As we reach the halfway point of the year, the first of the biannual surveys of those who passed on over the last six months. For further reading, here's the obituaries covering the first half and second half of 2019.
Jon Ian (Jan. 6; aged 48) was the longtime ring announcer for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. A former child actor who appeared on The Jeffersons and Good Times, Ian also announced for New Japan USA and for UPW during its time as a WWE developmental territory. He also promoted Mach One Wrestling, active in Anaheim and Santa Ana, Ca. between 2008 and 2013, and worked backstage for its affiliate promotion Championship Wrestling From Hollywood. While his official cause of death has not been publicized he had a history of heart issues.
Pampero Firpo (real name Juan Kachmanian; Jan. 9; 89) was one of the biggest territory stars of the 1960s and 70s. With big bushy hair and rugged looks he wrestled an early untutored brawling version of what would become the hardcore style, billed as one of the strongest men in wrestling building to his claw hold finisher El Garfio. Added to that was his reputation as one of the great early talkers, intense roars mixing with with assorted catchphrases while brandishing his tribal shrunken head Chimu. Lanny Poffo has confirmed Randy Savage deliberately copied his promo voice and style from Firpo, particularly the "oooh yeah!" both ended with.
Debuting in 1953, the Argentinian son of a boxing promoter wrestled under various names until the boxing great Jack Dempsey suggested he take inspiration from one of his most famous opponents, Luis Ángel Firpo. Pampero claimed to be Luis' son and borrowed his "Wild Bull of the Pampas" nickname, although in Hawaii where he was particularly popular he would be billed as The Missing Link as promoter Ed Francis hated his established name. Spotted by El Santo while touring with EMLL in 1957, he won the Texas heavyweight championship in his first match in the States and would go on to have bloody feuds across the country with the likes of Bobo Brazil, The Crusher and The Sheik. The latter actually turned him face in the early 1970s with the aid of a fireball - Firpo later claimed "after the Governor I was the most popular man" in Hawaii after that. He held the NWA US Heavyweight Championship in his best known stomping ground of Detroit three times, NWA Heavyweight titles in LA, Texas and Hawaii, and during a 1972 run with the WWWF main evented Madison Square Garden for an unsuccessful shot at Pedro Morales' Heavyweight title. Having been pushed as a major star for nearly quarter of a century Firpo went part-time after 1981 and retired in 1986 after what he claimed was 8,882 matches across 21 countries.
La Parka (Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza; Jan. 11; 54) was one of lucha libre's major stars of the last two decades the only man to win AAA's annual Rey de Reyes tournament more than once - in fact he won it five times, in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. He was not the La Parka who is now LA Park but a deliberate successor in the same mask and ring gear - having initially worked as Karis la Momia in AAA he became La Parka Jr in 1996 and then the "official" holder of the name in 2003 as AAA exerted their copyright claim after Adolfo Tapia tried to use it in CMLL.
As Karis he had briefly held the Mexican National Cruiserweight Championship in May 1996 and main evented the third night of that same year's Triplemania IV, getting the decisive pin for the Los Payasos faction and forcing Los Junior Atómicos's Halcón Dorado Jr to unmask. His first act after adopting the understudy gimmick, created after the original began to work more often with WCW, was ironically to join Los Junior Atómicos. Having held the Mexican National Cruiserweight Championship for the second time in 1999 his first Rey de Reyes secured his positioning as a top tecnico, as did teaming with Máscara Sagrada to take the Mexican National Tag Team Championship. The second Rey de Reyes immediately preceded his becoming the actual La Parka, under which he main evented Triplemania XI teaming with Lizmark, Octagón and Super Caló. Days later he and Octagon became the last winners of the Mexican National Tag Team Championship.
The long running story between AAA loyalists and the Los Vipers faction came to a head at 2004's Triplemania XII as Parka beat the latter's leader Cibernético in a Luchas de Apuesta match and forced him to unmask - he then beat Cibernético again main eventing Triplemania XIII in a trios match alongside Latin Lover and Octagón against Konnan's anti-AAA La Legión Extranjera faction. A year later in 2006 he claimed Muerta Cibernetica's mask - he ended undefeated 10-0 in mask and hair matches - but found himself on the losing side at both Triplemania XV and XVI to La Legión, though he helped AAA beat the rebels at XVII in a ten-man match for control of the company.
