FanPost

In memoriam: Wrestlers we lost, July to December 2019

WWE.com

This follows the previous tribute to those who died in the first six months of the year, including Gene Okerlund, Koji Kitao, Pedro Morales, King Kong Bundy, The Destroyer, Silver King, Ashley Massaro and Atsushi Aoki.

Rene Goulet
(real name Robert Bédard; died May 25 (not made public until Dec. 12); aged 86) was better known to peak WWF fans as one of the road agents who would help break up brawls, but the Quebec native had a solid thirty year career before retiring in 1987. He spent the 1960s traveling through the territories, spending most time in the AWA, before joining the WWWF. It was there he teamed with Karl Gotch to become their second ever tag team champions in December 1971, holding the belts for two months. More respected as a good hand backstage than flashy enough to draw big numbers, The Number One Frenchman was the first ever wrestler to defeat Ric Flair, competed against Tito Santana in the first WWF match aired on USA Network and teamed with Andre The Giant to win New Japan's precursor to the World Tag League in 1981.

Max Muscle (John Czawlytko; June 27; 56) was a former bodybuilder who first made his name as Big Bad John in Texas' GWF and worked under that name for the first year of his time in WCW. In 1995 he was renamed and repackaged as Diamond Dallas Page's bodyguard, but that alliance only lasted for around a year. Late in 1996 he became an affiliate member of the Dungeon of Doom as Maxx but was released in 1997, only returning to the ring for an indie run in 1999.

Jacques Rougeau (July 1; 89) was a key member of Montreal's great wrestling family, following his brother Johnny and uncle Eddie Auger into the business. While Johnny was a huge star locally Jacques quit within a year of first entering the ring in 1956, but nine years later Johnny launched All-Star Wrestling (later renamed the International Wrestling Association) and asked his brother to team with him. The pair were big stars in Canada's biggest domestic boom period, filling houses in Montreal and Quebec, peaking in 1972 when 26,000 filled Montreal Expos' then home Jarry Park stadium. That night saw one of Jacques' five IWA International title wins. He also went on several tours of New Japan, and after the IWA collapsed in the mid-70s he joined the Jarretts' Continental Wrestling Association, where he held the NWA Mid-American Heavyweight Championship twice. Retiring in 1976, he returned for a spell in 1984 to team with his three sons, Jacques, Raymond and Armand, chiefly against the Garvins. All three were signed by the WWF (and their sister Joanne worked for their marketing team) and Jacques and Raymond formed the Fabulous Rougeaus, Jacques Jr later becoming the Mountie and then half of the Quebecers.

Perro Aguayo (July 3; 73) was at his peak one of lucha libre's biggest stars, widely believed to have drawn more live fans to matches than anyone in Mexican wrestling history. An aggressive brawler who moved from a detested heel to a beloved elder statesman of the ring and who is credited with popularizing the senton and double foot stomp, he started out in 1968 and soon became synonymous with the UWA, holding their World Heavyweight Championship once. His big title reign was with the NWA middleweight title, for 476 days from 1975 - the same year he had a legendary feud with El Santo ending with his losing a mask match at a sold out Arena Mexico in October. Even though he lost that match and five hair matches over the next five years his charisma, ability and willingness to bleed made him Santo's successor as top draw, so much so that he was one of very few who was allowed to work for both the UWA and their big rivals EMLL. He even held the WWF world light heavyweight title seven times between 1981 and 1989, though the title was WWF in name only and defended in the UWA and New Japan (he did appear in the 1997 Royal Rumble as part of a talent exchange), alongside one run with the UWA heavyweight title in 1988 and the WWA title three times in the 1990s. The Arena Mexico record for consecutive sellouts of 17,760 fans was broken by Aguayo's feud with Konnan in 1991, which went to six full houses up to the March 1991 show where Aguayo claimed Konnan's mask, although Konnan would ensure another shaving by winning the return match in September. Throughout this time Aguayo also regularly worked in New Japan and the lucha libre-styled Universal Wrestling.

