First, those over 50. These men and women contributed a great deal to the evolution of our sport and, while some encountered tough times in their later years, to a man and woman they succumbed to natureâ<80><99>s call home with dignity and left us with a smile on our face and a tear in our eye:
Ray â<80><9c>Thunderâ<80> Stern, age 74 (March 6, 2007, from complications following heart surgery) – Was he what was causingâ<80><99> all this? The case could be made that this former bodybuilder turned wrestler turned entrepreneur opened the door for the gassed up freaks who have bombarded wrestling since the 80’s. However, Stern was never, ever gassed up (unless you count the unfortunate after affects of Bay Area crabcakes). He was natural and due tons of respect for building up wrestling in San Francisco.
â<80><9c>Bad Newsâ<80> Allen Coage, age 63 (March 6, 2007, of a heart attack) – A legit tough guy who, Iâ<80><99>m not afraid to say, scared the piss outta me the one time I met him. And all he said was â<80><9c>nice to meet ya.â<80> I felt like a beer-bellied, sharecropper.
Ernie â<80><9c>The Catâ<80> Ladd, 68 (March 10, 2007, of cancer) – Every one of those unforgettable promos that began, â<80><9c>Let me tell ya somethinâ<80><99>, Mr. TV announcer…â<80> had me riveted. Another legit athlete who graced wrestling with his presence.
Arnold Skaaland, 82 (March 13, 2007, of heart disease) – He was trusted with money by the McMahonâ<80><99>s. That should be on his tombstone. He would probably be the only person who could actually make that claim. Although I never saw him work the gimmick, I never knew he was the â<80><9c>Bobby Weaverâ<80> to whom I heard so many old school Georgia Championship Wrestling fans refer.
Sandy Barr, 74 (June 2, 2007, of a heart attack) – Had the stones to promote in the Pacific Northwest against all odds. He also produced two of my personal guilty pleasure performers: Art Barr and Jesse Barr.
Ronnie P. Gossett, 64 (July 23, 2007, of colon cancer) – The female Moolah. No seriously. I worked with him many times and he never failed to crack me up or ask for money. He was a worker extrordinaire. And couldnâ<80><99>t even lock up.
Tor Kamata, 70 (July 23, 2007, of congestive heart failure) – Had a great look and an in-ring style that would have gotten over today (who am I kidding, it is getting over today as practiced by Umaga). He also had a cool as hell name.
Karl Gotch, 82 (July 28, 2007, complications from aortic aneurysm surgery) – It took balls the size of a MiniCooper to name yourself after the greatest of all time (Frank Gotch, for you youngsters) but, Iâ<80><99>ll be damned, he did it and improved on the reputation the name carried with it.
Bronco Lubich, 81 (August 10, 2007, of a heart attack) – Most remember Bronco as the first (and thus far only) ref to count a fall from a three-point stance but he formed very successful tag teams with Aldo Bogni and Angelo Poffo. He also trained a young Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Dewey Robertson, 68 (August 17, 2007 of lung and liver cancer) – Its sad when we lose anyone with the talent of The Missing Link. Whatâ<80><99>s sadder still is that, although he was well over 50, he probably should be in the other group. His years of substance abuse no doubt weakened him to the point where the cancer that ravaged him was given free reign. For me, the second saddest death of 2007. I hope The Link is at peace.
The Fabulous Moolah, 84 (November 2, 2007, of complications from shoulder surgery) – Without question the best worker in the history of the sport. I donâ<80><99>t necessarily mean in the ring. And I donâ<80><99>t mean that in a good way, either. Regardless, since wrestling is a business not a popularity social club, she must be given her due.
Check for Part II: The Deaths of Those Under 50 on the main page and join me in the forums for your thoughts on those we lost (including any you feel deserve mentioning but were omitted).