LA Park returned in 2010 for the natural feud although the pair ended up as pawns in a father and son angle between Joaquin (AAA president) and Dorian Roldan, and their Triplemania XVIII match for who would win rights to the name ended in a mess - an illegal finisher, Dorian turning on Park, faction schmoz after the match - in which both men were declared the winner in turn before AAA announced the Mexico City Boxing and Wrestling Commission had requested the match and stipulation be thrown out. The next year was spent heading El Inframundo against Cibernético's Los Bizarros, who won their Triplemanía XIX match via distraction. Later in 2011 Parka joined the anti-AAA rudo stable La Sociedad but the association lasted six months before he was thrown out by Octagon, who Parka pinned when teaming with Los Psycho Circus against his El Consejo faction at Triplemanía XX. After his last Rey de Reyes victory in 2014 La Parka slimmed down his workload. During a match for Monterrey's KAOZ in October 2019 Parka missed opponent Rush with a dive and hit the steel barrier and concrete floor head first. Temporarily paralyzed on impact he suffered neck and cervical fractures, eventually succumbing to further complications with his kidneys. Three weeks after passing Parka was posthumously inducted into the AAA Hall of Fame.
Kendo Nagasaki (Kazuo Sakurada; Jan. 12, 71) - his name knowingly copied from that of the British World Of Sport-era star at the prompting of Dusty Rhodes - had a nearly thirty year career but may now be best known as being Bret Hart's original trainer alongside Mr Hito. Hart obviously grew up in Stu's Dungeon but wrote "my father taught me submission wrestling down there, but Hito and Sakurada taught me pro wrestling. I owe them everything." Formerly a middling sumo wrestler, Sakurada debuted in the ring in 1971 and had a moment of notoriety in 1973 when a match in Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance against Tsutomu Oshiro turned into a shoot, Sakurada beating Oshiro severely due to being upset that his opponent was about to defect to NJPW. After a brief spell with AJPW Sakurada moved to Canada and began working for Stampede, claiming its North American Heavyweight Championship for three months of 1978 and holding its tag titles three times with compatriots Mr Hito and Kasavudu.
In 1982 Rhodes, wanting to create his own version of the Great Kabuki, gave Sakurada the new face painted gimmick as he began working the territories, chiefly at first the Continental Wrestling Association, employing kendo sticks and mist. Nagasaki briefly claimed the NWA/AWA Southern Heavyweight Title from Jerry Lawler in 1982, held the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship for two months in 1984 and took part in NJPW's Japan Cup tournament of 1987 teaming with Mr Pogo. In 1989 he joined WCW and became The Dragonmaster, joining the J-Tex Corporation stable of Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Buzz Sawyer and The Great Muta, losing a steel cage match to the Four Horsemen at Clash of the Champions X after taking the pin from Arn Anderson - this the match where Sting was kicked out of the Horsemen earlier in the night and blew out his knee in the post-match brawl. Sakurada as Nagasaki returned to Japan to work the last decade of his career until 2000. In 1995 he and Great Kojika co-founded Big Japan Pro Wrestling to cash in on the deathmatch boom, though Nagasaki left in 1999.
Rocky Johnson (Wayde Bowles; Jan. 15; officially 75 but may have been 78) is now best known as The Rock's father but blazed his own trail, a major draw practically everywhere he went in the 1970s. One of the most agile and acrobatic heavyweight wrestlers of his era with dropkicks supposedly comparable to Okada's, Johnson considered wrestling his calling but originally trained as a boxer, sparring with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Indeed his ring name, which became his legal name shortly after his career began in his birth country of Canada in 1964, came from Rocky Marciano and Jack Johnson. As a tag wrestler he had a world title run as early as 1969 with Ben Justice and later held the same title on four separate occasions alongside Pat Patterson between 1972 and 1974, but it was as a singles worker in Los Angeles that he was established as the territory's top babyface, winning the Americas title in 1970 and regularly selling out the Olympic Auditorium feuding with Fred Blassie. Later moving to San Francisco he would become one of the biggest stars and most regular main eventers in the history of Big Time Wrestling, where he picked up the 'Soulman' nickname.
