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Remembering those we lost in 2003
By SLAM! Wrestling staff


It has been said time and time again that this was a tragic year for wrestling. This year, possibly more than any, the industry has lost some of its brightest stars, both past and present. The year has almost been an elongated mourning period for wrestling fans, as obituaries became far too common in wrestling headlines. SLAM! Wrestling would like to now take the time to remember those who passed on in 2003.

Duane Allen - May 7

Anthony "Tony" Altomare - February 18 - Tony Altomare caused havoc inside the ring and prevented it outside. Most famous as one-half of The Sicilians tag team, Altomare played an ethnic heel throughout most of his career. With partner Lou Albano, Altomare held the Midwest (Illinois) tag team title in 1961 and the WWWF U.S. tag team championship in 1967. He also was a long-time WWWF singles performer. More importantly, Altomare was the chief lifeguard in Stamford, CT for years, and is credited with rescuing many endangered swimmers and starting free swimming lessons for children in his home city. - Steve Johnson

Don "Ox" Anderson - January 18 - Unlike a more famous wrestling Utahan, Don Leo Jonathan, Don 'Ox' Anderson stayed true to his roots. He spent 25 years as a pro wrestler, based out of Utah, and died in Salt Lake City from heart failure on January 18, 2003. Wrestling took him (and his family) around the world, including a reign as N.W.A. Pacific Coast Tag Team Champion in Vancouver with Killer Kowalski in 1967. His most famous contribution may have been showing Dick Beyer the wonder of a women's girdle as a mask, which Beyer used to great success as The Sensational, Intelligent Destroyer. - Greg Oliver

"Classy" Freddie Blassie - May 30 - The self-ordained "King of Men," Fred Blassie was reviled and revered by wrestling fans around the world during a remarkable career that spanned parts of six decades. Legend holds that fans in Japan died of heart attacks watching him sink his finely filed teeth into opponents' faces. Yet he drew wild cheers when he did the same to archenemy John Tolos as part of their historic feud in 1971. With good looks, a commanding personality, and a sheer gift of gab, "Classy" Freddie Blassie helped to shepherd professional wrestling from carnival sideshows to global attractions. [Obit] - Steve Johnson

Floyd Creatchman - October 25 - The son of Eddie 'The Brain' Creatchman, Floyd was a wrestler before turning to manager. I talked to him a few times during 2003 for a story I was working on for Wrestling Revue magazine, but each time he declined to talk. I certainly would have liked to have heard some tales of wrestling in Detroit and managing in Montreal. - Greg Oliver [Obit]

Jack Curran - July 9 - Curran was the voice for Grand Prix Wrestling in Montreal for many years, and is regarded as one of the best commentators the business ever saw. He was remembered by John Woods in Greg Oliver's obituary as being a naturally funny man. "Jack Curran added comedy to whatever he'd done," Woods recalled. "Most of the guys in that era were very, very straight-laced. They were sitting there with their suits and ties, reading off their cue cards. Jack Curran would always throw in a joke. Jack Curran would be himself." [Obit] - Jon Waldman/Greg Oliver

Anthony Durante (Pitbull #2) - September 24 - As one half of the ECW Tag Team The Pitbulls with Gary Wolfe, Durante was known simply as "Pitbull #1." In 1995 they traded the ECW Tag Titles with Stevie Richards and Raven. When Wolfe was sidelined with a neck injury, Durante had a brief solo run and beat Shane Douglas for the ECW TV title in June of 1996, dropping it to newcomer Chris Jericho three weeks later. He was 36 when he died.

Elizabeth Huelette - April 30 - The first Woman I ever had a crush on was the demure and stunningly beautiful valet to "Macho Man" Obit">Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth. The early proto-type for today's "Divas" she was more moral support, rarely getting involved in matches. After divorcing from Savage in 1992 she returned in 1995 to WCW, where she managed Lex Luger, Ric Flair, The New World Order, and Savage. Her one and only wrestling match was against Rhonda Singh in WCW. She had been out of the spotlight since 2000 before her death. [Obit] - Jason Clevett

Kodo Fuyuki - March 19 - Fuyuki's career began with IWE, before moving over to All Japan in 1981. He would become a mainstay in the promotion, winning the All-Asian tag championships on three occasions with Toshiaki Kawada. Fuyuki would also have more title success as he moved on to WAR, FMW and WEW. He would also hold top individual titles in both FMW and WEW, including FMW's double titles in 1998. He would also spend time as FMW's booker as well as heading up WEW. His final match would take place in 2002, as he teamed up with Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa to beat Akira Taue, Masao Inoue and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi in Pro Wrestling NOAH. - Jon Waldman

Mickey Gold - July 25 - Max 'Mickey' Gold, who died on July 25th in Oakland, was one of a few mat men who turned to healing after his career was done. Born in Chicago, Gold got interested in wrestling during his stint in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After the war, he made his pro debut as "Mickey Gold, the Great Jewish Wrestler," and he worked as a grappler for 10 years. He then entered chiropractic college, having been fixed up by chiros during the War after breaking his back. Gold worked as a chiropractor in Oakland for 37 years, before retiring in 1991. He was 84 at the time of his death. - Greg Oliver

