Striplv Magazine - The Sexiest Magazine on the Planet, Issue 0217

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Page 71 of 79

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka Although the Superfly wrestled for many NWA regional promotions before, and for the AWA after his run with the WWF, it was perhaps his time in the WWF that is most memorable. In a storyline where Captain Lou Albano cheated him out of money, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers became his new manager and Snuka turned from villain to hero. As a villain, his feud with Bob Backlund was legendary. And as a hero, his leap off the top of a steel cage onto Don “Magnificent” Muraco had inspired future wrestlers Mick Foley and Tommy Dreamer for their fearless style, both of whom were in attendance. But perhaps one of the most iconic moments of ‘80s wrestling came when “Rowdy” Roddy Piper smashed a coconut over Snuka’s head to trigger their feud. In 2015 Snuka was indicted and arrested on third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in relation to the 1983 death of his then girlfriend. Snuka pleaded not guilty and in June 2016 was found unfit to stand trial due to being diagnosed with dementia. On January 3, 2017, the charges against him were dismissed and twelve days later Snuka, 73, passed away. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of who passed on from that perceived Golden Era of sports entertainment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention: Big John Studd (1995, age 47), a big man who along with others like King Kong Bundy set the standard for the big men of the era and who participated in WrestleMania I in a bodyslam challenge versus Andre the Giant; Junkyard Dog (1998, age 45), a popular African American competitor, especially with younger fans, who went from being a regional star in Tennessee, Louisiana and the Carolinas to national prominence with the WWF; “Ravishing” Rick Rude (1999, age 40), a four-time world champion who had a stellar career in the waning days of the territories as the industry transitioned to the national companies. At the height of the Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW, Rude was the only wrestler to appear on both “Raw is War” and “Monday Nitro” broadcasts on the same night as Raw was pre-recorded and he had jumped to WCW in the interim; Gorilla Monsoon (1999, age 62), a former wrestler who became a beloved TV announcer, and Gordon Solie (2000, age 71) who called play-by-play for 36 years, were about as iconic as you could get in their roles as storytellers – Monsoon for the WWF and Solie for WCW/NWA; Yokozuna (2000, age 34), a two-time WWF world and world tag team champion who, at nearly 600 pounds, was also a member of the famous Anoaʻi wrestling family. Roman Reigns, Rikishi and The Rock were among his cousins; Davey Boy Smith (2002, age 39), who along with tag team partner, Dynamite Kid, formed the British Bulldogs, and Road Warrior Hawk (2003, age 45), who along with tag team partner, Animal, comprised the Legion of Doomb, together redefined tag team wrestling with their fearless, unabashed physical wrestling styles; The Public Enemy tag team, comprised of “Flyboy” Rocco Rock (2002, age 49) and Johnny Grunge (2006, age 39), who helped define Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) for their hardcore wrestling style and use of tables that was later adopted by the Dudleys. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (2003, age 44), a second generation wrestler who initially rose to stardom in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and was noted for his athletic prowess; Hercules Hernandez (2004, age 47), a wrestler who primarily performed in Florida and Texas before getting to the big stage in the WWF in the mid-‘80s, was noted for his tremendous strength and physique; Big Boss Man (2004, age 41), a real-life former Cobb County, Georgia prison guard who portrayed a number of Boss Man-like characters throughout the 1990s with WCW and who was one of the most respected wrestlers behind the scenes by his peers; Eddie Guerrero (2005, age 38), a second generation competitor, who helped define Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 1995, the World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight division in the mid-to-late-‘90s and later the WWF/WWE Attitude Era; Earthquake (2006, age 42), a former sumo wrestler, John Tenta, along with his tag team partner Typhoon, was perhaps best known for being a member of The Natural Disasters, one of the largest tag teams to ever compete; The Fabulous Moolah (2007, Age 84), a pioneer of ladies wrestling, responsible for training two generations of stars and who was an integral part of the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection storyline as she, managed by Lou Albano, lost her title after a 28-year-run to Wendi Richter, managed by Cyndi Lauper, at the inaugural WrestleMania; Sherri Martel (2007, age 49), a former WWF and AWA champion, and Luna Vachon (2010, age 48), a second generation wrestler and valet, both of whom helped usher in the WWF’s Attitude Era and also had notoriety with ECW; Verne Gagne (2015, age 89), the legendary champion and promoter of the AWA and Nick Bockwinkle (2015, age 80) the perennial AWA champion during most of the 1980s who was classy both in the ring and out; Mr. Fuji (2016, age 81), a talented tag team wrestler who achieved his greatest fame as a manager and appearing alongside “Magnificent” Don Muraco during the mid-‘80s in the WWF TV spoof “Fuji Vice”; And the Von Erich Family, which saw noted World Class Wrestling promoter, wrestler and family patriarch Fritz pass in 1997 at age 68, four of his five wrestling sons passed before him. David (1984, age 25) died while on tour of Japan, while Mike (1987, age 23), Chris (1991, age 21) and Kerry (1993, age 33) all committed suicide. Unfortunately, there are four more deaths that should be noted, all of which are shrouded in tragedy. In July 1998, Bruiser Brody, 42, a former football player and sportswriter, who helped innovate the “brawling” style of pro wrestling and who was considered a bit of an outlaw in the business for trying to stick up for the rights of wrestlers over the promotions they worked for, was stabbed in the showers prior to a match in Puerto Rico. José González, a wrestler who also worked for the office and was the prime suspect in the murder, was acquitted of the crime. In May 1999, Owen Hart, 34, son of the legendary Stu Hart and younger brother of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, fell to his death following an equipment malfunction during a live WWF pay-per-view event. Many of his peers considered him to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time and believed that his best years were still in front of him. But in June 2007, the most notorious deaths in all of professional wrestling took place and became headline news around the world. Over a three day period, Chris Benoit, 40, killed his wife Nancy, 43, who had achieved her own level of success as a manager/valet for ECW and WCW (under the guise “Woman” when she was married to then wrestler Kevin Sullivan) and then strangled their 7-year-old son Daniel before hanging himself. The double-murder and suicide sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling world and has since been the subject of radio and TV talk shows, books, a documentary and as announced in September 2016, a planned feature film. Whether they passed by natural causes, heartbreaking accidents or as we’ve seen, more menacing conditions, professional wrestling has certainly had its fair share of iconic deaths – and then some.

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