A 1976 run in Tennessee saw Rocky billed as an ex-boxer new to the squared circle for boxer vs wrestler bouts against Jerry Lawler, playing off the infamy of Ali vs Inoki to great drawing success, earning him a shot at Harley Race's NWA world title a year later. Johnson would go on to have classic hour long draws with Jack Brisco and Ric Flair for the same title. By 1983 he was in WWF where he and Tony Atlas, as the Soul Patrol, became the company's first African American tag team champions (but not as has been reported their first black champion, as Sonny King had previously held the WWWF tag title) in November 1983, though the pair didn't get along and dropped the titles the following April. Johnson wound down his full-time career in 1987, teaming with younger brother Ricky Johnson in Hawaii in a promotion he part-owned through his mother in law. Johnson married then-tag partner Peter Maivia's daughter Ata in 1970, fathered Dwayne in 1972 and brought Patterson in to train him around 1996, Pat sending word back to Vince McMahon that he had more potential than anyone he'd seen.
Hercules Ayala (Ruben Cruz; Jan. 22; 69) was one of the stars of Carlos Colon's World Wrestling Council. Trained by Angelo Savoldi he had a brief run in the WWWF in 1974 before moving back to his homeland where in total he would claim the Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship five times between 1974 and 2002, though never for more than 98 days at a time. Meeting the Harts while touring Germany in 1978 he moved to Canada and stayed in Stampede for eight years, holding the International Tag Team Championship with Jim Neidhart and feuding with the likes of Harley Race, David Schultz and Archie 'The Stomper' Gouldie. On returning home and joining the Capital Sports Promotion (later WWC) he had an unsuccessful tilt at Ric Flair's NWA title in 1983, won the North American title from Randy Savage in 1985 which he held for ten months, and on turning heel in 1987 feuded with Colon in a story which included Ayala attacking Colon's wife at a televised award ceremony. Ayala lost a loser leaves town match to Colon in January 1989 - possibly related to his friend Bruiser Brody's murder six months earlier which happened while he was in the same building - and retired from full-time wrestling in 1993. That 2002 title win came at a house show and the reign lasted thirteen days.
Justice Pain (Christopher Wilson; Jan. 24; 41), believed to have killed himself, was a key player in the blood and glass-encrusted peak of CZW. Older brother of Nick Gage, he worked the first ever Cage Of Death match against fellow in-house trainee Lobo, winning the Iron Man Championship, and then a year later claimed the Heavyweight Championship for the first of five occasions against the same man in Cage Of Death II. He then formed the original H8 Club with Wifebeater (with whom he won the Big Japan tag titles in 2000) and feuded with Gage's version but turned on his partner and beat him at Cage Of Death III. After a brief spell in XPW, during which he beat Chris Candido in the latter's final ever bout, he reformed the original H8 Club and took to the Cage for rights to the name against Gage and Nate Hatred, a match that ended with both turning on their partners and the siblings forming the decisive version of the group. His final world title win came in 2006's Cage Of Death 8, eliminating Eddie Kingston and Chris Hero. He retired in 2008.
Carlos Rocha (Jan. 27; 93) was considered the greatest wrestler to come out of Portugal and was definitely the oldest living significant star to have performed in North America. Rocha started his career in the 1940s and first worked in America in 1962 but it was on returning in 1971 that he became a draw, working out of Montreal mostly for the Rougeaus International Wrestling whose world title he held for four months while feuding with Abdullah the Butcher. He was even bigger in Toronto, drawing more Maple Leaf Gardens sellouts against the Sheik than anyone else at Maple Leaf Wrestling's peak. He returned to Europe in 1972 only to come back to both the Gardens and Sheik in 1976 for just as many title matches but smaller crowds. During that spell he also worked for WWWF until retiring in mid-1977.
Rip Oliver (Larry Oliver; Mar. 5; 67) held the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship for longer than anyone else during his run as top heel, twelve runs between 1982 and 1991 totaling 772 days with the belt, usually as leader of the faction The Clan. On top of that he claimed the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship sixteen times between 1980 and 1990 with eight different partners, including Buddy Rose and Matt Borne. Despite that success Oliver, actually a Floridian who began his career in 1976, made little headway elsewhere, having 1980s runs in Texas, Georgia, Florida, New Japan - where he had a mid-card run in 1980 as The Gestapo and worked high level tag matches in 1984 as Rick Oliver - and WWF, again used as a high level jobber for a few months before returning to Portland. Oliver retired when PNW closed in 1992, shortly after the local weekly wrestling show was canceled after the best part of 38 years, and was part of the WWE concussions class action lawsuit dismissed in 2018.
