Ringside Remembrances — Good-bye, 2012
Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
“As long as one person remembers me, I won’t truly be gone” — credited to Linda Hamilton-Shannon
Four years ago, my world fell apart. My wife of 15 years, Linda, died from a sudden massive heart attack. As a tribute to her, I wrote a column, in December of 2008, saying good-bye to her and to wrestlers that had passed away, that year. Linda was a huge fan of wrestling and always asked if this person or that were still alive. That column became my most popular column of the entire year. The next year, I had tons of e-mails asking if I was going to do another “Good-bye” column. I did. The column you are about to read is my 5th installment of “Good-bye”. As always, I dedicate this column to Linda.
I always say that my wish, each year, is that there will be no one to have to say good-bye to, next year. I, again, make that solemn wish. Sadly, the reality is we are all moving towards that dark curtain that leads us to the next reality. I hope the people listed below enjoy a peaceful rest and as the song says:
“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day”
MS-1 (Pablo Fuentes Reina) — 55
He began wrestling, in Mexico, in 1978. He started under his given name, but eventually donned a mask and became MS-1. He was a major player in EMLL for some time. The ring name is based on the Mexican Antiterrorist organization. MS-1 is the equivalent rank of General or Admiral (highest possible rank). MS-1 eventually got a partner, MS-2. They added an additional member to become the trios group known as “Los Misioneros de Muerte” (Missionaries of Death). Later, MS-1 would team with Espectro, Jr. and El Satanico to become “Los Infernales” (The Infernals). That group disbanded when Espectro, Jr. had to retire, due to injury. MS-1 would then go on to great singles success, including two runs as the NWA World Light Heavyweight Champion (1985 and 1987). He was also part of the first Mexican National Trios champions. MS-1 eventually moved to CMLL. After being there, MS-1 moved into small-level promotion in and around his own home, in Mexico. He promoted his son, who took the name of MS-1, Jr. Eventually, MS-1 quietly retired. Pablo was killed in an automobile accident on January 12th.
Woody Farmer — 76
He was a Legend on the West Coast of the United States. He received a Lifetime Acheivement Award in 2010. That award was presented to him by his son, Shawn Kody (also a wrestler). Woody’s grandson is also a professtional wrestler. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Farmer, on the night he received his award. He was a gentle soul who enjoyed meeting the fans. Woody lost his wife, Sue, last year. Cancer took Woody from us, on February 29th.
Joe Blanchard — 82
Joe Blanchard was an accomplished wrestler who would later move into promoting in South Texas. He trained many outstanding wrestlers, including his own son, Tully. Joe died of natural causes, at the age of 83, on March 22nd.
Chief Jay Strongbow (Joe Scarpa) — 83
Jay/Joe started wrestling, under his real name, in 1947. He spent nearly a quarter of a century working for the NWA. In 1970, he moved over to the then-WWWF. When he began working for the WWWF, Joe took the identity of Native American “Chief” Jay Strongbow. He became a huge fan favorite. He would hold the tag belts, three times, including a run with his “brother”, Jules. Jay worked mostly with the WWE from 1970 through his retirement in 1994. After 1985, his in-ring performances were sporadic. He worked mostly as a road agent for the company. Jay also worked for Detroit’s Big Time Wrestling for a couple of years (1977-79). Vince McMahon, Sr. gave Jay special permission to work for Ed Farhat (The Sheik). Jay was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in it’s first full class (1994). Joe/Jay died from complication from a fall he suffered in 2011. He left us on April 3rd.
Gorgeous George, Jr. (George Wagner) — 74
This George Wagner was not related to the original Gorgeous George. This great wrestler took on the mantle of his idol, and even legally changed his name to George Wagner. His resemblance to the original US Gorgeous George was uncanny. It was easy to believe he was the offspring of the Human Orchid. Junior had a very successful wrestling career. He was 74 when cancer took him, on May 12th.
Red Bastien (Rolland Bastein) — 81
Red was a stand out in high school sports. He learned the wrestling business by working the carnival circuit. Eventually, he turned pro and moved to Chicago. Over the years, he toured the world, a dozen times over. Verne Gagne saw Red and gave him his first real break in the business. Red is credited (unofficially) with creating Cruiserweight wrestling (he was only 185 pounds, during his prime). After many years as a successful singles and tag wrestler, Red moved into booking (Dallas) and training. My grandfather always spoke highly of Red. The two knew each other through my grandfather’s work. Eventually, Red “retired” and moved to California. He is credited as the trainer of both Sting and The Ultimate Warrior. He also served as President of the Cauliflower Alley Club for several years. Red began to suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2010. Red’s health declined rapidly over the next two years and he passed away on August 11th.
