Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The World Class Curse

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The World Class Curse

With the recent release of the WWE DVD the Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling, I thought we’d take a look at one of the longest enduring myths of WCCW – the “World Class Curse.”

“Curses” are fairly common and quickly sprout up when deaths or other misfortunes start occurring. A couple of other curses include the “Curse of Poltergeist” which relates to the deaths of many of the cast and the “Madden Curse” (which says that whoever appears on the cover of the new John Madden football game will be injured that season).

Sometimes there’s a logical reason for a curse legend to spring up. The Conqueror is an excellent example of this. Many of the cast of this film (including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Pedro Armendariz, John Hoyt, and director Dick Powell) have died and were suffering from cancer. (All listed but Armendariz died of cancer. He committed suicide after learning that his diagnosis was terminal.) While it would be easy to attribute the deaths to a curse, the truth is much more logical. The film was shot in Utah near an atomic bomb test site. There are photographs in existence of Wayne and others from the cast working Geiger counters while on site.

A myth about a curse has sprouted about WCCW, as well. On the surface, it appears legit – 51 people associated with WCCW (who worked a match for either WCCW or USWA Dallas between 1982-1990) have died and another, referee Rick Hazzard’s death is unconfirmed.

This is obviously a large number. However, let’s take a look at them one by one.

Gentleman Chris Adams – WCCW mainstay. In addition to WCCW, Adams also competed for Wild West Wrestling and the UWF. After WCCW shut down, Adams went to the Global Wrestling Federation, worked for the USWA, and had a two year run in WCW. Adams was shot and killed on October 7, 2001 at the age of 45.

Andre the Giant – Appeared briefly for WCCW during the early 1980’s (and did so for numerous other companies as well). Andre is best known for his later 1980’s run in the WWF and he passed away from a heart attack on January 27, 1993 at the age of 46.

Jerry Allen – Cause of death unknown. Passed away in December of 1995 at the age of 32.

Mike Awesome – Briefly appeared through the USWA ties. Best known for his run in Japan, also appeared in WCW, ECW, and the WWE. Committed suicide in February of 2007 at the age of 42.

Giant Baba – Briefly appeared in WCCW during the 1980’s. Best known in Japan, especially for his work (in front of and behind the curtain) in All-Japan Pro Wrestling. Died of cancer on January 31, 1999 at the age of 61.

Nancy Benoit – Briefly appeared for WCCW during the 1980’s as Angel. Went on to be better known for her work in WCW and ECW as Woman. Murdered on June 25, 2007 at the age of 43.

Bam Bam Bigelow – Appeared for WCCW in 1986 as Crusher Yurkov. Also competed in the USWA, best known for his runs in the WWF, WCW, and ECW. Died on January 19, 2007 of a medication overdose in combination with heart disease at the age of 45.

Bruiser Brody – Regular for WCCW during the 1980’s, as well as appearing in the WWF, NWA, and AWA. Also regularly appeared in Japan and Puerto Rico. Murdered on July 16, 1988 at the age of 42.

Ray Candy – Briefly competed for WCCW in 1982 as the masked Superfly. Mainly competed for the NWA and AWA, but also competed in Japan. Died on May 23, 1984 at the age of 42.

Cocoa Samoa – Competed for WCCW during the 1980’s. Also competed for the NWA (primarily in Portland Wrestling) and CWA. Died on January 9, 2007 at the age of 61.

Frank Dalton – Briefly appeared for WCCW during the early 1980’s. Primarily appeared for the NWA. Died on October 17, 1995 from a stroke at the age of 54.

Rick Davidson – Briefly appeared in WCCW during the mid 1980’s as the second Red River Jack. (Jack was the way Bruiser Brody got around a loser leaves town stipulation. Davidson wore the mask when Jack and Bruiser appeared on screen together.) Died of a staph infection on August 5, 2000 at the age of 47.

Mike Davis – Appeared in WCCW during the early 1980’s. Perhaps best known for his run as one of the Rock `N Roll RPMs. Also appeared for the AWA, WCW, and GWF. Died December 21, 2001 at the age of 45 from a heart attack.

El Gran Markus – Luchador who also made early 1980’s WCCW appearances. Appeared regularly for various Mexican lucha promotions. Died November 15, 2007 at the age of 68 from complications due to diabetes.

Rick Fowler – Wrestled for WCCW in the late 1980’s as a Dog of War or Buster Blackheart. Passed away in June of 2007.