Aguayo, along with many of the other biggest stars, broke away from what was by now CMLL in 1992 and helped found Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, which instantly became Mexico's biggest promotion partly thanks to his triangle feud with Konnan and Cien Caras. Perro won a hair vs mask match against Máscara Año 2000 at the first TripleMania show in April 1993, the country's biggest show ever with a 48,000 attendance; the following April, now established as top babyface, he beat Konnan in a bloody cage match main event of the WCW-produced AAA When Worlds Collide, the first exposure many US fans had to lucha libre. By 1998 he was teaming with his teenage son Perro Jr, with whom he won the Mexican national titles in 1998. Winding down his career, Aguayo jumped to CMLL in 2000, where he won hair matches against Cien Caras and Máscara Año 2000 but lost a retirement match against Universo 2000 in March 2001. Despite that he returned in 2005 in a story where Cien Caras claimed he needed to finish his business with Aguayo, ending in a hair vs hair match win for the Aguayos against Caras and Máscara Año 2000. He eventually retired in 2007, after winning a tag match against Máscara Año 2000 and Universo 2000 again, and withdrew from public life after Aguayo Jr, who became a big draw in CMLL and later AAA, lost his life after a freak in-ring accident in 2015. It is believed Aguayo Sr suffered from dementia in later years.

Paco Alonso (Francisco Alonso Lutteroth; July 6; 66) was the owner of the world's oldest wrestling company CMLL and one of the most powerful men in the business. The grandson of founder Salvador Lutteroth, Alonso began working for what was then EMLL in 1975 and was handed the reins by his father Chavo Lutteroth in 1987, feeling he had the ability to make the company evolve. Publicity shy, with a style described as hands off in letting his daughter Sofia handle business activities and staying out of the booking team's business, Alonso nevertheless oversaw a period of great success for the company (rebranded in 1989 after it withdrew from the NWA) almost from the start as he ensured the company built around new stars like Konnan, Octagon and Atlantis. That led to the company taking the lead in its feud with UWA, aided by its running its major arenas themselves meaning they didn't have to pay rental money and got all the income. However he and co-head booker Juan Herrera fell out with Herrera's co-booker Antonio Pena, who split off to form AAA with most of the big names and get his own TV deal, leading to a much more heated conflict between promotions. Alonso managed to form a working relationship with New Japan, who had previously worked with AAA, which in time brought Ring Of Honor into an alliance, and oversaw a second boom period in the mid-00s using the likes of Mistico (original Sin Cara), Dr Wagner Jr and El Hijo del Santo. Alonso did betray personal grudges, which led to El Hijo del Santo, Octagón and Konnan being blackballed from CMLL and a refusal to pay tribute to Peña after his death.

Harley Race (Aug. 1; 76) is one of only six men to have been inducted into the WWE, WCW, NWA, Professional Wrestling and Wrestling Observer Halls of Fame. Initially known as Jack Long, under which name he won the Southern Tag Team Championship in Nashville in 1961, his career was nearly over as soon as it had begun when he was so badly injured in a car accident in which his pregnant wife was killed that his leg was nearly amputated and he was told he might never walk again. Regardless he made a full recovery and moved to Terry Funk's Amarillo territory to pick up again in 1964, from that point onwards using his real name. After being spotted by Verne Gagne he and Larry "the Axe" Hennig formed a cocky heel team in the AWA, winning the tag titles three times in the next few years. Race went on to move around the central states territories, winning five regional versions of the NWA Heavyweight Championship (plus becoming the first holder of the Mid-Atlantic US Heavyweight Championship, the direct descendant of the current WWE US title), before taking Dory Funk Jr's NWA World Heavyweight crown in May 1973, though this was known to be a transitional reign as Funk refused to drop the title directly to Jack Brisco. Race finally got another world title shot in February 1977 and beat Terry Funk with the then rarely used Indian death lock. For a heel he was an active champion, defending the title up to six times a week and holding it for all but 21 days between then and June 1981. His most violent matches were against The Sheik, culminating in a "2x4 with a nail in it" match at a sold out Cobo Hall. He even got to bodyslam Andre The Giant twice, in 1978 and 1979. Dusty finally claimed the title in 1981 but Race regained it from Ric Flair in June 1983 for a record seventh reign. This led to Race offering a $25,000 bounty to anyone who could eliminate Flair from the NWA and paying up to Bob Orton Jr and Dick Slater after they apparently injured his neck only for Flair to return, the angle setting up the first Starrcade's steel cage main event where Flair won a memorable, bloody encounter. Race did regain the title in 1984 for three days, again over Flair, but this was seen as the passing of the torch and Harley returned to the AWA later that year to feud with Curt Hennig and Rick Martel.