Wayne Bridges (William Woodbridge; Mar. 8; 83) was said at one point to be the most popular man on the British World Of Sport circuit. A good enough swimmer to take part in trials for the 1960 Olympics who later trained with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, made the national amateur wrestling team and was one of Sean Connery's regular James Bond body doubles, Bridges began wrestling in 1964 and soon got over for his looks, technical abilities and physique, feuding with (the original) Kendo Nagasaki over nearly 25 years. Bridges was named world heavyweight champion three times, the first at age 43 in December 1979 when he beat Australia-based Greek Spiros Arion, who had arrived in the UK claiming to hold a version of the world title. One of his defenses, against pre-Kamala Jim Harris, was the sub-main event of the famous 1981 Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks Wembley Arena card. During that time he also worked in Canada, holding the NWA Vancouver Canadian Tag Team Champions with Dan Kroffat for two weeks in 1974, and for New Japan from its inaugural year 1972 on and off through to the mid-1980s. Bridges left Joint Promotions, the promoter behind the World Of Sport shows, in 1983, jumping to the rival All-Star Wrestling and winning the world title once more. He retired as champion in 1988 and opened a pub which hosted the annual British Wrestling Reunion, Bridges sought out for advice by Daniel Bryan and Cesaro among others.
Joe Pedicino (Apr. 12; 70) was a major on air figure in the post-territory age of Southern wrestling, chiefly as producer and co-host with Gordon Solie and later his future wife Boni Blackstone of the nationally syndicated showcase Superstars of Wrestling from 1985 to 1992, which gave fans in bigger markets a NWA and international showcase. The show had been developed for Atlanta's WATL TV, for which he worked in sales, and locally grew to an eight hour block which became the highest rated programming on the station. Pedicino, popularly known as the 'Round Mound of Sound', had short spells with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW but went his own way in 1991, launching and announcing for Georgia All-Star Wrestling, where future WCW voice Scott Hudson got his break. After WCCW closed that promotion was folded into its replacement Global Wrestling Federation. Claiming to be an established international organization finding a new location in the 'Global Dome', really the familiar Dallas Sportatorium, GWF aired on the fledgling ESPN and while it only lasted for three years is credited with giving Sean Waltman, Harlem Heat, JBL, Raven, Buff Bagwell and Jerry Lynn early breaks to a national audience. Pedicino sold his share of the company in 1992, ended Superstars of Wrestling shortly afterwards and after working for the short-lived Ladies Professional Wrestling Association left the industry to work in developing local radio stations in Georgia and acting as a consultant for major media companies including Turner and Clear Channel.
Howard Finkel (Apr. 16; 69) was maybe the greatest ring announcer in wrestling history. The Newark, New Jersey native with the distinctive dramatically booming voice and signature call of a new champion with the memorable emphasis on "AND NEW" first worked for WWWF in 1975, made his Madison Square Garden debut in 1977 and became WWF's first official employee in April 1980, working additionally in talent relations and creative. In those roles he has been credited with coining the title 'WrestleMania' and helping bring in Jimmy Hart. The Fink was cemented as lead announcer at television tapings when the company went national in 1984 (even filling in on play-by-play a few times) and though slowly phased out after the turn of the 2000s was still under Vince McMahon's employment to the end. Hugely popular with talent and colleagues, if not always so with his boss, his voice was even heard two months after his death, introducing Edge and Randy Orton's Best Wrestling Match Ever at Backlash.
As a regular face and voice Finkel was occasionally written into storylines, most notably feuding with Harvey Wippleman which meant him being attacked by Kamala, eventually leading to a tuxedo match in which The Fink stripped Wippleman to his underwear. Jeff Jarrett shaved his head in 1998 leading to him taking X-Pac's corner in a hair vs hair match at Summerslam. He became a lackey of the recently arrived Chris Jericho a year later involving his attacking SmackDown announcer Tony Chimel and Y2J letting him be attacked by Ken Shamrock so Jericho could blindside him. Eventually he was gifted to Curtis Hughes, who lost his services to the Acolytes in a poker game. In 2002 he turned heel and feuded with Lilian Garcia, losing a gown vs tuxedo match when Garcia was aided by Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler who Finkel had insulted. In the following years he was restricted to house shows, WrestleMania Hall Of Fame inductee introductions - he himself earned a spot in 2009 - and guest television segments, most famously as CM Punk's special announcer at Survivor Series 2011 and being a cast member on Legends' House.
