone and benzodiazepine. In my column about her death, I remember saying “Heaven was in need of an Angelle (one of Trudy’s ring names), so they asked her to come home”. Her death was the most painful of the year for me, as I was a huge fan since almost day one.
Antonius Johannes Geesink was born in the Netherlands on April 6, 1934. Before he became a pro wrestler, Geesink was a master of Judo. He reached 10th Don Judoka status, which is extremely rare. He took gold in the Open Judo Category at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He also won the World title on two occasions. In October, 1973, Giant Baba recruited Geesink to become a pro wrestler. He was sent to Amarillo, Texas for a month of training by Terry and Dory Funk, Jr. He then returned to Japan, where he worked for the next five years, part time. After his brief career, Geesink returned to the Netherlands to coach Judo. In 1987, he took a position on the Dutch National Olympic Committee. Later, he would be invited to join the International Olympic Committee. Geesink was accused of taking bribes in the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal but was fully cleared. Geesink took ill in early August. He spent 3 weeks in the hospital before passing away on August 27th.
Joseph Carl Bailey was born on August 23, 1983, in Louisville, KY. He grew up a major wrestling fan. He was trained by Tracy Smothers and made his debut in 2001. He worked primarily for IWA Mid-South, but did venture out to other territories. Bailey was involved in many “Hardcore” style matches. Those matches led to numerous concussions, along with stitches, broken bones, etc… In mid-August, Bailey began to complain about massive headaches and numbness in his arms and hands. He was found dead on August 30th. The autopsy revealed his death was caused by a brain aneurysm, brought on by multiple concussions.
Bastion Booger/Norman the Lunatic/Makhan Singh
Mike Shaw went through several identities in his career. He was Makhan Singh in the Stampede area. Shaw’s dedication to Stu led to a contract with the NWA/WCW organization. There he portrayed Norman the Lunatic, an allegedly escape mental patient. He was one of the first men to be managed by Teddy Long. Mike went through some character adjustments in WCW. Later, he showed up as the grotesque Bastion Booger. As Booger, his biggest feud was a love triangle storyline with Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon. Booger became infatuated with Luna. Booger came out on the losing end of that feud and was released in 1994. He would make a final appearance at Raw’s 15th Anniversary Special. After retiring, Shaw opened a wrestling school in Michigan. He died on September 11th from a heart attack.
Giant Gonzalez/El Gigante
Jorge Gonzalez was born in Argentina on January 31, 1966. He was a stellar basketball player, both in high school and college. He was recruited by the Atlanta Hawks. A knee injury ended his basketball career. Since he was already under contract to the Turner organization, Gonzalez was sent to the WCW Power Plant to learn professional wrestling. He made his debut on May 19, 1990 as El Gigante (Spanish for The Giant). He mostly worked the mid-card level, although he did feud with Ric Flair over the WCW World title. He was also sent to Japan in a cross-promotional talent share. When his contract with WCW expired, he took an offer from the WWF. He debuted at the 1993 Royal Rumble, where he attacked The Undertaker. The now-bearded Gonzalez was named Giant Gonzales. He wore an awful body suit that was airbrushed with muscles and hair. He was supposed to be some sort of shaved Sasquatch. Harvey Wippleman was Giant Gonzales’ manager. Gonzales faced Undertaker at Wrestlemania IX in what has become known as the “worst match in Wrestlemania history”. Undertaker won the match by DQ. It was the only Wrestlemania match that Undertaker didn’t win by pinfall or submission. Gonzalez was released not long after Wrestlemania. From there, he went back to New Japan for another brief run. By 1995, Gonzalez decided to retire from wrestling. He returned to Argentina. He worked as a basketball coach for the last few years of his life. He died on September 22nd.
Edouard Ignacz Weiczorkiewicz was born in France on July 17, 1926. He was of Russian and Polish decent. In 1956, he relocated to Montreal, Canada. He was one of the earliest “High Flyers” in the business. He took the NWA World title from Lou Thesz in a controversial match on June 14, 1957. The win would lead to a split in the NWA. When Verne Gagne created the AWA, he took Carpentier as their first World Champion. He would later drop the AWA strap to Gagne. Carpentier formed a successful tag team with Bobo Brazil. After his retirement, Carpentier opened a very successful wrestling school in Montreal. He also provided French commentary on many WWE video releases. He died on October 30th from a heart attack.
King Curtis Iaukea
Curtis Piehau Iaukea III was the grandson of Colonel Curtis Iaukea of the Grand Kingdom of Hawaii. He began his wrestling career in Australia in 1964. He was part of a very unpopular team known as The People’s Army, which also included Mark Lewin and Spiros Arion. Iaukea would later turn face when he feuded with Lewin. Iaukea worked mostly in Australia, Japan and in Hawaii. He did make several U.S. mainland appearances before retiring in 1980. After his retirement, he became a manager. He managed Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin in ICW. His character could best be described as “an evil Yoda”. He would later show up in WWF as the manager of Kamala and Wild Samoan Sika. He also did a very short run in WCW as Kevin Sullivan’s “Master” during his Dungeon of Doom days. He also did some acting. He was billed as Iau Kea in “The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze”. Moe Howard quipped “That’s not a man! That’s a committee!”. The WCW Cruiserweight specialist, Prince Iaukea, is not, in fact, directly related to Curtis. King Curtis Iaukea departed this world on December 4th.
Jacob “Dutch” Grobbe was born in Leiden, Holland. He began as a bodybuilder but switched to professional wrestling to make ends meet. Mortier used several names over his career. As Hans, he was billed as Bridget Bardot’s former personal bodyguard. The strongman used a gimmick similar to Chris Masters’ Masterlock. The only man, of record, to ever break Hans’ Full Nelson was Bruno Sammartino. After his feud with Bruno, Hans would do runs in Hawaii and Florida, winning titles in both areas. In the early 70s, Hans worked the Texas market as Lord Charles Montegue. He often teamed with Boris Malenko. At the same time, he made trips to Montreal to work as the masked Dr. X and the non-masked Tarzan Zora. He retired in the mid-70s. Hans died on December 15th after a lengthy illness.
Saying good-bye is never easy. Hearing that your heroes have died goes straight to the soul of most fans. Learning that a young person like Lance Cade or Trent Acid has passed is even sadder than most. I always end this column with a most sincere wish…I hope and pray that there will be no one on this list, next year. Sadly, there probably will be.