Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wrestlers Who Died in 2018

With 2018 coming to a close and 2019 now upon us I'd like to take some time to recognize and remember those that we lost this past year who entertained us in the ring.  This list is as complete as I could make it, if there is someone that I missed please let me know so I can pay tribute to them as well. 

Emily Dole, 60 September 28, 1957 - January 2, 2018

Trained by Mando Guerrero she was part of the original cast of G.L.O.W. competing as Mt. Fiji.  She is one of the few wrestlers of Samoan heritage not part of the famous Anoa'i Family.  She appeared in all four seasons of the show's original run and was undefeated.  She never competed in any other wrestling promotions however made few appearances on televisions shows like Mama's Family and Family Feud.

Sahori 32, March 2, 1976 - January 25, 2018

Debuting in 1995 she wrestled initially for AAA before switching to CMLL in 2005 leaving in 2009.  She toured Japan in 2011 & 2012 and have a few matches in 2013 and two in 2015 her last match being in June of that year.  Sadly she passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Johnny Valiant 71, November 25, 1946 - April 4, 2018

One of the Valiant "brothers" he is a two time WWWF Tag Team Champion first with Jimmy Valiant May 8, 1974 - May 13, 1975 and then with his other brother Jerry Valiant March 6, 1979 - October 22, 1979.  He and Jimmy would hold tag team championships in Big Time Wrestling, Championshop Wrestling from Florida, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and World Wrestling Association.  I'm most familiar with his as the manager of The Dream Team: Brutus Beefcake & Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, later Valentine and Dino Bravo.  Sadly he was killed after being struck a pick up truck.

Bruno Sammartino 82, October 6, 1935 - April 18, 2018

There is nothing I can say about The Living Legend that a fan of wrestling doesn't know.  Famously he was a two time WWE Champion holding the title for just over 11 years combined.  He sold out Madison Square Garden more than anyone else and ruled the Northeast wrestling world in the 1960's and early 1970's.  He wrestled his final match August 29, 1987 at a WWF house show in Baltimore, Maryland teaming with then Champion Hulk Hogan defeating King Kong Bundy & The One Man Gang.  I'm thankful that after many years at odds Sammartino was able to mends ways with the WWE and be inducted into the Hall of Fame and get the recognition that he deserves. 

Paul Jones 75, June 16, 1942 - April 18, 2018

Mr. Number 1 debuted in 1961 after being trained by Paul Boesch.  After traveling the territories he set up in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling where he remained for the majority of his career winning all the titles the territory had to offer including being a three time Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Heavyweight Champion.  After his in ring career be would become a prolific manger having a stable of wrestlers under the moniker Paul Jones' Army including: The Barbarian, Warlord, Abdullah the Butcher Rick Rude, Ivan Koloff, The Assassins, and others.  He wrestled his last match for North Carolina based South Atlantic Pro Wrestling on June 26, 1991 defeating the Storm Trooper.

Erika Watanabe 39, April 28, 1978 - April 20, 2018

Based in the JWP promotion she debuted September 23, 1998. She is a former JWP Junior Champion finishing her career in 2006.  She passed away from stomach cancer that she has been battling since September 2013.

Universo 2000 55, April 18, 1963 - May 1, 2018

Andres Reyes Gonzalez debuted in 1985 for CMLL eventually teaming with his brothers at Los Hermanos Dinamita.  He and his brothers defected to AAA when former CMLL booker Antonio Pena launched the promotion in 1992.  He would return to CMLL in 1996 wrestling on and off for the promotion until the end of his career becoming a three time CMLL World Heavyweight Champion and current longest combined reign of 2,555 days as champion.  He also has the longest single reign has champion at 1,125 consecutive days.  He lost his mask to El' Canek at the CMLL 71st Anniversary show on September 17, 2004.

Big Bully Busick 63, June 1, 1954 - May 8, 2018

Debuting in the WWWF in May 1978 in a losing effort to Billy Red Lyons.  He continued to wrestle as a job guy in the Pittsburgh area while being police officer when he wasn't in the ring.  He wrestled in Georgia and Florida returning to the WWF in 1991 as Big Bully Busick, the turtleneck wearing, cigar chomper with a bowler hat was managed by Harvey Wippleman.  His run only lasted a few months and once he left the promotion he only wrestled a handful of matches his last being on April 19, 2013 defeating Josef Von Schmidt in Weirton, West Virginia.