Dick Steinborn (Apr. 18; 86) was a fine mat technician and good draw from the mid-50s through to the early 80s, becoming a popular main event babyface despite never selling out any of the top level arenas as headliner. The son of Milo Steinborn, who not only set unofficial world records as a weightlifter but helped popularize the squat before himself moving into the ring, he used his father's promotion connections to get started in Orlando in 1953. He actually became best known initially in the Southeast as Dickie Gunkel, billed as the kayfabe half-brother of Ray Gunkel, winning the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship in 1958 and feuding with Freddie Blassie over the Southern heavyweight title in Georgia. Often regarded as a tag specialist, holding titles in Georgia, Minneapolis and the Carolinas, he actually won the Georgia version of the NWA world title for a week in 1963. A bad backstage reputation, not least as a suspected thief, and a tendency to work in opposition to the NWA promotions - especially after leaving for a rival while holding NWA Georgia's tag belts - meant he rarely got to work for the bigger companies after the 1960s. Instead he became a major star in WWC, holding the Caribbean heavyweight title four times and the world junior heavyweight title four times between 1974, in the latter title's case as inaugural holder, and 1982. His career ended in 1983 after suffering a spinal injury in a car accident.
Jack Lotz (Apr. 18; 86) had a 33 year career as a referee in New York. A Korean War veteran, he worked the first two WrestleManias, including the Rowdy Roddy Piper vs Mr. T boxing match at WrestleMania II, as well as Bob Backlund's WWWF Heavyweight Championship title win over Superstar Billy Graham in 1978, Hulk Hogan's first WWF world title win over The Iron Sheik in 1984 and the Spider Lady/Fabulous Moolah screwjob over Wendi Richter of 1985. Lotz did some acting on the side, appearing as a referee in Raging Bull and as a stuntman and extra in The Sopranos.
Scott Bowden (Travis Scott Bowden; Apr. 20; 48) was a heel ref turned manager in the USWA, looking after the likes of Jerry Lawler - whose sons he'd been childhood friends and backyard wrestling colleagues with - Tommy Rich, Bam Bam Bigelow and Doug Gilbert, as a result being humiliated in matches with Miss Texas (Jacqueline) Subsequently he became well known as a leading historian of Memphis wrestling through his blog and podcast Kentucky Fried Rasslin'.
Billy Caputo (April 21; 72) was a long-serving referee in the New York territory, including a 23 year association with the WWWF/WWF starting from 1975 alongside practically every other promotion in the area. On one occasion in 1978 he nearly caused a riot at Madison Square Garden when the heel team double teaming the single face behind the referee's back spot led to fans trying to storm the ring. His engagements included two WrestleManias, several bloody Bruiser Brody vs Abdullah the Butcher brawls and the occasion when Jack Venano beat Ric Flair for the NWA title in the Dominican Republic to avert a riot. Also working for WCW and the NWA, after retiring from the ring in 2003 Caputo became an inspector for the Athletic Commission.
Supreme (Lester Perfors; May 6; 49) was a brutally violent top star in California's infamous deathmatch promotion XPW. Known as "The Human Horror Film" he won their first King of the Death Matches Tournament and was awarded the same titled Championship, which he would hold another three times. That infamy, including once being set on fire, earned him a tour of FMW, where he and Homeless Jimmy held the WEW Hardcore Tag Team Championship, and he was involved in the incident at ECW Heat Wave 2000 that led to the locker room exchanging punches with a group of XPW wrestlers in the front row. After XPW closed in 2003 Supreme toured the world of deathmatches, appearing in Big Japan, IWA and GCW among others, and was working until the COVID-19 shutdown.
