FanPost

In memoriam: Wrestlers we lost, October to December 2020

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The final part of the round-up and salute to those from the wrestling industry who died this year, following the two earlier posts:

January to June, including Howard Finkel, Rocky Johnson, Mr. Wrestling II, Hana Kimura and Shad Gaspard

July to September, including Road Warrior Animal, Kamala, 'Killer' Tim Brooks, Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco and Bob Armstrong

Lorraine Johnson (Oct. 5; 90) was one of the earliest draws of women's wrestling and by all accounts among the most talented. Trained by and part of a traveling troupe managed by Mildred Burke's husband Billy Wolfe, her team with Penny Banner between 1958 and 1960, billed as world tag team champions, are said to have been among the greatest American female tag teams, athletic high flyers unmatched matched on the big stage until the Jumping Bomb Angels/Crush Gals era. Johnson retired in 1961 and her daughter Nickla, born a year later, would become Baby Doll, valet to the likes of Tully Blanchard and Dusty Rhodes.

Len Rossi (Len Rositano; Oct. 9; 91) was one of the most popular stars in NWA Mid-America and a tag team specialist, which may be an understatement given that between the various territories he held a form of the NWA tag titles a total of 42 times. Rossi began wrestling in the Utah area and moved across the country before settling in Nashville to work under Nick Gulas around 1958, where he would spend the rest of his career as either top or number two babyface in the area. That year he was teamed with Tex Riley, the veteran he credited with advancing his understanding of the business, and together they won the Mid-America version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship twice and the NWA Southern Tag Team Championship three times. More reigns with those titles followed with Jackie Fargo, Tamaya Soto, Johnny Walker (Mr. Wrestling II), Don Carson and Bearcat Brown. The latter was the most significant, not just for their becoming the company's top face team, holding the world titles five times over three years, but for being being an interracial team in the Southern states who became hugely popular - it was here that the Interns painted Brown white, as mentioned in The Claw's obituary in the July to September selection.

Rossi also won the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship nine times (partners not already listed included Dick Beyer AKA The Destroyer and a young Kevin Sullivan), the NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship six times between 1960 and 1971, the Mid-America Tag Team Championship three times and the Mid-America Heavyweight Championship in 1971. His career ended suddenly in December 1972 when he and Cowboy Frankie Laine were involved in a multiple car accident on I-40 in which three people died. Rossi suffered broken bones in his feet, arms, ankles and legs, and although he tried comebacks in 1977 and 1979 for name value he could do very little physically. After his retirement he became involved in healthy eating and operated a locally well known health food store in Brentwood, Tennessee, being inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in 2016.

Ryan Smile (Oct. 13; 32), who lost a battle with longtime mental health issues, was a highly regarded high-flying attraction in the rise of British wrestling, capturing titles in RevPro and OTT among others. When the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega appeared in the latter promotion Smile was chosen to team against them with Lio Rush and Will Ospreay, the latter being his most regular tag partner and with whom he ran short-lived promotion Lucha Forever.

Karsten Beck (Karsten Pitann, Oct. 15; 33) was part of the rise of Germany's wXw, holding the Unified World Wrestling Championship for all but one day from January 2015 to March 2016. Having started out as comedy gimmick Diego Latino, Beck switched in 2008 and won the promotion's tag titles with Adam Polak in 2011 as part of heel stable The Mind, which also included Big Daddy Walter and Tommy End (Aleister Black). Earning his rise up the card with charisma and promo ability, he unsuccessfully challenged El Generico for the wXw title in 2012 and got to the finals of the 2013 16 Carat Gold tournament before eventually beating Walter with the aid of - really - Vince Russo. Beck was preparing for a return shot at what was by the Walter's title in July 2016, having won the Shortcut To The Top tournament earning #1 contendership, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He retired and became an onscreen authority figure, undergoing more surgery a year later having found a regrowth while training to return to the ring.

Principe Aereo (Luis Ángel Salazar; Oct. 17; 23 or 26) collapsed in the ring of a brain aneurysm during a tag match for MexaWrestling at Arena San Juan Pantitlan in Nezahauolcoyotl. Aereo began his career in 2010 and mostly worked the Mexican independent scene but made three tag match appearances for AAA between October 2019 and March 2020.