Rockin' Rebel 52, January 13, 1966 - June 1, 2018

Charles Williams debuted in 1988 after being trained by the Rock n' Roll Express.  After a few jobber matches in the WWF he toured around the indies starting with Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, the precursor to Eastern Championship Wrestling later Extreme Championship Wrestling.  He wrestled regularly for the promotion until 1995.  He essentially stayed in the Pennsylvania are wrestling his last match on May 19, 2018.  He took his own life after murdering his wife.

Johnny Attitude 53,  June 9, 1965 - June 12, 2018

John  Greene trained at the WCW Power Plant before becoming enhancement talent on WCW Saturday Night.  His one Nitro appearance was a United States Championship match loss to Bill Goldberg.  After leaving WCW in 1999 he continued on the independents.  In 1999 he founded Micro Championship Wrestling which aired on TruTv as a television series in 2011 as Hulk Hogan's Micro Championship Wrestling.

Arkangel de la Muerte 51, July 16, 1966 - June 13, 2018

Alfredo Pasillas debuted in 1985 as Mister Cid feuding with Pantera II losing his hair to him twice.  In 1991 he became the masked Arkangel de la Muerte also becoming a rudo and eventually joining CMLL where he stayed for the rest of his career.  He became the trainer at CMLL's wrestling school in 2006 a position he held until his death.  He maintained a full time wrestling schedule having his last match just four days before his death on June 9th in Arena Mexico, Mexico City teaming with Kawato San & Sangre Azteca defeated Bengala, Electrico, & Oro Jr in a two out of three falls match.

Big Van Vader 63, May 14, 1955 - June 18, 2018

When I started my write up for Vader it became long enough to be a post on it's own.  You can follow the link to it here: http://www.thewrestlinginsomniac.com/2018/12/big-van-vader.html 

Matt Cappotelli 38, November 12, 1979 - June 29, 2018

The winner of WWF Tough Enough season 3 with John Hennigan, he famously was roughed up by Bob "Hardcore" Holly during training.   He wrestled occasionally at WWF house shows but was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling for additional training.  There he won the OVW Heavyweight Championship and formed a tag team with Johnny Jeter winning the OVW Southern Tag Team Championships.  Cappotelli was diagnosed with brain cancer and had successful surgery in 2007.  The cancer returned in 2017 and he passed in June 2018.

Piratita Morgan 49, March 15, 1969 - July 8, 2018

Debuting in 1989 after CMLL launched their Mini-Estrella division.  He later went to AAA and under their working agreement with WWF he competed sporadically from 1997 - 1999 under the name Battalion.  He had one appearance in TNA at the 2004 Victory Road PPV losing to Mascarita Sagrada.  He was the WWA World Minis Champion from May 4, 2000 to December 11, 2009.  From what I can tell though he only defended the title a few times.

Masa Saito 76, February 1, 1942 - July 14, 2018

Saito competed in freestyle wrestling at the 1964 Summer Olympics then debuted as a pro in 1965.  Always playing the heel he wrestled primarily in the United States traveling the territories winning multiple tag team championships along the way.  Most famously winning the WWF Tag Team Championships twice with Mr. Fuji.  On February 10, 1990 in Japan at the Tokyo Dome Saito pinned Larry Zbyszko to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.  He stayed with New Japan until his retirement in 1999.

Rayo de Jalisco Sr. 85, November 22, 1932 - July 19, 2018

Following his older brothers into wrestling, Jalisco debuted in 1950 as Mr. Misterio.  It wasn't until 1962 that he became Rayo de Jalisco.  In the 1970's he appeared in a handful of movies with other luchadors.  He is a former three time NWA World Middleweight Champion holding the title for 898 days combined.  He lost his mask to Blue Demon in Monterrey on June 30, 1989.  He wrestled his last match on September 7, 1993 for AAA teaming with his son Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Perro Aguayo defeated Los Hermanos Dinamita: Cien Caras, Mascara Ano 2000 & Universo 2000.  He passed away from natural causes.

Nikolai Volkoff 70, October 14, 1947 - July 29, 2018

Debuting in 1967 in Stampede Wrestling, he was trained by Newton Tattrie becoming tag team partners.  The team traveled to the states wrestling in various NWA promotions and when they entered the WWWF in 1970's they became Bepo & Geeto Mongol managed by "Captain" Lou Albano and captured tag team gold.  He returned to the territory in 1974 as a singles using the name Nikolai Volkoff main eventing Madison Square Garden against champion Bruno Sammartino.