“Hangman” Bobby Jaggers (Robert Jeaudoin) — 64
Bobby began wrestling, in 1972, as Bobby Mayne. Bobby took the surname to pay tribute to his favorite wrestler, Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne. He began wrestling in the Pacific Northwest but quickly moved to several different territories for further training. In 1977, Bobby was renamed as Bobby Jaggers. His career took off as he feuded with Dusty Rhodes. He moved from Florida to Puerto Rico, then on to San Antonio and, later, to Georgia. He became part of a very successful team with Dutch Mantel, known as the Kansas Jayhawks. Jaggers finished his career in Puerto Rico. Reports have it that the murder of Bruiser Brody, in 1988, pushed Jaggers to phase out his career. He fully retired in 1991. After his wrestling career, Bobby went back to school and became a Road and Bridge Specialist in Kansas. Bobby died on September 30th from Renal Failure. He had issues with his kidneys since contracting Hepatitus C during his time in Vietnam (military service).
Mike Graham (Michael Gossett) — 61
Mike was the son of Eddie Graham. He was trained by his father, Hiro Matsuda and Boris Malenko. Mike began his wrestling career in 1972. He took that year’s Rookie of the Year award. Mike would spend most of the 70s working for his father, in Florida. By the early 80s, Mike began to expand to other territories. He was always loyal to the Florida fans, though, and often returned home to entertain them. Graham worked with both the AWA and Jim Crockett/WCW. Graham would, in later years, work outside the spotlight for numerous smaller wrestling companies. Graham took his own life on December 19th.
Brad Armstrong (Robert Bradley James) — 51
A member of the famed Armstrong (James) family. Robert Bradley James was trained by his father, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong. Brad worked in just about every federation, both in the US and abroad. He went through several identity adjustments, including being the masked member of the Freebirds. He began his career in the summer of 1980. He was voted the Rookie of the Year, in 1982. He won numerous singles and tag titles. He had the honor of holding gold with his dad. He also formed a very successful team with Tim Horner. Brad would eventually move into more behind-the-scenes positions as a producer and trainer. Brad died on November 1st. The cause of death was not revealed but Brad had gone to his doctor, a few days earlier, regarding an undisclosed ailment.
Awesome Kong (Dwain McCullough) — 54
This Kong came many years before the woman who would also wrestle as Kharma. This Awesome Kong was part of one of the largest tag teams in Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW. Awesome and his partner, King, weighed in somewhere around the 1,000 lb. mark. While the team never held gold, they still caused a great deal of chaos during their short run. His death was related to heart problems. He died on November 17th.
“Freebird” Buddy Roberts (Dale Hey) — 65 or 67
Dale began his wrestling career as the “Brother” of Johnny Valentine. He used the name Dale Valentine. By the early 70s, Dale had become Buddy Roberts and formed a team with Jerry Brown, known as the “Hollywood Blonds”. By the end of the decade, Brown and Roberts had split and Roberts formed a new team. He brought together Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy to help create the Fabulous Freebirds. That team grew to legendary status. Roberts and Gordy would eventually boot Michael Hayes from the group. Roberts also served as the manager of record for the Samoan Swat Team, while they were in Dallas. Once Hayes, Gordy and the SST left the Dallas area, Buddy retired from wrestling. In recent years, Buddy made occasional appearance, most notably on the WWE’s video about the World Class area. Roberts died on November 29th. There was some confusion as to whether Roberts was 65 or 67 at the time of his passing.
“Hippie” Mike Boyette (Mike Bowyer) — 70
Also known as the “California Hippie”. Mike was a judo champion and a Marine. He was set to be on the Judo team for the 1964 Olympics but broke his leg and had to pull out. Mike was trained by the legendary Eddie Sharkey (and Verne Gagne). He had a decent career in the late 60s and through the 70s. In 1985, he had a run in the California-based UWF. He lost 197 matches in a row, but still enjoyed every minute of being in the spotlight. He passed away, quietly, on December 6th. He left behind 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
Dick Woehrle — 81
He was one of the most well-known referees of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He was the zebra-in-charge for matches featuring Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and hundreds of others. Dick began his sports career, as a boxer, in the 50s. He would later become a boxing ref. Vince McMahon, Sr. recruited Dick to become one of his senior refs.Dick made appearances up to just a few months before his death. He died on March 12th from colon cancer.
Doug Furnas — 50
Doug was a professional powerlifter before accepting an opportunity to work with Continental Championship Wrestling, in Tennessee. He feuded with Kevin Sullivan and his forces. Furnas would go forward and become a tag team sensation with two different partners, Dan Kroffat and Phil Lafond. He worked in both WCW and WWE. Doug was discovered on March 3rd, but it was believed that he died in late February. The cause of death was atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease.