Tracy Smothers (Oct. 28; 58), who died of lymphoma cancer, was among the last active links from the territorial era to the modern day. Trained by Stan Lane, Steve Keirn and Jerry Jarrett, he began his career in 1982 and appeared in the shortlived NWA/JCP/AWA crossover Pro Wrestling USA two years later but didn't break out of enhancement status until joining the Continental Wrestling Association in 1986, where he captured the vacant NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship. It was with Continental that he famously wrestled 550lbs unmuzzled bear Terrible Ted, which was actually not only his opponent for three nights in a row but was already his third ursine opponent. Not unreasonably he left soon after for Championship Wrestling from Florida, where he formed the Wild-Eyed Southern Boys team with Steve Armstrong and won the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship within a week of their first match together. The Southern Boys toured New Japan in 1988 and, after a stopover in the USWA where Smothers and John Paul won the CWA Tag Team Championship, reformed for a move to WCW in 1990.

Smothers and Armstrong's push in WCW was immediate, quickly pitted against the Fabulous Freebirds and beating them at Clash of the Champions XI before embarking on a long feud with the Midnight Express. Although they mostly ended up on the losing side the teams' match at that year's Great American Bash was the highest placed American bout in that year's Wrestling Observer Match Of The Year vote. The following year, at their hottest as faces, they were renamed the Young Pistols - an apparent attempt to get away from the company's Southern 'rassling image - and got into it with the Freebirds once more, losing at SuperBrawl I in a match to claim the vacated US Tag Team Championship after Badstreet interfered but winning a six-man tag at Clash of the Champions XV. A heel turn towards the end of the year led to them winning the title from The WCW Patriots, holding the titles for two months. Armstrong left WCW in April 1992 and Smothers floundered on his own, losing to Johnny B Badd at WrestleWar before leaving in August.

The peak of Smothers' singles success followed in Smoky Mountain Wrestling as top babyface, he was the initial Beat the Champ Television Champion at the end of the year and then won the SMW Heavyweight Championship in April 1993, beating Dirty White Boy Tony Anthony in a bloody chain match to end a long and intense feud, holding the belt for three months in a year where Wrestling Observer subscribers voted him Most Improved Wrestler. Two further short runs with the TV title followed as he continually bested Jim Cornette and his henchmen. In 1995 he and Dirty White Boy formed the T.H.U.G.S., winning the tag team titles from Al Snow and Unabomb (Glenn Jacobs) and holding them for a month before losing to the Heavenly Bodies at SuperBowl Of Wrestling, that feud continuing until SMW closed in November of that year. During this time he also worked for All Japan, IWA Japan whose tag titles he briefly held with Cactus Jack, and for W*ING under a mask as Jason The Terrible.

After Smoky Mountain folded Smothers moved on the USWA and won their tag title with Jesse James Armstrong (Road Dogg), then in 1996 joined its branch of the Nation Of Domination, changing his name to Shaquille Ali. At Cornette's suggestion he signed to WWF and became Freddie Joe Floyd, the name a rib on the Briscos using their middle names, the status lower mid-card. Floyd became Smothers once more on joining ECW in February 1997 and soon joined the FBI. Despite this being a knowingly comic move as he pretended to be Italian and introduced bad dance moves to match, it was under Paul Heyman that Smothers re-established his credentials and Southern heel tendencies, holding the tag belts with Little Guido for two months late that year, remaining with the company until the end of 1999 and later working both June 2005 ECW reunion shows. Enhancement work for WWF and a one-off in WCW followed in 2000 as well as a tour of FMW in Japan.