Shad Gaspard (May 17; 39), who drowned in a Venice Beach rip current trying to save his son (who survived), was half of WWE's partly comedic street thug tag team Cryme Time. A former celebrity bodyguard, despite being denied a place in Tough Enough 2 after failing a physical Gaspard was signed and allocated to OVW as Da Beast, then going under his real name alongside JTG as The Gang Stars, under which name they won the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship in 2006. Brought up to the main roster later that year they were renamed Cryme Time and were preceded with vignettes of them robbing people, an advance statement on wwe.com describing these as "parodying racial stereotypes... (an) attempt at Saturday Night Live like humor (which) is bound to entertain audiences of all ethnic derivations." As faces they feuded with The World's Greatest Tag Team, who had expressed disgust with their activities, but the program was dropped after one match on Raw and Cryme Time briefly returned to OVW, winning the tag titles back for a single day. They returned to Raw to feud with world champions Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch but were released from the company mid-storyline in September 2007.
Six months later both appeared to Raw to beat the same opponents on their first match back and began working alongside John Cena as CTC, at the same time unsuccessfully feuding with current world champions Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. In 2009 they were drafted to SmackDown and gained Eve Torres as valet for a feud with the Hart Dynasty, lost a world title match to Jeri-Show at Summerslam and spent much of the following time making up numbers until Gaspard turned on JTG, leading to a strap match at Extreme Rules 2010 which JTG won. Gaspard was sent down to FCW afterwards and released that November, working the independent circuit and reuniting with JTG for the occasional match as 'Crime Time' from 2014 until the shutdown.
Winona Littleheart (Winifred Childree/Barkley; May 9; 64) was a well regarded female worker who for most of her career used the old favourite 'Native American' gimmick, complete with fringed vest and feathers in her hair. Beginning her career in 1976 she did the NWA territory circuit and, as Princess Little Heart, was awarded the vacant NWA United States Women's Championship in October 1980 though only holding it for seven weeks. She frequently appeared in the WWWF/WWF into the mid-1980s, feuding with the Fabulous Moolah, Leilani Kai and Judy Martin while also working as a trainer at Moolah's school, where she helped train Wendi Richter. On returning to the NWA in 1985 she became Cindy Lou, only to be abducted by Kevin Sullivan for his Army Of Darkness stable and renamed The Lock, now sporting a mohawk and face paint. It was there she formed The Daughters of Darkness team with Luna Vachon, which continued onto the indie circuit after the Florida territory wound down, and then returned to solo action with AWA Georgia and David McLane's POWW.
Hana Kimura (May 23; 22), who took her own life, was one of joshi's brightest stars. The daughter of joshi Kyoko Kimura and Pancrase fighter Isao Kobayashi, Kimura first won a title at the age of eight - the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, which she promptly lost to her mother. Actually debuting in 2016 in Wrestle-1 and getting to retire Kyoko the following January, Hana split her time between there and Stardom, where she joined Oedo Tai and won the Goddess of Stardom Championship teaming with Kagetsu in 2017, holding the title for nearly a year before turning on her colleagues. Concentrating on Stardom alone from March 2019 she formed Tokyo Cyber Squad, quickly winning the Artist of Stardom Championship with right hand women Jungle Kyona and Konami. Having worked for ROH and EVE in 2018 she was among those chosen to work a tag dark match at the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard show at Madison Square Garden in 2019, then on January 4th 2020 was part of the first women's match at the Tokyo Dome in eighteen years and the first to be part of the Wrestle Kingdom event, a dark match in which she and Giulia lost to Arisa Hoshiki and Mayu Iwatani.
Danny Havoc (Grant Berkland; May 31; 34) was a major deathmatch talent primarily with CZW, where he was two-time World Tag Team Champion, two-time Ultraviolent Underground Champion, once World Junior Heavyweight Champion, won Tournament of Death in 2008 and 2013 and main evented four straight Cage Of Death shows. Co-trained by Chris Hero he had technical know-how to go with the bloodletting but, having been set on fire during his first match, was known for innovation and going places where others might not, earning him an almost immediate push to the top of the card. He was in demand from a lot of hardcore-leaning promotions, working in Japan for BJW and DDT and appearing in various IWA promotions and Germany's wXw, and having officially retired in 2017 returned for a 2019 benefit show and a GCW Japan tour in February.