However, Volkoff is best known by me and my generation for his tag team with the Iron Shiek, being managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie and singing the Soviet National Anthem before his matches.  I meet Nikolai in 1998 at an EWA show in Vermont at a military college, he teamed with the Iron Shiek in the main event.  During intermission Nikolai was in the ring taking polariods when one of the schools top wrestlers got in the ring and challenged Nikolai.  Nikolai waved him off declining his challenge, but the guy went for a double leg and Volkoff caught him in a front facelock and humbled him.  His last match was on June 9, 2017 at H20 Wrestling in New Jersey where he defeated DJ Hyde.

Brian Christopher 46, January 10, 1972 - July 29, 2018

The son of Jerry "The King" Lawler, Brian made his debut in 1988 for the USWA.  He made his debut in the WWE in 1997 during the Light Heavyweight Championship tournament losing in the finals to Taka Michinoku.  He started teaming with Scott Taylor as the team Too Much as cocky and arrogant heels.  They later became fan favorites as Too Cool and with Rikishi became a huge act known for their electric entrances and post match dancing.  The duo won the tag team championships in May 2000 for a 217 day run.  After leaving the promotion Christopher he bounced around the indies spending two years in TNA from 2002 - 2004.  Christopher had a few run ins with the law over the years and sadly he took his own life in jail after being pick up for driving under the influence and evading police.

I saw him wrestle live three times; at WrestleMania XIV in Boston in the tag team battle royal, and twice with Maine Event Wrestling in Maine.  Defeating Reckless Youth and X-Pac in February and March 2003.

Brickhouse Brown 57, August 11, 1960 - July 29, 2018

Frederick Seawright debuted in 1982 for Joe Blanchard's Southwest Championship Wrestling and spend the next few years traveling the Southeast territories.  In 1987 he arrived in Memphis defeating Jerry Lawler for the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship for a week long reign.  For the rest of his career he stayed primarily in the Memphis area but did wrestle in World Class and as enhancement talent for the WWF.  He finished up full time in 2005 wrestling a handful of matches in the next 11 years.  He passed away from prostate cancer.

El Picudo 51, August 3, 1967 - August 3, 2018

Also know as Devil Rocker he was part of the original AAA roster when the promotion opened.  Left in 2009 working the independents before returning in 2012 as part of the team Infierno Rockers.  On December 3, 1995 he lost his Picudo mask to Perro Aguayo Jr.  He passed away from complications with diabetes.

Steve Travis 67, December 13, 1950 - August 10, 2018

After playing college football at Guilford College Steve Musulin turned to professional wrestling in 1977.  He wrestled primarily for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation until the end of his career in 1984.  He also toured New Japan in 1980 & 1981, in 1981 teaming with Abdullah the Butcher they defeated Antonio Inoki & Tatsumi Fujinami 2 falls to 1 in Fukuoka.  On April 30, 1979 he challenged NWA World Champion Harley Race at Madison Square Garden.  He had short championship reigns with regional NWA titles.  A car crash in 1984 ended his career and after being charged with vehicular homicide he spent tens months in prison.  After wrestling he worked as a personal trainer and was inducted into the Guildford College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.  He passed away from complications following a stroke.

Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart 63, February 8, 1955 - August 13, 2018

After playing in the NFL he trained for wrestling under Stu Hart in Calgary debuting for Stampede Wrestling in 1979.  Best know for teaming with brother-in-law Bret "Hitman" Hart as the Hart Foundation in the WWF from 1985 - 1991 the duo were two time WWF Tag Team Champions.  Leaving the WWF after the Montreal Screw Job he spent a year in WCW then toured the indies, his schedule decreasing each year until his final match in 2016.  His daughter Natalya followed in his footsteps and currently competes in the WWE. 

I saw him wrestle live twice, the first in 1989 at the first ever wrestling show I attended live, a WWF House Show in Portland, Maine, he lost to The Warlord in a singles match.  The second was in 1998 at a WCW Saturday Night television taping also in Portland, Maine, he defeated Kendall Windham with a powerslam.

Doc Dean 48, July 3, 1970 - August 13, 2018

Debuting at the age of 14 for Brian Dixon's All Star Wrestling he would later team with Robbie Brookside as The Liverpool Lads winning tag team gold on three occasions.  Aside from wrestling in England he toured Germany and Japan before debuting in 1996 for WCW.  In 1997 he competed in the New Japan Best of the Super Juniors tournament, he only earned two points, however, he scored a victory over Jushin Thunder Liger.  His final matches he was jobbed out on WCW B-Television programming, not a fitting ending to his 14 year career.  He passed away from a heart attack at his home in Florida.

Walt Harris 97, August 18, 2018

Harris was a long time wrestling and Roller Derby television announcer in Northern California.  He announced the action on for National All Star Wrestling and Big Time Wrestling on local channels in San Francisco and Sacramento and the famous Cow Palace.  His style was similar to that of Gordon Solie in the Florida territory.  In his home market he anchored the morning news and hosted local music shows for many years.  He also produced the San Francisco Giants baseball games from 1972 to 1986 when he retired.