The last two decades of Smothers' career were spent touring the indies, where he became a popular and respected father figure to many backstage, well known for passing on advice and help to younger talent. That period started with a run in IWA Mid-South from 2001 where he faced Chris Hero (who launched a GoFundMe to assist with Smothers' medical expenses) and CM Punk (who recalled "he taught me so much just that first night, and continued to do so for years. He loved working shows full of young kids and always helped share his knowledge") early on and held the company's tag titles with Chris Hamrick for a day in 2004, one of several companies' (mostly tag) titles that he would briefly claim as he wrestled up to last October. Supposedly going more than thirty years without more than four days between bookings, it's pretty certain that Smothers was the only man to have wrestled both Harley Race (in a Pro Wrestling USA tag match) and Marko Stunt (on GCW's Lights Out PPV in July 2019)

Al Vass (Oct. 31; 86) wrestled in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Al Samson before moving into refereeing under the license of the New York State Athletic Commission. In that role he worked regularly for the WWWF and WWF, Bruno Sammartino often requesting Vass work his Madison Square Garden matches since as a former wrestler he could be especially trusted. Vass hung up his striped shirt in 2001 and worked as a security guard at the New York Public Library.

The Bruiser (R.J. Meyer; Nov. 16; 44), who lost a battle with leukemia, was a fixture of Maryland Championship Wrestling, winning its championship ten times between 1999 and 2018 and tag titles four times, once with Jerry Lawler. Most of his career was spent in the Northeast but he had a headline run with NWA Hawaii in 2002.

Michael Faith (Nov. 17; 46), who succumbed to COVID-19, was known variously as the Samoan Beast and more accurately the Largeador, a reflection of his being a 350 lbs man with the moveset of someone much lighter. Based in Oklahoma and working a lot in Texas he made trips to Japan in 2008 and 2009, initially for the self-explanatory Team Vader where he teamed with Daisuke Sekimoto for one match, then in All Japan as part of Lance Hoyt's Voodoo Murderers faction. Domestically he won the NWA Texas championship twice in 2009 and 2010, the River City Wrestling Championship three times, the NWA Oklahoma Heavyweight Championship and, as Samoan Beast, the Heavyweight Championship in Booker T's Reality Of Wrestling promotion.

Sylvano Sousa (Dave Silva; Nov. 18; late 60s) was a regular television enhancement talent for the WWWF and WWF in the 1970s and up to 1987. Recommended by Bruno Sammartino, he had runs in All Japan teaming with Gerald Brisco in 1976 and as a mid-card heel in Stampede in 1982. After retiring he became promoter for Atlantic Wrestling Federation in New England between 1988 and 1993.

Bob Ryder (Nov. 25; 64) was a trailblazer for online wrestling coverage and has been credited as the initial pitchman for TNA. While owner of a travel agency in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles he picked up on the possibilities of online coverage, running the wrestling area of early online service Prodigy and being the first person to conduct online interviews for WWF, interviewing Shawn Michaels and Diesel during WrestleMania XI. He subsequently founded 1Wrestling.com, associated with Bill Apter and alongside Joey Styles, then took on ECW's website, setting the ECW Arena up to provide live coverage. That led to him being hired by WCW for online management and as co-host of streaming audio show WCW Live along with Jeremy Borash, making the occasional TV appearance. Their voices, and that of Eric Bischoff, were the last to be heard on WCW programming. Concerned about the resultant WWF monopoly, it was Ryder who came up with the idea of a company running exclusively through shows on weekly PPVs and pitched the idea to Jeff and Jerry Jarrett, though the programming never achieved half the number of buys required to break even and the company was saved by Panda Energy's buyout. Ryder was involved with TNA throughout the rest of his life in a number of roles, mostly as Director of Travel Operations and often in contract negotiations, and was able to convince almost the entire roster to renegotiate their deals to keep it afloat in 2015. Despite chemotherapy during a second fight against cancer and the resultant COVID concerns he was working up to his death.

Bobby Lee (Carlos Alvarado Gonzalez; Nov. 26; 70) was the rudo in North America's biggest drawing feud of the late 1970s, his series of singles matches against El Santo selling out the 26,000 seat Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City three times in six weeks, which earned him the nickname 'La Bestia del 78' (The Beast Of '78). Debuting as Impacto in 1973 he was considered an athletic all-rounder rookie but made his name teaming with Gallo Tapado in LLI/UWA, an EMLL breakaway based in the capital which briefly became Mexico's top promotion. After they split the new identity was forged and Lee, having threatened to leave, was given a big push in 1978, beating Solar for the world welterweight title in July. A month later he and Villano III won a tag mask vs mask match against the big name Los Escorpiones in front of a full house at Palacio de los Deportes, drawing the country's first ever million peso gate receipts. Afterwards Lee challenged Santo to a mask match, using an insulting and baiting promo style contemporaneously compared to Muhammad Ali. Santo refused to put up his mask at first but relented after Lee beat him over three falls at the end of August as the main event over Canek's legend-making world heavyweight title win over Lou Thesz.