El Impala (Andres Gonzalez; June 6; 68) wrestled in the UWA for its entire 1975-1994 run, originally as Garryk, then under his more celebrated name, holding the World Lightweight and World Welterweight titles, the latter for 791 days. He had a phase, including a year in CMLL, as exotico Bello Incognito but didn't like it and became Blackman II, then Arana Negra, before being finally unmasked by Dos Caras on a UWA tribute show in 2006.
Mr. Wrestling II (John Walker; June 10; 85) was at his peak one of the most popular wrestlers in the country, a genuine household name as a fiery babyface in Georgia for much of the 1970s and early 80s, known for his hot promos and for wearing suits with his white mask outside the ring. He famously earned the public support of state governor Jimmy Carter - when Carter was inaugurated as President in 1977 he was reputedly invited but pulled out as the Secret Service insist he appear unmasked. As Johnny 'Rubberman' Walker he began in 1955 and spent nine years as a journeyman, returned from 1967 to 1972 latterly as The Grappler under a mask to much the same effect and was in semi-retirement when asked to take up a role as partner and sometimes replacement of the original Mr Wrestling, Tim Woods. Georgia Championship Wrestling had been left in disarray after a mass walkout and the rebuild primarily involved Mr. Wrestling, who was so valuable in Atlanta promoter Eddie Graham wanted a substitute to work lesser cities, Walker and Woods having teamed together in Florida.
Instead II, as he was widely known for short, was put over so well with his more brawling style and 'million dollar kneelift' finisher he became an immediate superior draw, earning ten reigns as NWA Georgia champion plus four as NWA Macon Heavyweight Championship and a total of nine with the Georgia and Macon Tag Team Championships (six with Mr. Wrestling I) There was a heel turn guided by new booker Jerry Jarrett where II turned on I in 1974 over his lack of world title shots, a major feud often credited with winning the local promotional war for the NWA and ending with II winning a mask vs hair match, but II was back as a face after three months. By the end of 1976 he was facing Terry Funk for the NWA title before 12,000 fans and the HBO cameras, the only ever wrestling live special from the Omni, with the remarkable announce team of Gordon Solie and Vince McMahon. By the time GCW was being shown nationwide on Ted Turner's WTCG circa 1979 Dusty Rhodes was a bigger babyface star but II would be the one challenging Funk, Harley Race or later Ric Flair for the NWA world heavyweight title, most famously selling out the 16,000 capacity Omni against Race in April 1980 for the Champion of Champions Cup, not even for a world title match.
II had been working in Mid-South Wrestling since 1978, winning the North American title, but his big run came in 1983 as Magnum T.A.'s mentor, winning the tag titles but then splitting with II and turning heel. Mid-feud II picked up the North American Championship from Junkyard Dog, a move Bill Watts later admitted practically killed business in New Orleans mostly due to JYD losing wih a botched finish. Magnum won that belt in 1984 to end the story and send II to the WWF where he spent two years as enhancement talent, rarely appearing on TV, before heading to Alabama's Continental Championship Wrestling where he mostly feuded with Bob Armstrong. Walker retired in 1989 and eventually became responsible for talent relations in Don Muraco's Hawai'i Championship Wrestling and in October 2007 came out of retirement at age 73 to won the HCW Kekaulike Heritage Tag Team Championship with his own kayfabe protege Mr. Wrestling III (Steve Corino). His wife Olivia Walker, who died in 2000, was the premiere robe maker for wrestlers, including Flair, Tommy Rich, Dusty Rhodes, Paul Orndorff and Greg Valentine as well as her husband, with a sideline making costumes for the likes of Dolly Parton and Liberace.
La Sombra Vengadora (Rogelio de la Paz; June 13; 87) had a career that lasted from 1951 to 2011, possibly the longest ever recorded. Named after a character in a series of lucha libre movies whose backers wanted it to have a real world equivalent, he adopted the name and mask in 1958 and became a big star over the next couple of years before a legal dispute led to him losing the mask.