Despite having turned up to one of their shows two years earlier armed with a .38-caliber handgun and aimed it at Hulk Hogan, this apparently being his idea of responding to competition threats, Race entered the WWF in 1986 as part of the Heenan Family, where he won the King of the Ring tournament and became the first of many to refer to himself as "King". He beat Junkyard Dog at WrestleMania III and feuded afterwards with Jim Duggan and Hogan, the latter story ending when an attempted diving headbutt - a move he invented but later openly regretted doing so - onto Hogan as he lay on a table led to part of its metal edge jamming into his abdomen and giving him a hernia. Race left WWF in early 1989 and continued to wrestle for two more years, including a shot at Larry Zbyszko's AWA title, before joining WCW where he feuded with Lex Luger and Tommy Rich and teamed with Barry Windham. A shoulder injury in December 1990 ended his in-ring career and he became a manager, leading Luger and Big Van Vader to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and briefly looking after Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash), Super Invader and the Colossal Kongs. He even made a brief return to the ring in three Florida house shows in November 1993 to face Flair, who would later call him "the toughest man on the planet". Race left WCW in 1995 after another car accident left him requiring a hip replacement, made the odd onscreen appearance in WWF and TNA but concentrated on his Wrestling Academy in Missouri, alumni of which include Tommaso Ciampa, Curtis Axel and Trevor Murdoch, and out of which World League Wrestling was formed in 1999.

Eddie Marlin (Aug. 15; 89) was a legendary babyface in the Tennessee promotions. Having started some time in the 1950s and worked for NWA Mid-America under a mask as The Mummy in the late 60s, it was the early 1970s when Marlin found success in a tag team with Tommy Gilbert in NWA Mid-America, where they won the NWA Tag Team Championships four times and Mid-America titles three times from 1973, as well as the World Six-Man title with Ricky Gibson. In 1975 he teamed with George Gulas (son of promoter Nick Gulas) and claimed Tennessee Tag Team gold, and later the World Tag Team Championship (Mid-America version) with Jackie Fargo and another run with the Southern tag titles with Tojo Yamamoto. In 1977 the now retired Marlin followed his son in law Jerry Jarrett to the latter's new CWA and worked with him backstage on booking and onscreen as a fair General Manager, occasionally donning the boots again in big feuds until 1993, by which time CWA had been dissolved into the USWA.

The Wrestling Pro (Edward Baxter; Aug. 15; 81) was best known as a masked big heel in the Alabama and Tennessee promotions. He started out in Oklahoma as Tarzan Baxter, feuding with Danny Hodge and claiming the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship and United States Tag Team Championship (with Karl Karlson) in 1969 while with Mid-South. His greatest success came in Gulf Coast (later Continental) Championship Wrestling on donning the mask, where he had nine short runs with the NWA Gulf Coast Heavyweight Championship between 1970 and 1977 and twice held their tag titles but is more famous for his feud with Ken Mantell (no relation to Dutch) for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. Pro had Mantell pinned while the referee was down, walked out and had the match awarded against him but Mantell declared Pro the rightful champion, which led to a story where NWA President Sam Muschnick appeared on the territory's TV denying the promotion the right to change the title on that basis and sending several wrestlers to challenge Pro unsuccessfully. Mantell eventually won the title back in front of a series of sold out houses. Pro later challenged Jack Brisco for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship before forming the Murder Inc. stable with Mississippi Heavyweight Champion Duke Miller, a besuited foursome that many claim influenced the Four Horsemen a decade later. Outside Gulf Coast he won the NWA Southern Tag Team title in 1976 as one of The Masked Superstars and later on put over newcomers including the man then known as Terry 'The Hulk' Boulder in Southeastern Championship Wrestling before retiring in 1978, although he came back for a Continental Reunion show in 2004 and finally unmasked.

Dr Karonte (Miguel Urive; Aug. 28; 62), at least the third man to wrestle in lucha libre under that name, worked through the 1960s and 70s as a dangerous rudo and was famous enough at his mid-60s height to take villain roles in movies. He was the father of CMLL's Caristico (the original Sin Cara) and AAA's Argenis and the uncle of CMLL's Magnus.

Norman Frederick Charles III (Norman Lowndes; Sept. 6; 78), made his name as one half of the Royal Kangaroos, alongside his cousin Jonathan Boyd. Vicious brawling heels who incorporated their Australian origins into their gimmick, they worked mainly for Pacific Northwest Wrestling in Oregon where they had six tag team title runs between 1971 and 1975. The pair also won titles together in San Francisco's World Wrestling Alliance, Stampede Wrestling in Calgary and NWA Mid-Atlantic and had a 1976 run in AJPW. The team split up in 1977 due to a disagreement over their time in Stampede, which is where Charles stayed until retiring in 1983.