Villano III 66, March 23, 1952 - August 21, 2018

Arturo Diaz Mendoza was a second generation luchador and one of five brothers that all wrestled all using the Villano name.  Arturo debuted in 1970 and had a career that spanned 45 years retiring in 2015 due to injuries.  He wrestled for several Mexican wrestling companies winning numerous championships.  He lost his mask in Mexico City to Atlantis on March 17, 2000.

Chris Champion 57, February 16, 1961 - August 22, 2018

Debuting in 1984 after training with the Malenko's, Champion made his way to Florida Championship Wrestling teaming with Sean Royal as The New Breed winning the NWA Florida Tag Team Championships.  He wrestled on the indies and for FMW in Japan.  In 1993 he joined WCW as Yoshi Kwan and initial got a small push before feuding with Cactus Jack.  The highlight of that run was a match with Ric Flair on WCW Saturday Night.  He returned t FMW as Yoshi Kwan in 1996 and stay wrestling on the southern indy circuit for several more years.

Aya Koyama 45, March 8, 1973 - August 27, 2018

A former wrestler and mixed martial artist Aya debuted in 1996 in the JDStar promotion and also wrestled in All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling and Big Japan Pro Wrestling.  She left wrestling in 2001 to compete in MMA, then returned in 2005 wrestling until 2017.  Her final MMA fight was in 2010 finishing with a record of 4-10-1. As a freelancer she wrestled for LLPW, FMW, JWP, Zero1-Max, and Reina.  Her last match was on her retirement show, April 7, 2017 and she won a battle royal.  She died from cancer.

Ray 36, February 14, 1982 - August 30, 2018

Trained by Emi Sakura she debuted on September 15, 2003 against her trainer at Korakuen Hall in a losing effort.  She wrestled for several different Japanese promotions under masked and unmasked under different names, including the relaunched FMW.  She wrestled for Shimmer in 2012 and 2014, she also competed for CMLL in Mexico.   In December 2015 a brain tumor was discovered while undergoing and MRI for a concussion, testing later determined that it was inoperable.

Nate Hatred 43, 1975 - September 1, 2018

Trained by Glen Osbourne he debuted in 1999, joining CZW in 2000 where he built a following competing death matches and winning the CZW Tag Team Championships with Nick Gage as part of the H8 Club.  He finished out his career wrestling matches for Game Changer Wrestling.  He died in an automobile crash.

Lola Laray 79,  October 29, 1939 - September 2, 2018

I wasn't able to find much on the internet but this I what I could find.  She is the ex-wife of wrestler Billy White Wolfe she debuted in 1954 or 1957 after being trained by Buddy Rogers and Al Haft.  She wrestled mostly in the Ohio area where she lived. This is from her Facebook page:

"i was a professional wrestler in the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s. i worked for mr Billy Wolfe who many people considerd to be the person who popularised womens professional wrestling and brought it to the television screen.
i retired from Schottensteins enterprises, having worked in their accounting department and later as a distributions supervisor."

Lee Wang-pyo 64, June 11, 1954 - September 4, 2018

He debuted in 1975 for the Korean Wrestling Association becoming the top Korean professional wrestler until his retirement in 1975.  Over the years he wrestled for several Japanese promotions under different monikers including All Japan, New Japan, FMW, Tokyo Pro and others.  In 2008 he successfully defeated Kurt Angle in Bob Sapp in bouts in Korea.  From my research he seems like he was the Power Uti of South Korea just with talent and ability.  He passed away from gallbladder cancer.

Frank Andersson 62, May 9, 1956 - September 9, 2018

An amateur wrestler from Sweden, he was trained by Bran Rheingans he debuted during the dying days of the AWA before going to New Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1993 he signed with WCW and wrestled primarily on WCW Worldwide and WCW Saturday Night with no significant matches in the two years he was in the promotion.  Most recently he wrestled in his native Sweden.  I never saw him wrestle in WCW but I had his trading card and I thought it was odd that his last name has two S's in it.  He passed away from cardiac issues.

Hiroshi Wajima 70, Janaury 11, 1948 - October 8, 2018

A former sumo wrestler who reached the rank of Yokozuna before retiring in 1981.  In 1986 he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling using his rank as yokozuna to catapult him into a headlining position on the card.  He retired from the ring after a short two year career in 1988.

