Tommy “Tiny” Lister, who even wrestling fans who remember his run as Zeus in the then-WWF or his appearance as Z-Gangsta in WCW likely remember best as an actor in films like Friday and The Fifth Element, was found dead in his California apartment yesterday (Dec. 10). He was 62 years old.
Cause of death is pending a coroner’s investigation. His manager Cindy Cowan told the Associated Press he was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year. He overcame the virus, but became ill again last week and reported difficulty breathing.
His 1989 feud with Hulk Hogan started in the WWF-produced film No Holds Barred, where Lister played the heel Hogan’s Rip Thomas eventually overcame. That led to a SummerSlam main event where Hogan & Brutus Beefcake defeated Randy Savage & Zeus. Lister was also a member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team at that year’s Survivor Series, which lost to Team Hogan. The program was blown off with a rematch of the SummerSlam match, with the same outcome, at a No Hold Barred PPV the following month.
Aside from working one match for WCW at Uncensored in 1996, a “Doomsday Cage” match where he was again part of a team that lost to Hogan (who this time was teaming with Savage), Lister left wrestling behind for Hollywood. The 6’ 5” athlete from Compton’s most iconic role was as the fearsome Deebo from Friday, but he was a successful character actor who popped up in everything from The Dark Knight to Goldmember.
WWE and others from the wrestling have been remembering the man Cowan called “a gentle giant” since TMZ broke the news last night.
WWE is saddened to learn that Tom "Tiny" Lister, known as Zeus to the WWE Universe, passed away today at age 62.https://t.co/ZhueFZ2hDw— WWE (@WWE) December 11, 2020
THE DEEBO THE ZEUS THE TINY LISTER. YOU ALWAYS LOVED ME AND RESPECTED ME. I AM SO SORRY BUBBA YOU FOREVER THE LEGEND. pic.twitter.com/MDHKzCjdJ6— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) December 11, 2020
If I see you in the NXT parking lot tomorrow, I’m taking your chain. It seems like the right thing to do. RIP Deebo.— Malcolm (@Malcolmvelli) December 11, 2020
Our thoughts go out to the friends, family and fans of Thomas “Tiny” Lister, fondly known to many wrestling fans as Zeus. pic.twitter.com/NqqyXe8Di2— Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard (@PrichardShow) December 11, 2020
Dammit!! From Zeus to Deebo to President Lindberg, dude played some iconic roles. Thank you for all the entertainment. https://t.co/dHVf9UgcGJ— Hurricane Helms (@ShaneHelmsCom) December 11, 2020
Damn sad to hear the news about our favorite bully... Tommy "Tiny" Lister.— The Baddest of All-Time (@shane216taylor) December 11, 2020
From Zeus, to Deebo, to I Got The Hook Up...may he keep snatching chains and knocking fools out at the pearly gates. #RIPDEEBO
No Holds Barred & Friday are forever two of my favorite movies.— Gregory Iron (@GregoryIron) December 11, 2020
Ride that red beach cruiser up into Heaven, big man.
RIP Zeus / Deebo pic.twitter.com/vgszRDuLym