Stu Hart - October 16 - In the wrestling world, the term "Legend" tends to be thrown around loosely. However it is an appropriate term for Stu Hart, who was 88. He is considered the most influential man in Canadian Wrestling and one of the top trainers and promoters in wrestling, ever, period. Nearly every big name wrestler has a Stu Hart story. Fittingly, SLAM! had very in-depth coverage of Hart's life and legacy, which can be viewed in the Hart Family section of SLAM! - Jason Clevett

Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) - October 19 - I met Mike (Hawk) about a year ago at a Border City Wrestling show in Windsor. We were at dinner afterwards, and he asked me to join him at his table. For the next hour or so, we talked about the wrestling industry's past, present and future, his career highlights and low moments, his immense love of his family, and various other topics. In that short time, I found him to be a genuinely nice guy, with a keen business mind and an even keener sense of humour. Meeting Mike, talking to the man behind the face-paint and shoulder pads… well, to paraphrase… what a rush. Take care, Mike. [Obit] - Bob Kapur

Curt Hennig - February 9 - Considered by many to be one of the best men to never win the WWF or WCW World Title (He was AWA Champion) Hennig had a decorated career highlighted by two Intercontinental Title wins and classic feuds with the likes of Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. He wrestled all over the world in all the major promotions, including WWF, WCW, AWA and NWA-TNA. He made a brief comeback in the WWF in 2002 before a fight with Brock Lesnar on a plane from England led to his dismissal. Still fellow wrestlers commented that despite his cocky "Mr. Perfect" character, Hennig was a great human being. "He had four kids and was the coolest person. He was a great entertainer, amateur wrestler, and great in the locker room. Everybody liked him," Randy Savage told SLAM in November. [Obit] - Jason Clevett

Crash Holly (Mike Lockwood) - November 6 - Mike was one of the genuinely nice guys in the business. I spoke with him during the Wrestlemania 18 Axxess, and he was a riot to speak to. His genuine sense of humour was seen in so many of his matches, and he was never truly given the credit he deserved as one of wrestling's funny men. Equally as fun to watch in the ring as on the stick, Lockwood will always be remembered as one of the best hardcore wrestlers in WWF history. [Obit] - Jon Waldman

Dick Hutton - November 24 - Hutton was considered by many to be one of the premier wrestlers of his generation, if not all-time. Like some of the top wrestlers today, Hutton began in amateur wrestling, capturing three NCAA championships and representing the USA at the 1948 Summer Olympics. His professional career was nothing short of amazing. He was handpicked by Lou Thesz to be his successor in holding the NWA Heaveyweight Title, a reign that would last nearly two years. [Obit] - Jon Waldman

"Bullwhip" Danny Johnson - July 20 - It's always sad when someone dies, but it's even tougher when it's someone you know personally. Bullwhip Danny Johnson was a long-time friend, as I've written already on the site. Attending the funeral was a no-brainer. I had to be there, and it was fun to spend some time with some old friends like Ricky Johnson, Big Mac, Chuck Simms, Dewey Robertson, the Von Hess family, Reggie Love, and to meet Vic Rossitani finally. But what touched me the most was his family, especially his young son Eric, who is about 13. He approached me at the funeral, and said, simply, 'Thank you for writing such nice things about my Dad.' Man, talk about having one's hard work rewarded in just a few kind words. Eric, thank you for sharing your Dad with us all. [Obit] - Greg Oliver

Buzz Jones - April 29

Les Kellet - January 9

Steve Logan

Mike Lozanski - December 18 - Lozanski, 35, frequently wrestled as "Wildfire" Mike Anthony. The Calgary-raised wrestler broke into the business with Bret Como and WWE Superstar Chris Jericho and was trained by the Hart Family. His wrestling career took him around the world, throughout the U.S. and to Mexico and Japan. He had a run in ECW and was also used by WWE and WCW. [Obit| Tribute] - Jason Clevett

Masked Marvel (Stu McCullum) - Born in New Toronto, McCullum donned the mask between 1949 and 1954 before spending the remainder of his career under the pseudonym "Buddy Stewart". It should be noted, that after he hung up the boots, McCullum became a carpenter. His credits include several Academy Awards shows while he worked for ABC. - Jon Waldman

Ray Mendoza (Jose Diaz) - April 16 - Mendoza (real name Jose Diaz) was a bonafide Lucha Libre superstar, holding the NWA World Light Heavyweight strap on six occasions, and the UWA LightHeavyweight title on four, en route to being a top draw in Mexico and beyond from the late '50s to the early '80s. He was wildly successful as an unmasked wrestler in Mexico - a true credit to his ability. His legacy will continue to be upheld with honour by his sons, the Villanos, whose success can no doubt be credited to the discipline instilled in them by their father. - Mike Altamura

