Posted January 7th, 2016 by jshannon

Ringside Remembrances: Farewells, 2015

Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.

“Our Dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”—George Eliot

2015 is in the books and, sadly, we lost several great people in the last 12 months. As I type this out, I find that many of my old “go to” resources are no longer there. I wish to thank Pro Wrestling Illustrated for being such a solid reference for these sad notices. If I should miss anyone, I do apologize to the friends, family and fans of said individual.


This Polish star had been wrestling for less than one month in MZW. The death, on June 3rd, was quite unexpected.

Ashura Hara

Ashura was a rugby star in Japan before becoming a wrestler in 1978. He wrestled off and on until the mid-1990s. After retiring from wrestling, Hara returned to his first love, rugby, where he served as a coach and trainer until shortly before his death on April 28th.

Buddy Landel

The “other” Nature Boy (along with Ric Flair and Buddy Rogers) was trained by the legendary Boris Malenko. Buddy primarily worked the Southern Corridor of territories but did travel the world to ply his trade. Buddy died from injuries suffered in a car accident. He left us on June 22nd.

Cora Combs

One of the best female wrestlers of her era. She was trained by Billy Wolfe, who also help train Fabulous Moolah and dozens of other great female stars. She was the mother of lady wrestler, Debbie Combs. The 92-year old Cora passed away on June 21st from complications of pneumonia.

Drew McDonald

A native of Scotland, Drew wrestled under numerous names during his long and storied career. He was much respected on the independent circuit throughout Europe. He left this world on February 9th at the age of 59.

James Prentice aka The Drunken Irishman

James worked mostly on the West Coast of the United States. He was trained by the UPW Ultimate University (the same group that trained John Cena). He was only 39 when he passed away on September 22nd.

Duke Myers

The Oregon native began his career in 1970. He mostly worked the Pacific Northwest, though he did venture to other areas in his 21-year career. He died on August 22nd.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes

The Son of a Plumber began his career in the late 60s. While he began as a hated heel, most of Big Dust’s career was as a Babyface (good guy). He helped build Florida into one of the strongest territories of the 1970s and 80s. He held just about every title in the NWA, including 3 runs with the World title. He is most remembered by WWF/E fans for his time spent dressed in Polka Dots. Dusty passed along his legacy to his two sons, Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Star Dust). Cody’s identity is a direct homage to his father, who was often called Stardust in the 1970s and 80s. Dusty worked in almost every major promotion in the world, during his career. Dusty’s health began to fail in his later years. He had been battling stomach cancer just months before his death on June 11th.

Hack Myers

This tattooed battler died just 2 days before his 42nd birthday (12/7/73-12/5/15). A student of Axl Rotten, Hack worked in the Florida indies before getting a chance to join his mentor in the original ECW. After ECW folded, Myers became a great teacher of other wrestlers. His two most famous students were Scoot Andrews and (Travis) Tomko. The cause of his death was related to brain surgery that he had a few weeks prior to his passing (according to posts from Axl Rotten).

Larry Winters

Winters spent many years working as a journeyman wrestler. He plied his trade in the AWA, NWA, Puerto Rico and numerous smaller territories. He was a founding member of Eastern Championship Wrestling, later ECW. He formed a successful tag team, called the Dog Pound, with Johnny Hotbody. Winters would later turn to training and had numerous successful students, including Don E. Allen and The Sandman. He died on January 27th.

Lizmark (Sr.)

This Mexican legend began his career in March, 1976. Lizmark was working at the Acapulco Hilton, when his uncle began to train him as a boxer. Due to his excellent physique, he was quickly scouted for pro wrestling. He donned his mask to avoid recognition by his hotel co-workers and guests. The Lizmark name was a tribute to a German battleship, the Bismarck. Lizmark had been fascinated by the history of the ship and wanted to show his respect. Lizmark wrestled from his debut in 1976 until 2008. Lizmark’s legacy continues with Lizmark Jr. and El Hijo de Lizmark. Lizmark died on December 16th of respiratory failure.

Lynn McCrossin

This bodybuilder-turned-wrestler worked mostly in the Northeast female independent circuit. She was 57 when she died on June 17th.

Nick Bockwinkel

Considered to be one of the most intelligent wrestlers in the business, Nick was trained by his father, Warren, and Lou Thesz. Nick spent many years as the top man in the AWA. He held the World title on 4 different occasions and the Tag Team titles, 3 times, with “Crippler” Ray Stevens. The Hall of Famer was 80 when he passed on November 14th.

Perro Aguayo, Jr.