Herodes (Victor Gongora; June 14; 69), 'El Chacho', was one of the most undervalued lucha rudos of the 1980s, a heavyweight who could bump like a much lighter man. Debuting in 1969 he moved to Mexico City and EMLL in 1977 as a good hand, and after a noteworthy 1981 run with IWE in Japan he returned with a main event push and defeated Cien Caras at Arena Mexico for the National Heavyweight Title in March 1982, losing it three months later to his big rival Halcón Ortiz. As the 1990s dawned Herodes took a crazy man-like gimmick with costumes and weird hair, which didn't work out but when booker Antonio Pena formed AAA in 1992 he took Herodes with him and formed a team with Chavo Guerrero Sr. and Sicodélico intended as its top heel trio but they didn't get over, were quickly disbanded and Herodes was let go in 1994. He returned to CMLL as the second El Boricua in 2000 as part of Pierroth's faction but his best days were long behind him and the following year an attempt to work three mask matches in a week having lost the first two proved a stain on his character.
And some other notable names whose deaths have been reported over the last six months:
Charlie Cook (Jan. 5; 79), late territory journeyman who had been in Pittsburgh Steelers camp and won titles in Florida, Alabama and the Caribbean
Bobby Kay (Romeo Cormier; Jan. 12; 70), one of four brothers who wrestled mostly in Canada for Stampede and Nova Scotia's NWA affiliate Eastern Sports Association
Dr Hannibal (Steve Gillespie; Jan. 18; 56), part of FMW's Team Canada, did enhancement work for WWE and was part of the brief Stampede revival
Crusher Doogan (John Mair; Jan. 23; 49), promoter and trainer of NYWC whose school helped develop Zack Ryder, Tony Nese, Curt Hawkins and Trent Beretta
Martín Landeros (Feb. 2; 34), promoter of Guanajuato-based lucha promotion Generación XXI, shot dead
Nick Steel (Nick Castanhinha; Feb. 15; 44), New England near thirty year veteran, head trainer at Top Rope Promotions
Dean Silverstone (Mar. 26; 73), Cauliflower Alley Club treasurer and organiser of their annual reunions
Zebra Kid (Kevin Clark; Apr. 17; 69), this one of the many masked Zebras (twelve worldwide by one reliable count) was a Midwest worker of 44 years' standing, mostly in Windy City Wrestling
Ed 'Haystacks' Ross (Apr. 24; 49), reportedly 6'10 and up to 600lbs, worked chiefly in Chicago and Wisconsin in the 1990s
Jamie Jackson (Jamie Asher; May 3; 44), Ontario based three-time RWA Heavyweight Champion, worked a Nitro dark match
Tony Casta (John Castaldi; May 4; 80), St Louis and Missouri junior heavyweight turned promoter
Discovery (Antonio Corona; May 15; 54), part of AAA and briefly WWF's Power Rangers ripoff Los Cadetes del Espacio, previously Gamma in AAA and UWA
Olga Martinez (May 18; unknown), 'The Mexican Spitfire', 1960s women's wrestling star under Moolah's wing, took part in the first women's bout in Michigan in 25 years
Larry Csonka (May 18; unknown), prolific and much admired 411 Mania writer
Mohawk (Florencio Pina; May 20; unknown) mostly worked at Pavillón Azteca as one of the Los Mohicans trio, holding the AWWA Tag Team Championships. Also Bandito #1 in AAA, where he was unmasked by Rey Misterio Jr in 1993
Isaac Rosario (May 21; 69), did practically everything for WWC from wrestler to ring announcer, trained Carlito
Michael Blade (Michael Runco; May 31; 47), thirty year Pennsylvania veteran
Chun Gyu-deok (June 2; 88), top star in South Korea's boom period of the early 1960s, "had a famous match against a wild bull", father of leading Korean actor Chun Ho-jin
Matematico II (Rodolfo García; June 4; 50), son of great 1970s cruiserweight Matematico, nephew of legendary Huracan Ramirez, worked for UWA and AA from 1985 to 1995
Esther Leon de Moreno (June 11; 85), founder of and promoter for Arena Azteca Budokan, husband of Acorazado Moreno, mother of Esther, Cinthia and Rossy Moreno (AJW, AAA)
Cyborg (José Martín Barron Hernández; June 15; 54), held tag and middleweight titles in IWRG
Estrella Blanca III (unknown; June 16; 54), son of the great Estrella Blanca, worked for EMLL and UWA in the late 80s/early 90s
Gran Titan (Juan Manuel Miranda Galván; June 20), powerhouse lucha giant, Northern Heavyweight Championship holder, lost his mask to Mil Mascaras
Adam Bueller (June 20; 36), Midwest indie stalwart who appeared in IWA-MS, succumbed to cancer