Jackie Nichols - April 22

Kurt Von Poppenheim - May 1 - Originally named Jack Von Poppenheim, Kurt legally changed his name near the tail-end of his wrestling career. He wrestled the majority of his career in the Pacific Northwest, acquiring multiple PNW Tag Team title reigns with various partners, including Dan Manoukian and Fritz Van Goering. He was also PNW's heavyweight champion, winning the belt in 1959. - Jon Waldman

Joe Powers - September 3

Sonny Reinhardt - February 10

Joey Rossi (Rositano) - November 29 - The son of Len Rossi, Joey's wrestling career included a variety of bouts where he teamed with his father throughout Tennessee and other regions in the Amercan Southeast. Among his title accomplishments were the NWA Mid-America Tag Team titles and the NWA Wold Six-Man Tag title. One of the more famous matches Rossi was involved in was a two-generation tag match, where he teamed with Len against Angelo and Lanny Poffo. Later in life, Joey served as alderman in Nolansville, Tennessee. [Obit] - Jon Waldman

"Gentleman" Ed Sharpe - November 18

Moondog Spot (Larry Booker) - November 29 - The more I learned about Moondog Spot's death, the sadder it was. He was a father of three, whose wife had passed on. His nine-year-old son was there the night he died, and his old two sons, 18 and 17, are going to try living on their own and taking care of their brother. He was buried in his Moondog pants, with belt rope. To say he lived for the business would be a major understatement. For more on his career, including details on his death during his match in November, see the Obit. - Greg Oliver

The Great Antonio - September 7 - The Montreal-based wrestler who first garnered attention by single handily pulling city buses passed away at the age of 77. Born in Yugoslavia in 1925, he moved to Montreal in 1946 at the age of 20. While working in a scrap yard, the 6-foot-4, 450 lbs strong man would move cars and buses around the lot. Later on, he would perform public feats of strength by pulling city buses and even a locomotive engine. Always looking for a way to promote himself, Antonio eventually started showing up at wrestling shows to challenge wrestlers. With an eccentric personality and wild man looks, Antonio was a natural fit for professional wrestling. He would promote wrestling shows himself and for time wrestled for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. However, his over-the-top ego led to clashes with various wrestling promoters, which hindered his overall accomplishments in the business. In addition to his wrestling pursuits, Antonio also made numerous movie appearances. - Corey David Lacroix/Greg Oliver

The Shiek - January 19 - Could he have really existed? Could a Lebanese immigrant, an Arab, actually be allowed to kneel on a prayer rug, and then toss fireballs and gouge opponents with broken-off pencils until they were complete and bloody messes? No wonder a palpable fear gripped fans, as The Sheik, Edward Farhat, entered the ring. He was "hardcore" before the term existed, headlining cards around the world for nearly half-a-century. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he reigned as virtually undefeatable in Toronto and Detroit (his own promotion), meriting his role as the greatest villain in wrestling history. [Special section] - Steve Johnson

"Sailor" Art Thomas - March 20 - As his nickname would suggest, Art Thomas served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. A weightlifter, he didn't get become a wrestler until his late 30's. In the 1960's and 1970's Thomas had to overcome the challenge of being African-American, but pulled it off and was successful with runs in Memphis, Florida, the Midwest and Texas. He often wrestled in Toronto as well. [Obit] - Jason Clevett

Jerry "The Wall" Tuite - December 5 - While many were not fans of The Wall, they could not help bur look in admiration at the big man. Tuite was a presence in WCW. Immediately before a hiatus by the company in the late 1990s, Tuite was beginning what looked like a headlining feud with Hulk Hogan. Had that feud been allowed to carry through, there is little doubt in my mind that the big man would've been given the opportunity to prove his critics wrong, and become one of the best big men in the wrestling world. [Obit] - Jon Waldman

Matt "Gladiator" Vershine - August 13 - Matt Vershine was only 21 when he was killed in a car accident in Saskatchewan. Trained by Bruce and Ross Hart he had refereed in Stampede Wrestling and wrestled in several small promotions in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Fellow wrestlers spoke highly of his heart and love of wrestling. - Jason Clevett

Boris Volkoff (Francis Zela) - October 15 - Volkoff will likely best be remember as being a Tag Team champion with his "brother", Nikolai Volkoff. Also a bodybuilder, Zela opened a variety of health and fitness clubs, where several wrestlers such as Bobo Brazil and Dick the Bruiser would work out. Zela also spent time serving as a merchant marine in World War II. [Obit] - Jon Waldman

Dan Walker - September 7

Wallaby Bob - August 1

Babs Wingo - August 18 - One of the first African American female wrestlers, Wingo faced discrimination in the ring as she broke the colour barrier for women's wrestling. She was known as being very agile and a pleasure to be around out of the ring. - Jon Waldman

Michiaka Yoshimura - February 15

Related links

  • SLAM! Wrestling's obituaries page