Rick Bognar (Sept. 20; 49) wrestled under several guises but will be best remembered as the "fake" Razor Ramon, brought in initially by Jim Ross along with Glenn Jacobs as "Diesel" in one of Ross' many failed heel turns as a way of demonstrating WWE still owned the characters even if not the men. Until then Bognar had worked as Big Titan, making his way through the Canadian scene to joining FMW in 1991, where he held the World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship title for fifteen days and the first ever Brass Knuckles Tag Team title with The Gladiator (Mike Awesome) for three months. He moved from Japan to Germany and spent a year with CWA, then returned to WAR under the name Ti Do and made two appearances on ECW TV. In September 1996 he and Glenn Jacobs assumed the existing roles to little success. The gimmick - apparently inspired by him performing an impression at an ECW house show - lasted for four months on TV, after which both went on in-character excursion to USWA and AAA. Bognar's travels continued into 1997 as Fake Razor had a brief Puerto Rico run before Titan joined NJPW as a member of nWo Japan, but a neck injury suffered in February 1998 limited his work and after a brief return to Canada he retired in 2000.

Matt Travis (Nov. 9; 25) was a rising New York-based star, trained by The Amazing Red, who worked for GCW, CZW and House Of Glory. He was killed after his bike was hit by a truck.

Moondog Rex (Randy Colley; Dec. 14; 69) was half of the brutal Moondogs tag team and the original Demolition Smash. Having broken into the business both as one of the Dalton Brothers in the Florida, Gulf Coast and Georgia NWA territories and as himself in Mid-Atlantic he first found success with Jody Hamilton in the second version of the Assassins, holding the Georgia Tag Team Championships several times. On joining the WWWF in 1980 he became Moondog Hawkins, due to a resemblance to the late NWA star Moondog Mayne, but was soon repackaged as Rex, half of the raw bone gnawing, ripped jorts-sporting brawlers the Moondogs, alongside Moondog King and managed by Captain Lou Albano. They won the WWF Tag Team Championship in March 1981, King being replaced by Moondog Spot two months later as the Canadian was denied entry to the US. That title reign lasted four months but the team continued, including a simultaneous run in Memphis where they engaged in infamously wild brawls with the Fabulous Ones. In 1984 Rex even earned a World Championship title shot against Hulk Hogan, on the WWF-aligned Canada-only Maple Leaf Wrestling.

Colley left WWF a year later and worked Mid-South under a mask as The Nightmare, managed by Eddie Gilbert and later Sir Oliver Humperdink, winning the territory's top belt the North American Championship that May and consequently renaming himself The Champion until Dick Murdoch beat him three months later. After being unmasked by Jake Roberts he won the tag titles with Eddie Gilbert but left Mid-South while still holding that belt at the end of 1986. That was because he was returning to WWE, shaving off his beard and donning paint as half of Demolition, an idea he is credited with. Unfortunately fans still chanted 'Moondog' at him and after three matches he was replaced by Barry Darsow, leaving him in masked enhancement team the Shadows until departing in 1989. Afterwards he worked for Stampede under his real name and in Continental as Detroit Demolition where he briefly claimed the tag titles, then went to WCW in 1990 to work enhancement for a year as either the Nightmare or Moondog Rex. The Moondogs reunited in Smoky Mountain Wrestling in 1993, feuding with the Rock N’ Roll Express, then returned to Memphis to feud with Jerry Lawler and Jeff Jarrett, and in 1994 Colley was called as a prosecution witness in the Vince McMahon steroid distribution trial. He quietly retired from the ring in the mid-90s.

Alberto Muñoz (Ismael Muñoz Lopez; Dec. 15, 76) spent all but the final few years of his career in EMLL, where he held one title or another for an unbroken spell of more than four years in the 1960s. He started in the lightweight division, winning its title in August 1965 and only dropping it after claiming the national welterweight title the following February. Muñoz held that title for the next two and a half years, the longest reign with the belt to date, again only vacating it in October 1968 after stepping up a class, having added the Mexican National Middleweight Championship that March. That middleweight title run lasted eighteen months until November 1969, but the more prestigious NWA World Welterweight Championship became his in July 1971. Right before being able to celebrate two years as its holder, in June 1973, he however suffered a serious neck injury as a result of a botched headscissors takedown and was in a medically induced coma for several days. As a result Muñoz vacated the title and retired for a year, returning in late 1974 as the masked White Man to unite with Black Man (obviously), a popular but never title-winning team. Muñoz dropped tha character in 1978, lost a hair vs mask match to Villano III in April 1979 and retired a year later.