Gene Goodson – Former host of the WCCW syndicated television show in the early 1980’s. Passed away in September of 1998 following several heart attacks and strokes.

Terry Gordy – Spent several years in WCCW as part of the Fabulous Freebirds. Toured Japan extensively with Dr. Death Steve Williams. Also had brief runs in WCW, ECW, and the WWF. Died on July 16, 2001 from complications due to a blood clot at the age of 40.

Ronnie P. Gossett – Longtime USWA manager who made brief appearances in WCCW toward the end of the 1980’s through the USWA connection. Passed away July 23, 2007 from colon cancer.

John Harris – Briefly appeared in WCCW during the mid-80’s as Little John. Also appeared for the WWF as Trapper John and for the AWA as Silo Sam. He passed away in the early 1990’s.

Lord Alfred Hayes – Appeared in WCCW during the early 1980’s. Soon departed for the WWF, where he became best known as a commentator and host for various Coliseum Video releases. Died on July 21, 2005 at the age of 76 following several strokes.

Gino Hernandez – WCCW mainstay and tag team partner of Chris Adams as the Dynamic Duo. Died February 1st, 1986 (approximately) at the age of 28 from a drug overdose.

Hercules Hernandez – Appeared in WCCW during 1982-1983, where he was managed by Sunshine. Best known for his WWF run as Hercules, but also competed for WCW and New Japan. Died from heart disease on March 6, 2004 at the age of 46.

Scott Irwin – Competed for WCCW in the early 1980’s with his brother Bill Irwin as the masked Super Destroyers. He died on September 5, 1987 from a brain tumor at the age of 35.

Don Jardine – Competed for WCCW in the early 1980’s as the masked Spoiler. Died December 16, 2006 at the age of 66 from complications of a heart attack and leukemia.

Junkyard Dog – Appeared for WCCW between 1983 and 1984. Best known for his later WWF run, although he also competed for WCW. Died in a car accident June 2, 1998 at the age of 45.

Killer Karl Krupp – Appeared for WCCW during the early 1980’s. Died of a heart attack on August 24, 1995 at the age of 61.

Ernie Ladd – Appeared for WCCW during the early 1980’s. Best remembered for his earlier run in the WWWF. Died March 10, 2007 at the age of 68 from cancer.

Cowboy Lang – Midget wrestler who briefly appeared for WCCW. Died January 4, 2007 at the age of 56 from unknown causes.

Jos LeDuc – USWA mainstay. Briefly appeared in WCCW in 1986. Died May 1, 1999 from a lung infection at the age of 54.

Little Mr. T – Midget wrestler who briefly appeared for WCCW. Died May 5, 2001.

Bronko Lubich – Former wrestler who was best known during the WCCW run as a referee. Died August 10, 2007 at the age of 81.

Harvey Martin – Former WCCW and GWF commentator who also competed in the ring for the WWF’s Wrestlemania II battle royal. Died December 24, 2001 at the age of 51 from pancreatic cancer.

Dave Peterson – Appeared in WCCW during the mid 1980’s. Died from a motorcycle crash on May 25, 1993 at the age of 33.

Ralph Pulley – Longtime WCCW referee, ring announcer, singer, and writer. Died January 2, 1992.

Jeff Raitz – Competed for WCCW during the late 1980’s under a mask as the Hood – better known as Jeff Gaylord. USWA mainstay who also competed for the UWF. Died February 9, 2002 at the age of 38.

Joe Rinelli – Longtime WCCW ring announcer. Worked with WCCW from the 1960’s until 1988.

Dewey Robertson – Better known as the Missing Link. Competed for WCCW throughout the 1980’s, also had WWF and UWF runs. Died August 16, 2007 at the age of 68 from cancer.

Rick Rude – Competed in WCCW from 1985-1986. Best known for his WWF run, also competed in WCW, CWF, and Jim Crockett Productions. Worked for ECW in 1997 as a manager and commentator. Died April 20, 1999 at the age of 40 from an overdose of medications.

Buzz Sawyer – Competed in WCCW in 1986. Also appeared for the WWF, Mid-South, and WCW. Died February 7, 1992 at the age of 32 from a drug overdose.

David Sheldon – Competed in WCCW in the late 1980’s as the Angel of Death. Kerry Von Erich’s final opponent. Also worked for WCW and the GWF. Died November 24, 2007 at the age of 43.

Haru Sonoda – Briefly appeared for WCCW as the Magic Dragon. Died in a plane crash on November 28, 1987 at the age of 31.