Santo agreed to a lucha de apuesta rematch for the following week and won two falls, but the second was counted while Lee's foot was on the rope. The following week the now unmasked Lee teamed with Fishman to beat Santo and Anibal via DQ, the arena's fourth sellout with Lee in the main event within five weeks; two weeks later it became five in seven weeks, a hair vs mask singles rematch ending when Santo submitted but the decision was reversed as Lee refused to release the hold, the crowd believing Santo had lost his mask and going quiet until Santo's hand was raised. That finish reflected the belief the company had in Lee's potential for legendary status and he continued to face Santo around the country until El Signo claimed his world title in June 1979. (Lee was later special referee for Santo's retirement match in September 1982 and helped train El Hijo del Santo) Unfortunately Lee never reached the heights expected due to back and hip injuries caused while training with Villano I in 1980 and while he continued working for several years was increasingly limited and never returned to the top of the card. A tour of Japan as The Masked Hurricane to feud with Tiger Mask drew very well but donning a second mask, even if the purpose was to lose it in the October 1981 blowoff, didn't go down well at home and led to the end of his working with the UWA, spending the rest of his career in local shows and promoting. It's said that when WWE visited his home town of Leon a number of the visitors took photos with Lee and Triple H was heard scolding John Cena for not knowing who he was.

Pat Patterson (Pierre Clermont; Dec. 2; 75) was one of the most accomplished wrestlers of his day and transferred into becoming one of the most influential people behind the scenes in the rise and reign of WWE, a booker, consultant and ideas man described by Dave Meltzer as "Vince McMahon's right-hand man" and "one of the chief architects of the WWE, playing an integral role in helping it become a global phenomenon." Patterson debuted in 1958 in his native Montreal, emigrating south in 1962. Though settling in Boston it was in Portland, Oregon's Pacific Northwest Wrestling that he first made his name as the effeminate, lipstick and beret-sporting 'Pretty Boy', a gimmick based on his homosexuality, an open secret before he publicly came out in the early 1970s (despite WWE claiming it was kept hidden until Legends House in 2014), having already met his partner of more than forty years.

While with PNW he won their version of the NWA Heavyweight Championship three times between 1964 and 1966, but his real breakout was with Ray Stevens as the Blond Bombers in San Francisco's Big Time Wrestling, holding the local version of the AWA World Tag Team Championship for a year and a half from April 1965 and earning a reputation as maybe the best team anywhere in the country at the time. After the team split in 1968 Patterson took excursions to Japan, where he faced Antonio Inoki, and Texas where he won the Amarillo version of the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship, before returning to San Francisco as the territory's top heel, feuding with Stevens mostly over their versions of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, which he held five times between 1969 and 1977, and the World Tag Team Championship, clocking up eleven reigns with eight different partners over the same time period. After then he moved to Eddie Graham's Championship Wrestling from Florida, held the TV and tag titles and had his first taste of working behind the scenes, then shifted to the AWA in Minneapolis a year later to reform the Blond Bombers and win the World Tag Team Championship.

Patterson debuted for the WWF in 1979 as a client of The Grand Wizard, beating Ted DiBiase for the short-lived North American Championship which he held for five months and challenging for Bob Backlund's World Heavyweight belt in a series of four consecutive main event matches that sold out Madison Square Garden. The North American title was replaced by the Intercontinental Championship in September 1979 and Patterson was installed as its first champion supposedly after winning a tournament held in Rio de Janiero. It was during this title run that he turned face after the Grand Wizard attempted to sell his contract to Captain Lou Albano behind his back. Controversially beaten for the title by Ken Patera in April 1980, Patterson spent the next year feuding with Sgt. Slaughter, a Bootcamp match at MSG in May 1981 winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Match of the Year vote. Patterson began calling color commentary in 1980 on WWF Championship Wrestling alongside McMahon and continued until retiring from full-time competition in 1984, though he would continue to make sporadic in-ring appearances at house shows through to 1987 and refereed the main events of WrestleMania I and XI.