Tommy was a referee, for many years, for various NWA territories. He passed away after a lengthy battle against cancer on March 6th.
Joe McCarthy (Thomas R. Criswell) — 82
He was a former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion (1966). He also wrestled under the names of Al Criswell and Tommy Criswell. He passed away on March 13th from complications from a stroke.
Savannah Jack (Savannah “Ted” Russell) — 64
The former high school sports star had a brief run in Bill Watts’ UWF in 1986 and 1987. When he began coughing up blood clots, at a show, in Fort Worth, Texas, Jack retired. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Jack returned to Minnesota, after his wrestling career, and worked as a cabbie and in a casino. Health problems continued to plague Jack for the last few years of his life. He died on January 12th from complications from multiple strokes, as well as heart disease.
Rick Lancaster (Ricky Brogdon) — 58
He was one half of the Sensationals with his “brother”, Jim. He also worked under the name of Rick O’Toole. At age 17, he shocked the wrestling world when he defeated the veteran, “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd (by disqualification, mind you). Rick began wrestling for “Sheik” Ed Farhat at the age of 16. He spent most of his career at the mid-card level, but he was happy just to be out there with the fans. He was a very well-liked person both in front of the fans and behind the scenes. He passed on February 6th from heart disease.
Johnny Diamond — 60
Diamond was a flamboyant wrestler that later became a top promoter in Ohio. He helped launch the careers of Abyss (Chris Parks) and Chris Harris. He also helped build Heartland Wrestling Association. Johnny went through a phase of wrestling animals, like bears. He even did a stint as a ring announcer for the WWF. Diamond died on February 12th after suffering a fall, a few days earlier.
The Dominoes #1 (Cliff Lilly) — 68
Cliff worked with Frank Heater as a tag team in the Nashville area. Cliff also removed the mask and had a career under his given name. He passed away on February 17th from natural causes.
Sonny Meyers (Robert Weathers) — 53
“Madman” Meyers began working in the British Columbia, Canada area. He employed a wild style, which earned him his nickname. He was the second person to use the name Sonny Myers/Meyers. The first was a 1940s-era wrestler who passed in 2007. Meyers held several regional titles before his retirement. In later years, Meyers battled multiple health issues. He died after a lengthy battle with throat cancer on February 23rd.
Thunderfoot #2 (David Deaton) — 56
Long time partner to Joel Deaton. He was trained by Lars Anderson. He and Joel became The Bruno Brothers and later Andersons. David did a brief run as one half of the Thunderfoot team before being replaced by Gene Ligon. David died from drowning on October 24th.
Chief Thudercloud (Louis Langley) — 69
Louis took his name from a famous character actor from the early days of westerns. He was one of two Chiefs to work in wrestling in the 70s and 80s. After a modest career, Langley retired, quietly. He died of unspecified causes on October 31st.
Don Fields (Don Hatfield) — 80
He was a tag team specialist in the NWA, during hte late 1950s and early 60s. He worked with two different “brothers”, Luke and Lee. Don died of natural causes on September 18th.
Stan Pulaski (Eric Pomeroy) — 79
Eric had multiple identities during his lengthy career. He worked as Stan Vachon, a “brother” to “Mad Dog” and “Butcher” Vachon. He also worked as Stan Pulaski (Polish wrestler) and Stan Kalmikoff (Russian). He even did a stint as the Mad Russian. He died of natural causes on September 29th.
Lumberjack #1 (Russ Walters)
Russ began wrestling around 1977. He had a successful run with his partner (and real life brother, David) as the Lumberjacks. Russ also had a decent singles career as The Lumberjack. They worked mostly in the Phoenix, AZ area. Russ died on May 17th from a Respiratory malfunction. His age was not released.
Hans Schmidt (Guy LaRose) — 87
Guy started wrestling, shortly after World War II, under his given name, in Canada. A local promoter decided that Guy would make a better “German”, to play off the huge anti-Germany mindset that was so a part of the early 50s. Guy/Hans was fantastic in the ring, thanks to his amateur wrestling background. Known around the world as the “Teuton Terror”, Hans came very close to taking the NWA World title from Lou Thesz, several times. He held numerous singles and tag titles during his lengthy career. Hans retired in the mid 70s and moved home to the Montreal suburbs. He passed away, on May 26th, of natural causes.