Mr Niebla (Efrén Tiburcio Márquez; Dec. 23; 46) spent his lucha libre career blurring the line between beloved fool and top level competitor, earning the nickname El Caballero del Estilo Diferente ("the gentleman with a different style") Having used an assortment of names, including Batman, in his early years he settled on Mr Niebla ('fog') in 1992 and soon after worked his way into CMLL and Lizmark and Atlantis' La Ola Azul faction, with whom he won the World Trios Championship in April 1997. The following January he added the CMLL World Tag Team title with Shocker and would defend both titles until suffering a severe injury in October and having to vacate both. He returned in mid-1998 and reunited with Shocker but the team were forced to split after losing to Atlantis and Villaño III in the main event of the 66th Anniversary Show in a stipulation where the losers would have to immediately contest a two out of three falls mask vs mask match, which Niebla won. He had to wait until March 2001 before picking up another title, the Mexican National Trios Championship with Olimpico and Safari, which they held until June 2002 - but a week before that defeat he, Atlantis and Black Warrior had won the World Trios belts, which they held for nine months. A long storyline feud with Universo 2000 ended in April 2003 when Niebla beat him to become the CMLL World Heavyweight Champion, which he held until October 2004 when he lost it back to Universo.

Feeling his opportunities were limited after that world title run Niebla left CMLL in 2007 for AAA and joined the established Los Vipers rudo stable, soon challenging its leader Abismo Negro and eventually leading the rest of the faction into a revolt. This was supposed to end at Triplemanía XVI in a stable break-up steel cage match but Abismo Negro got injured and, feeling he'd lost out on his big match, Niebla walked out on AAA on the night of the show to return to CMLL. There he helped form the successful if comedic rudo team La Peste Negra and was positioned well but recurring injuries meant he couldn't gain the momentum most of his colleagues in the faction could, though he did work the main event of the 77th Anniversary Show in a fourteen man steel cage mask match and co-hold the Mexican National Trios Championship for six months from February 2014. Niebla was fired in February 2015 after being found passed out in his hotel room during a New Japan tour only to return six weeks later, and shortly after admitting to long term alcohol problems was suspended for six months in August 2018 after turning up for a match in no fit state to wrestle. He reportedly died as a result of complications of a blood infection stemming from an elbow injury.

Izzy Slapawitz (Jeff Smith; Dec. 28; 71) was much better known as a manager than a wrestler, though he did both simultaneously throughout his career. Brooklynite by birth, he started out in in Kentucky and turned to management while in the Mississippi's AWA affiliate. Introduced as a shady, stereotypically American Jewish NYC businessman, he formed the first version of the Slapawitz Syndicate, who made their name in a series of bloody gimmick matches with Percy Pringle's team The Mongolians. After a brief stint in Oklahoma with the future Kamala he returned to Knoxville and the new outlaw promotion All-Star Championship Wrestling, where he looked after Bob Orton Jr and his brother Barry O before folding them into a new Syndicate including Randy Savage, Rip Rogers and Boris Malenko. In one match a fireball thrown at Ronnie Garvin provoked a chair riot and a fan pulled a knife on him outside the venue. When All Star was merged into Lanny and Angelo Poffo's International Championship Wrestling Smith and most of his unit followed, leading to an angle where he attacked Garvin with a hypodermic needle and injected a substance that made him foam at the mouth. In September 1980 Slapawitz launched his most successful team The Devil's Duo, Doug Vines and Jeff Sword, a quasi-satanic team who won the ICW United States Tag Team Championship. During their time Smith was attacked by fans injuring his knee, had to be saved by police from a mob outside the venue after claiming at a TV taping he was the Ayatollah Khomeini's cousin during the Iranian hostage crisis, and was prevented from working many Bible Belt territories due to the gimmick. Smith and the duo fell out with the Poffos and left ICW in July 1981 for Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan's NWA-backed Southern Championship Wrestling, Smith using his birth name as both a mid-carder and manager of the renamed Hollywood Blonds (not the first or last to use that name) They remained the top heel team until Jim Crockett took over the territory and brought in Ole Anderson, who they already disliked and who would cut their bookings. Smith (and later The Devil's Duo) moved over to Tennessee's All Star Championship Wrestling, and he worked a single enhancement talent match against Jake Roberts on WWF Wrestling Challenge in January 1991, retiring a year later.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.