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Former Winnipeg wrestler Radocaj's death ruled a homicide

Big John Radocaj prepares to compete in a Winnipeg sumo bout. (NEW BRAND WRESTLING ARCHIVES)

Former Winnipeg wrestler and sumo competitor Big John Radocaj was found dead on Friday inside a rural residence in Interlake, Manitoba. He was 43.

East Interlake RCMP were called to the property about 8 p.m. Friday. An autopsy performed on Saturday at St. Boniface Hospital determined Ivan Radocaj died of blunt force trauma.

RCMP said Radocaj died of blunt force trauma and was the victim of a homicide, but are not releasing details about how he was fatally injured. Someone found his body Friday evening in a home he owned near Inwood in the Rural Municipality of Armstrong.

Many people in the local wrestling industry said they had not seen or heard from Radocaj in more than a decade.

Radocaj came to the attention of wrestling promoters when he was featured in the media after an armed robbery at a gas station where he was working. Promoter and trainer Walter Shefchyk convinced the 6-foot-9, 275-pound Radocaj to give professional wrestling a try, and trained the big man.

His debut came June 24, 1981 for the New Brand Wrestling promotion, and Radocaj teamed with Super Uke, defeating Superstar and Larry Anson, in Winnipeg.

He also worked for the Central Canadian Pro Wrestling promotion in the early '80s, and did a short tour for Emile Dupre's Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling late in the summer of 1984.

Radocaj was known at various times as the Croatian Giant, Ivan Radocaj and Ivan the Giant, and was usually a fan favourite. After New Brand closed in 1984, he didn't wrestle much.

When Winnipeg promoter Walter Shefchyk started the North American Sumo Wrestling league in the province in the fall of 1985, Radocaj was its first champion.

No arrests have been made and RCMP are continuing to investigate.

The death follows the sudden passing of another Winnipeg wrestler, Monty Black, back on September 9, at the age of 45.

-- SLAM! Wrestling, with files from Chris Kitching, Winnipeg Sun