Dara Singh (Dara SIngh Randhawa) — 83
Dara was one of the first major pro wrestling stars to come out of India. He worked in the ring from 1946 to 1983. He began working in the Indian Carnival circuit but eventually became a favorite with the Royalty of India. He made several trips to North American and other places, during his wrestling career. Dara also became one of the pioneers in Indian cinema. He was a writer, director and actor for several films. He created Dara Studios, one of the most successful film companies in India. He also got involved in politics, later in life. Dara suffered a heart attack on July 7th. He was hospitalized for a few days and then released. He passed, due to a second heart attack, on July 12th.
Goldie Rogers (David Sherwin) — 61
Goldie began wrestling in 1972. He went through several masked identities before settling on a Hollywood Bad Boy persona. Goldie worked in several Canadian territories during his career. Goldie worked as a Talent Enhancement performer in the WWF, during the 80s. After retiring, Goldie moved back to Canada, where he operated a successful taxi company. He died on July 20th from complications from a Stroke.
Don Savage (Clark H. Staples)
Don had a brief career in professional wrestling. He retired and became a high school teacher and coach. He died on July 20th of an undisclosed ailment.
Eddie Lopez (Al Romero)
A staple in the Arizona wrestling circuit, Lopez had great success as both a singles and tag performer. He held tag gold with Kurt Von Steiger. After retirement, Eddie helped train several up and coming stars. He passed away on July 24th.
Black Jack Daniels (Jack Danielson) — 83
Jack often wrestled bears, winning each and every time. He was also a successful tag wrestler with his brother-in-law, Stan “Krusher” Kowalski. Daniels worked for numerous NWA territories. He passed away from complication from Dementia on July 25th.
Rita Cortez/Rita Lee (Yolanda Gutierrez) — 73
Rita had an outstanding career in both wrestling and country music. Many feel that Rita helped launch the career of Fabulous Moolah. Rita became romantically involved with Moolah’s then-husband, Buddy Lee. When Moolah learned of the affair, she left her husband and the promotion to join Vince McMahon, Sr.’s organization. Rita took the “Mexican Spitfire” nickname, near the end of her career. She was a key part of the film, Lipstick and Dynamite… She died on July 27th.
Buddy Diamond (Charles Medford) — 67
A fixture in Southern wrestling for many years. Buddy held numerous regiounal titles while helping push newer talent to the next level. He died on May 4th from internal bleeding.
Del Skinner (Delmarnet Skinnere) — 70
He worked in several Canadian territories in the early to mid 70s. Often billed as “Mr. Canada”, due to his physique. While Skinner lost more often than he won, he was very popular with the fans. Skinner died on May 10th.
Mr. Wrestling (Gordon Nelson) — 82
Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Gordon was set to be in the Olympic, in freestyle wrestling, in both 1952 and 1956. Sadly, there wasn’t enough money for Canada to send a wrestling team to the games. Gordon was invited to England for training in professional wrestling. He had a great run there, as well in his native Canada. Dory Funk, Sr. gave Gordon his moniker of “Mr. Wrestling”. After retiring, Nelson took a job with WCW as the head of their ring crew. He did that for 11 years, until WCW was purchased by WWE. He died from pneumonia and heart failure on December 12th.
Rip Hawk (Harvey Evers) — 82
Rip was trained by Karl Pojello. He began his career in 1949. He was actually discovered by boxing legend, Jack Dempsey. Harvey’s ring name had an interesting creation story. Rip came from a childhood nickname given to him by his sister. The surname was brought on by a promoter who said Evers had a nose very similar to a hawk’s. In addition, Evers seemed to fly around the ring. Evers decided on his nickname of “The Profile” after reading about actor John Barrymore. In the early 60s, Rip moved to Jim Crockett Promotions. He formed a fantastic tag team, called the Blond Bombers, with Swede Hansen. He would leave the promotion, in 1975, following a dispute with booker, George Scott. Hawk also partnered with Roger Kirby, in Florida. By the early 80s, Evers retired. He died, on December 22nd, from heart-related issues. It was listed as “natural causes”.
Siegfried Stanke (William Lehman) — 74
Stanke was an outstanding tag team performer in the 60s through the 80s. He worked the Southern Corridor with “Bruiser” Bob Sweetan and Bob Brown. He died on November 12th.
Jan St. John — 75
Jan worked for many years in Canada and the Northern United States. He died of natural causes on December 8th.
Hansen was a solid competitor during his career. He passed away on November 10th.
There may have been some wrestlers and personalities that I may have missed in this lengthy list. I apologize to the family and fans of anyone that I didn’t include on this list. I pray that each of the individuals above enjoy a peaceful rest. Thank you to each and everyone of the great people that I profiled for bringing us years of great entertainment. God Bless and…
(Rest in) Peace