Jeep Swenson – Competed for WCCW during 1987 and 1988. Later appeared in WCW and as Bane in 1997’s Batman & Robin. Died August 18, 1997 at the age of 40 from heart failure.

Billy Travis – USWA mainstay who briefly appeared as part of the USWA connection. Died November 23, 2002 at the age of 40 from an apparent heart attack.

Jumbo Tsuruta – Briefly appeared in WCCW. Best known for his appearances in All-Japan. Died May 13, 2000 at the age of 49 from complications from a kidney transplant.

Chris Von Erich – The youngest Von Erich brother who did not begin competing until after the USWA buyout. Committed suicide on September 12, 1991 at the age of 21.

David Von Erich – The second of the Von Erich brothers to enter the ring. Reportedly was set to win the NWA World title at the time of his death. Died of gastric enteritis on February 10, 1984 at the age of 25.

Fritz Von Erich – WCCW promoter and father of the Von Erich brothers. Died on September 10, 1997 at the age of 68 from cancer.

Kerry Von Erich – Third Von Erich brother to enter the ring. In addition to his WCCW run, also competed for the WWF as the Texas Tornado. Lost his right foot following a 1986 motorcycle accident. Committed suicide on February 18, 1993 at the age of 33.

Mike Von Erich – The further Von Erich brother to enter the ring. Suffered from toxic shock syndrome following a shoulder injury in 1985. Committed suicide on April 12, 1987 at the age of 23.

Ed Watt – Former WCCW matchmaker.

Tojo Yamamoto – USWA mainstay. Competed in WCCW and USWA Dallas during 1990 and 1991. Committed suicide on February 19, 1992 at the age of 65.

That is certainly a lengthy list. However, let’s rule out a few World Class Curse theories.

Almost all of the deceased worked for other promotions as well. Several competed for the USWA. Could there be a USWA curse? Or a WWF curse?

Although the list is long, it shrinks considerably when the names that died after the promotion closed are removed. Only Bruiser Brody, Ray Candy, Gino Hernandez, Scott Irwin, Magic Dragon, David Von Erich, and Mike Von Erich are left.

The list further shrinks when names are removed who were not working for WCCW at the time of their deaths. Only David Von Erich (although he was on tour in Japan), Mike Von Erich, and Gino Hernandez remain. Bruiser Brody could be added to the list as well since his return to the territory was being announced when he died.

But of those four names, only Mike was the only wrestler who had only worked for World Class. All of the others had worked for other promotions and, in the cases of David and Bruiser, were working in other promotions at the time of their deaths.

Although the list is long, it’s also important to remember that a lot of wrestlers moved from territory to territory at this time. A territory would have very few wrestlers who stayed in one place for long lengths of time (like Adams, Hernandez, and the Von Erichs), and that would cause the number of wrestlers who passed through the territory to rise greatly. Each wrestler who entered the territory would simply raise the number of possible deaths.

Something else to rule out the “curse” is the fact that many of the wrestlers who have died were over 60. A lot of the wrestlers did die prematurely, but a sad fact about the wrestling business today is that a lot of wrestlers do die young. If you don’t believe that, take a look at this list. It is some of the recent WWF/WWE wrestlers who have passed away by the age of 40.

Joey Marella – 30
Crash Holly – 32
Chris Candido – 33
Owen Hart – 34
Yokozuna – 34
Brian Pillman – 35
Marianna Komlos – 35
Eddie Guerrero – 38
Davey Boy Smith – 39
Johnny Grunge – 39
Bertha Faye – 40
Chris Benoit – 40

That is in addition to the names listed on the WCCW list, many of whom also worked for the WWE, WCW, and ECW. Also, Pillman, Guerrero, Benoit, Marella, and Owen were working for the WWE at the time they died. Does that mean that there is a WWE curse?

To conclude, there is no curse on World Class. World Class has suffered tragedy after tragedy, but so has every other wrestling promotion out there. The likely truth is that people loved these wrestlers. They were heroes in Texas. When they started dying, fans needed a reason that this was happening. The easiest reason to believe was that there was a curse on World Class. Now that it’s entered folklore, there may be no way to stop it.

By the way, to bust the other two myths I mentioned in the teaser – the original Undertaker and original Ultimate Warrior did not die. The Undertaker and Warrior are still the same two men who portrayed them back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. And no, Kerry Von Erich was never the Ultimate Warrior.

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