Having been taken on as assistant and road agent around his full-time retirement, Patterson is credited with inventing and regularly booking the Royal Rumble, Bruce Prichard summarizing his pitch as "legal run-ins... a match where you could add to it throughout". Patterson later claimed Vince had at first laughed off the idea but NBC's Dick Ebersol was excited by the prospect and talked McMahon round. Patterson laid out most of the company's biggest matches during his tenure, being regarded as the best finishes man in the business and seen as McMahon's go-between to the roster members as Vice President of Talent Relations. He has been credited with the Fatal 4-Way concept, suggested the Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels Iron Man match at WrestleMania 12 and mentored The Rock, who he recommended for signing after seeing one workout claiming the young Dwayne Johnson had more potential than anyone he'd ever seen. It was him who was tasked with selling Hart on the sharpshooter spot in Montreal - by all accounts he wasn't told about it being the finish to protect his reputation with the roster. Patterson was released from the company in 1992 after being accused of sexual harassment by former announcer Murray Hodgson but was rehired when charges were dropped six months later.

In 1997, a year after being inducted into both the WWE and Wrestling Observer Halls Of Fame, Patterson and Gerald Brisco became comedy stooges to McMahon and the Corporation in his feuds with Steve Austin, Mankind and The Rock, later rubbing up against the McMahon-Helmsley Faction in 1999 before joining them a year later. Patterson turned on Brisco to win the WWF Hardcore Championship in June 2000, leading to an Evening Gown match at King Of The Ring which ended when Crash Holly attached both and claimed the title for himself. Patterson officially retired from WWE in 2004 but returned as part time creative consultant a year later, a role he continued in until his death. During a Raw Reunion show in July 2019 he won the 24/7 Championship by pinning Drake Maverick backstage, losing it off-screen to Brisco later that night but becoming the company's oldest ever title holder.

Joe El Mercenario (Luis Carlos Borges; Dec. 7; approx. 80) was one of the biggest stars of Titanes En El Ring, an Argentinian promotion that did huge television business from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. Borges was known as a reliable talent throughout a career that lasted for forty years from 1962 but it was when he was given the mercenary heel gimmick based on Che Guevara in 1972, the promotion's peak and most financially successful year, that his career really took off, especially as he was known to be able to carry the greenest of talent.

Tommy 'Tiny' Lister (Dec. 10; 62) was Zeus, the monstrous bad guy in the infamous Hulk Hogan vehicle 1989 WWF movie No Holds Barred. The movie, which was executive produced by Hogan and Vince McMahon, entered at #2 in the box office list and eventually just about broke even. Zeus then crossed over into the "real" world, using the same no-selling gimmick and promo style claiming he was angry about being billed under and losing to Hogan. That led to the Summerslam 1989 tag team match in which Hogan and Brutus Beefcake beat Zeus and Randy Savage, Hogan pinning Zeus. Ted DiBiase then picked him up for his Million Dollar Team at Survivor Series, where they lost to the Hulkamaniacs after Zeus was disqualified for refusing to break a chokehold. The final blowoff came in a steel cage tag match involving the same teams as at Summerslam, this time main eventing a special No Holds Barred PPV in December incorporating a screening of the movie, Hogan and Beefcake again victorious. Zeus reappeared in July 1990 at a WWC show in Puerto Rico, beating Abdullah the Butcher by countout, and in March 1996 made a one-off appearance as Z-Gangsta as part of The Alliance To End Hulkamania, being part of the infamous Uncensored PPV Doomsday Cage match. Lister had a much longer career in mostly strong character acting, appearing in Friday as neighborhood bully Deebo, The Fifth Element as the Galactic President, as bail agent Winston in Jackie Brown, taking small roles in The Dark Knight and Austin Powers In Goldmember, as the voice of fox Finnick in Zootopia and as Klaang, the first Klingon to make contact with humans, in the pilot of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Dr. Alfonso Morales (Dec. 17; 71) was the Spanish voice of wrestling for three generations. A legitimate doctor of psychiatry who practiced briefly at Mexico City General Hospital before his broadcasting career took off, Morales' background was in boxing commentary, covering all the 1970s' major fights and the Olympics. Moving to Televisa in 1980 he fell naturally into wrestling, covering El Santo's 1982 retirement match, and shortly afterwards was assigned to CMLL when the network began covering the promotion, bringing his straightforward and knowledgeable style to the squared circle. When CMLL's Antonia Pena successfully challenged a law banning lucha libre from airing in Mexico City he became the primary voice of the resultant late 1980s and early 1990s boom period. When Pena launched AAA in 1992 and sold the rights to Televisa he worked announcer control into the contract and requested Morales work for both promotions, successfully teaming him in AAA with heel color commentator Arturo Rivera for a partnership styled after the Vince McMahon/Jesse Ventura combination. By this time Morales had founded Super Luchas magazine in 1991, moving on in 1993 to edit the world's oldest wrestling publication, Box y Lucha, and wrote for a number of mainstream sports publications, which when all combined with being the voice of both major promotions made him one of the most powerful men in the business, kept above intra-promotional rivalry by being an employee of Televisa. A 2012 inductee into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, he was honored at the House of Representation of the Government of Michoacán in Mexico City in 2019 while fighting kidney problems that dogged him in recent years.