Perro, Jr. came from a huge wrestling family. His father, uncle and cousins all work or worked in wrestling. Perro was trained, primarily, by his father, Perro, Sr. Perro worked almost exclusively in Mexico and the Southwest United States. Perro was wrestling in a tag team match when he took a horrible “bump” coming out of the ring. He demanded to continue the match. Rey Mysterio, Jr. connected with the 619 and Perro collapsed. Konnan rushed in to check on his friend but he was already gone. Many blamed Rey for the Hurancanrana that sent Perro outside that possibly caused his death. Others blamed Konnan for shaking Perro’s head. The truth came out that the fall out of the ring had broken Perro’s neck. Perro’s professionalism to continue for the fans may well have been the ultimate cause for his demise. Perro was only 35 when he died on March 21st. Tributes came from around the world as many wrestlers.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Born Roderick George Toombs, Piper began working in Canada. His ability to play the bagpipes was incorporated into his character. He had his first big successes in the Pacific Northwest and the Los Angeles territories. Piper had a legendary feud with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, that culminated in the first Dog Collar Match. Piper lost a significant amount of hearing in that wild match. Piper moved on to the WWF, in the early 80s. He became the greatest heel of the Hulkamania era and was considered the Anti-Hogan. Piper parlayed his wrestling presence into a string of successful films. His fight scene in “They Live” made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the “Longest 1-on-1 Fight Scene” at close to 11 minutes. Piper was also in movies such as: Body Slam, Hell Comes to Frogtown, The One and Only, and dozens more. Piper also appeared on quite a few television shows, as himself and as different characters. “Piper’s Pit”, Roddy’s talk show was the benchmark for all those before and after. Roddy died from a sudden heart attack on July 31st.

Steve Rickard

The New Zealand native began wrestling in 1959. Steve faced almost every major champion during his 30-year career. He would later become a promoter and trainer for several top stars in the New Zealand and Australian markets. He also worked throughout Europe and made a few journeys to North America. He passed, on April 6th, at age 85. His cause of death was listed as “natural causes”.

Tommy Rogers

Thomas Crouch worked for many years as one half of the Fantastics (alongside Bobby Fulton). Rogers announced in 2014 that he had been suffering from multiple health issues. Tommy had no formal training prior to his first match against Eddy Mansfield. Tommy would learn the sport from those he worked with and respected. Tommy and Bobby held many tag titles, all around the world. Their biggest success came in the World Class territory. Health issues forced Tommy to retire in 2007. He continued to work the convention circuit until shortly before his death. He died in his adopted home of Honolulu, Hi on July 1st. He was 54.

Tim Arson aka The Zombie

Arson worked the indies under numerous names. Arson’s biggest break was a one-shot deal with WWE’s version of ECW. Arson participated in the very first WWEcw match, losing to The Sandman. He was trained by Johnny Rodz. Arson, real name Tim Robbins, was only 38 when he died on January 7th.

Verne Gagne

Gagne built the AWA from a small regional promotion into one of the “Big 3” of the 1980s. Verne held his company’s World title on 10 occasions. He also held the US title and the tag belts, numerous times. Verne also helped trained over 2 dozen top stars, including: Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Larry and Curt Hennig, The Iron Sheik and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Verne also trained his son, Greg, to become a top star. Verne went into semi-retirement after the AWA folded. Verne was 89 when he passed away on February 26th.

Bill Bowman/Bill Sky

Bill worked all across the US, as a Journeyman wrestler, in the 1950s to 70s. He was 82 when he passed away on June 10th.

Axel Dieter, Sr.

The German performer began his career in 1955.he battled most of the European top talents, as well as stars from North America, such as Vader and the Wild Samoans. He would train his son, Axel Jr., before retiring. Axel, Sr. died on September 28th at the age of 82.

Robbie Rage

Robbie worked for many different female-oriented organizations during her career.

Frank Iadevaia

He was the long-time promoter of Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. He was only 43 when he died on September 24th.

Shabba Shabazz

Shabba was a UCW Champion. Born Arnold Russelll, Shabba worked in the Tennessee area, primarily. He died on September 21st.

Marie Darnell

The Columbia, SC native was a pin-up girl in the 1950s and 60s. After a career in wrestling, Marie spent her later years working as a nurse.

Jerry Prater

Prater was the driving force behind Championship Wrestling from Florida. He served as the producer and director of the weekly program during its boom years. Prater also contributed to various wrestling magazines, over the years. He was a fountain of knowledge and much respected by his peers.

In Conclusion:

This column was originally created as a loving tribute to my first wife, Linda. She was a huge wrestling fan. 7 years after my first column, I still hope that a year will come in which there are no names to memorialize. As my heroes grow older, I’m saddened to know that many more will leave us in the coming years. To those we lost, I thank them for their efforts and for making this sport something that I have loved for 48 of my 50 ½ years on this planet.

God Bless

(Rest in) Peace

–Jay Shannon

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