Don Leo Jonathan 87, April 29, 1931 - October 13, 2018

The Mormon Giant was a second generation wrestling who debuted in 1949 after being trained by his father wrestler Brother Jonathan.  He wrestled around the world settling in Canada in 1963 where he lived the rest of his life.  He won many titles including the AWA Omaha version of the World Championship three times, a two time IWA Montreal World Champion, CWA World Champion, and several other regional titles.  He was an 18 time NWA Canadian Tag Team Champion.  He wrestled his final match in July 1980 challenging Otto Wanz for the CWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Dick Slater 67, May 19, 1951 - October 19, 2018

He debuted in 1969 in Championship Wrestling from Florida after training with Hiro Matsuda, Jack Brisco, and others.  He spent nine years in Georgia Championship Wrestling, which was a long time for the territory days.  He made stops in Mid Atlantic and Mid South before spending a year in the WWF, eventually landing in WCW 1989 where he stayed for the most part until he retired in 1996.  In between the territories he spent 3 years in ALl Japan Pro Wrestling.  Slater held numerous championships through the years including capturing the top titles in Florida, Mid Atlantic, and St. Louis.

Jose Lothario 83,  December 12, 1934 - November 6, 2018

My generation is most familiar with Lothario from 1996 when he joined Shawn Michaels in the WWF during the lead up to his WrestleMania XII match with Bret Hart.  He debuted in 1956 wrestling regularly until the mid 1980's before retiring.  He won several regional championships in San Francisco, Florida, & Texas.  He was a huge star in Houston Wrestling.  He wrestled a few more matches in 1996 teaming with Michaels and having singles matches against Jim Cornette.

Dynamite Kid 60,  December 5, 1958 - December 5, 2018

As a kid I was captivated by the Dynamite Kid who, at that time, was one half of the British Bulldogs.  I hadn't even seen his stuff with Tiger Mask at this point.  As I got older and got my hands on those matches I was blown away by his talent.  Dynamite has his first pro match just a couple weeks after turning 17 years old on Christmas Eve 1975.  In 1978 he moved to Canada debuting for Stampede Wrestling and a year later had his first tour in Japan.  On April 23, 1981 in Tokyo for New Japan Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid has their first match in a legendary feud that would see them trade championships and ended fifteen years later when Dynamite had his final match on October 10, 1996 in Tokyo as Kid teamed with Dos Caras & Kuniaki Kobayashi defeated Mil Mascaras, The Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask in a six man tag.

Larry "The Axe" Hennig 82, June 18, 1936 - December 6, 2018

The Axe debuted in 1956 after being trained by Verne Gagne.  Although he toured around the territories he is mostly known for his time in the AWA.  On November 12, 1973 he main evented Madison Square Garden challenging WWWF Champion Pedro Morales and then in 1974 lost a series of matches to Bruno Sammartino also for the title.  In the early to mid 1980's he formed a tag team with his son Curt capturing the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championships.  He passed away from  kidney failure.

Peter William on the left
Peter William 83, September 13, 1935 - December 11, 2018

I can't find a lot on William other than he was a professional wrestling for the CWA in Germany.  Later he did German Commentary team for World Championship Wrestling in the 1990's.  He was a wrestling promoter as well.

Rene Lasartesse 90, Janaury 21, 1928 - December 12, 2018

Again I wasn't able to find much on this wrestler.  He was a famed Swiss wrestler who began wrestling in 1956 traveling the world until his retirement in the 1980's.  In 1957 he wrestled several months for NWA Capital Wrestling today known as the WWE.  He toured Japan in 1970 and finished his career in Germany and the CWA.  It is rumored he had a had in training Cesaro.

Bill Fralic 56, October 31, 1962 - December 14, 2018

Better known for his time in the National Football League from 1985 - 1993 with all but one season with the Atlanta Falcons.  Fralic is recognized on this list because he competed in the 1986 WrestleMania 2 battle royal.  Also he participated in the July 4, 1993 Yokozuna bodyslam challenge on the USS Intrepid.

Raul Mata 71, January 26, 1947 - December 19, 2018

Mata began wrestling in the 1960's for EMLL/CMLL where he captured the Mexican National Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Championships, the later he held for 1,164 days (April 11, 1969 - June 18, 1972).  He was also a 9 time NWA Hollywood Americas Tag Team Champion.  He toured the southern wrestling territories traveling to Japan for the UWF in 1985.  The  last match I can find on him is from 1993 in Tampa, Florida.

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment, read my other posts, and like my blogs Facebook page and while you're at it check out my weekly podcast Podcast of 1,000 Holds on the Nerdy Legion Podcast Network. 

Later Readers!

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