Kevin Greene (Dec. 21; 58) was most famous for his NFL career, a linebacker and defensive end for the LA Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers between 1985 through 1999 followed by coaching stints with the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets, his career total of 160 sacks still rating third in league history. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the fan-voted 1990s All-Decade Team who was selected twice for the All-Pro team and five times for the Pro-Bowl, most of his obituaries understandably barely mentioned his run in WCW between 1996 and 1998. Greene debuted as tag partner of Steve McMichael at the Great American Bash, after which Mongo turned on him and joined the Horsemen. He returned a year later at Slamboree where with Ric Flair and Roddy Piper he beat the NWO team of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx (who described Greene as "as intense an individual as I've ever been in the ring with"), then beat McMichael at GAB. The 49ers reacted by including a "no wrestling" stipulation in his contract but after being cut in 1998 he briefly returned to WCW in June where he beat The Giant by DQ on Nitro and lost to him at Bash At The Beach. The Panthers stepped in with a new deal incorporating a wrestling ban, which forced his hand on stepping out of the squared circle.

Danny Hodge (Dec. 25; 88) was one of the most legendary amateur wrestlers of all time who then became a great name in the professional ranks - Bret Hart referred to Hodge in his WWE Hall Of Fame speech as "one of the greatest wrestlers in pro wrestling or amateur wrestling there's ever been". Born with double tendons in his hands that famously enabled him to be able to crush apples by squeezing them, Hodge first claimed the Oklahoma state wrestling championship in 1951, then while representing the University of Oklahoma won both the Big Seven conference and 177-pound NCAA titles three times in a row between 1955 and 1957, being the second and to date last NCAA Division I champion to pin all three of his finals opponents. He made two Olympics appearances, finishing fifth in 1952 and winning silver in 1956. The only amateur to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the annual award given to the nation's best college wrestler is named after him.

After a period as a boxer, where he won the 1958 Chicago Golden Gloves at Heavyweight before an 8-2 record as a pro, he debuted inside the squared circle in 1959 and feuded with NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion Angelo Savoldi. On one occasion in May 1960 he and Savoldi were having a worked boxing match when Hodge's father William entered the ring and stabbed Savoldi with a penknife, the Italian requiring seventy stitches as William was arrested. Hodge won the title two months later, held the belt for just days short of four years and became his trainer Leroy McGuirk's prime main eventer in his Oklahoma and Arkansas NWA territories. In all Hodge held the Junior Heavyweight title seven times (possibly eight although that is in question) between 1960 and 1976 for a combined total of 4,134 days, including runs from May 1966 to July 1970 and March 1972 to December 1973. He additionally held the NWA Tri-State North American Heavyweight Championship three times and US Tag Team Championship five times, as well as NWA tag titles in Mid-America and for Japan Wrestling Association. Hodge's career was ended by a broken neck sustained in a car crash in March 1976 but his status was secure, having been inducted into the International Professional Wrestling, National Wrestling, amateur wrestling and Wrestling Observer Halls of Fame, been awarded the Cauliflower Alley Club's Lifetime Achievement Award, and was officially honored as an Oklahoma Sports Hero in 2005.

Brodie Lee AKA Luke Harper (Jon Huber; Dec. 26; 41), who died as a result of a lung issue, was an often undervalued agile big man who was involved with some of WWE's most engaging work of the 2010s as part of the Wyatt Family backwoods supernatural faction and then became a big signing for AEW. Debuting in 2003 initially under a mask as Huberboy, he became Brodie Lee on joining Rochester Pro Wrestling, combining the names of Brodie Bruce from the movie Mallrats and his actor Jason Lee. While at RPW and its successor NWA New York Lee won the heavyweight title three times as well as the tag team and television titles. That gained attention from the wider indie wrestling community and he debuted for Chikara in 2007, soon adopting a 'Big Rig' trucker gimmick under which he feuded with Claudio Castagnoli, formed The Roughnecks with Grizzly Redwood (and briefly Eddie Kingston) and unsuccessfully challenged for the Grand Championship. A year later he debuted for Ring Of Honor, aligning himself with The Age Of The Fall and bloodily feuding with Necro Butcher. Lee would go on to appear in Evolve's early shows, where he wrestled Jon Moxley and Sami Callihan, won the world title in Syracuse's 2CW Heavyweight Championship, became New Jersey State Champion in Jersey All Pro and appeared in Dragon Gate USA, where he teamed with sumo legend Akebono against The Osirian Portal and then beat him after joining CIMA's Warriors stable.

In March 2012 Huber signed to WWE and became Luke Harper, introduced to NXT that November as "the first son" of The Wyatt Family. In May 2013 Harper and fellow follower Erick Rowan won the NXT tag titles and held them for two months - oddly they not only won them from and lost them to Adrian Neville with two different partners but the title match had put him with a third partner as an injury replacement. After a series of memorable vignettes the Family debuted on Raw in July by attacking Kane, but their first actual top level feud was with Daniel Bryan, who they beat in a 3 on 1 handicap match at TLC. Early in 2014 they got into it with the Shield, beating them in an instant classic at Elimination Chamber. Having failed to win the tag titles from the Usos that summer the Family were dissolved in fall and Harper sided with the Authority, winning Dolph Ziggler's Intercontinental Championship with Seth Rollins' help and forming part of their Survivor Series team. Ziggler won the IC title back at TLC and Harper failed to regain it at WrestleMania 31's ladder match, though he did get to powerbomb Dean Ambrose through a ladder, leading to a Chicago Street Fight at Extreme Rules which Harper lost.

The Family reformed in summer 2015, Luke and Bray losing to Ambrose and Roman Reigns at Summerslam and to the Brothers Of Destruction at Survivor Series, though the Family and new addition Braun Strowman would best the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match at TLC. After a knee injury kept Harper out for most of 2016 he became SmackDown tag champion by default in December after Wyatt and new follower Randy Orton won the belts but lost them to American Alpha at the last show of the year, led to his falling out with Orton and turning face for the first time, though this only led to him losing the feud blowoff at Elimination Chamber 2017 and failing to become number one contender to Wyatt's WWE Championship after losing to AJ Styles. After a period off television Harper and Rowan, now only going by their surnames, realigned once more as the Bludgeon Brothers and won the SmackDown tag championship from the Usos at WrestleMania 34, defending at PPVs against the Good Brothers and Team Hell No before the New Day beat them in August. The team were broken up after Rowan got injured and Harper barely wrestled on WWE TV again, though he did briefly reappear in September 2019 to back up Rowan in his feud with Reigns and Daniel Bryan, losing to the pair at Hell In A Cell in his penultimate appearance for the company.

Huber gained his WWE release in December and debuted for AEW in March 2020, revealing himself as "The Exalted One" leader of The Dark Order, dubbing himself Mr. Brodie Lee, a suited and controlling corporate cult leader who some felt (though Lee denied) was inspired by Vince McMahon's traits. An opening unbeaten run ended when he lost a world title match to Moxley at Double Or Nothing but he defeated Cody in August to claim the TNT Championship. Dropping the title back to Cody in a dog collar match on October 7th was his final appearance.

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