Here is the second of my tributes to notable personalities who died in 2011, this time focusing on the art of warfare. In the cases of Randy Savage and Larry Sweeney choosing just a few matches seemed unfair to their career and in terms of others I chose based on what I knew and could find online that I felt was quality enough to display.
(It can be argued that fighting and wrestlers don’t belong each other, but they do call it sports entertainment if its not wrestling, so they fit together)
“Smokin” Joe Frazier (67- cancer): The brazen and boisterous boxer and co star of the three boat Fight of the Century, Part 2 and Thrilla in Manilla turned into a bitter, crazy man whose answering machine recording had him razzing on Mohammed Ali, brought that Ali is now fallen with Parkinson’s Syndrome and feeling as he was the cause of it. The documentary “Thrilla in Manilla” showed the world a very broken, torn, damanged, interesting individual who believed in himself, his skill and his convictions and a man who proved himself in the ring day in and day out. It’s almost shameful that he was the one who passed before Ali. I doubt Ali thinks of it that way. Ali made heavy gestures to seek a kinship and forgiveness from Joe for a long time, and Joe seemed to just ignore it up until 2009 where he finally forgave him and they mended things before the end. His boxing matches will always be something worthy to re-watch and he left a powerful legacy.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (58- massive heart attack): Following this sentence is the wild obituary tribute I wrote for Savage on his passing at the time and it still stands. Savage was easily one of my favorite of all time. He brought everything I liked about wrestling into a secure package. Flamboyancy, technical athletics, insane rumblings, maniacal interviews and a never say die attitude. When everyone went right, he went left. I’d say his promos and raps tell his tale better than anything ever could. Sugar was sweet and so was honey. Macho Man went to the top, fell down, got back up and went to the top again. The mountain was there standing like a pillar of salt and he just tossed it behind his back like a rock, paper, scissors. You don’t see the steamroller coming till it’s ahead of you and you’ve been flattened out. An elbowdrop from the top is what it was all about. Yellow and Pink, Purple and green, red and black, colors bleed and so does blood. Hardcore before there was hardcore, he piledrove Ricky Morton on a table and it didn’t crack in half, it shattered. It wasn’t breakaway, but real furniture. Did he become a joke with his rap album or just cement his legend of insanity and unpredictability? I say the second, you can disagree. It doesn’t matter, because here’s to the Macho Man. Hoping he’s off in some afterlife back together with Miss Elizabeth after their break up almost 20 years ago. Or maybe he’s with Sherri. He has his pick, he’s the Macho Man!
Bison Smith (38-heart complications): A huge wrestler who never really got his chance to prove himself stateside. In both Cuba and Japan, he worked for major markets, including the Colon’s IWC and Misawa’s NOAH. He was as brutal, determined and talented as any hoss currently in WWE or TNA, even better. In this one notable American organization he worked, Ring Of Honor he was brought in as a beast, but quickly became just another dude via bad booking, storylines and wasted potential. He sadly had heart issues and passed away not long after a match with current WWE superstar Primo Colon in Cuba. Sadly and unfortunately he was involvd in the match that took Misawa’s life, although nothing he had done was the cause of it… that was all on Saito and Misawa being too rough. Bison wasn’t too rough, he just made it look that good. This particular playlist of matches off of Youtube really shows off Bison really well.
Larry Sweeney (30- suicide by hanging): This indie wrestler and manager was a modern day Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart and Paul Dangerously all rolled into one. He was manic, frenetic and truly could raise a crowd. I had the pleasure of experiencing him at Ring of Honor in 2008 in Florida during a Wrestlemania weekend where my highlight was totally the two ROH shows, and also experiencing Universal Studios Florida for the first time in years. Sadly, Larry had many demons, demons he just could not defeat, demons so powerful they caused him to take his own life. The signs and warnings were always there and while he continually would seek help and friends offered a hand, I believe not breaking the bubble of getting further in his career weighed heavily on him. Heavier than it has on others in similar situations as his. He was a pretty formidable talent in the ring as he was in the mic, although only super indie and Chikara fans really got to see that side of him. Please do yourself a favor and do a Youtube search on Sweeney, choosing just a few moments of his short but awesome career is impossible for me.
Little Tokyo (70- heart attack): Considered by many to be one of the greatest if not THE greatest midget wrestler of all time, Little Tokyo worked in the business for over 25 years and even reached the “pinnacle” of sports entertainment working at Wrestlemania where he teamed with his long time friend Lord Littlebrook and King Kong Bundy against Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid. I recommend this tribute article by Slam! producer Greg Oliver. The match I am choosing to link to is from Mid-South Wrestling in 1985, it features Little Tokyo teaming with Littlebrook and Jack Victory against “Iceman” King Parsons, “Cowboy” Lang and “Little Coco”, I chose it because Parsons is awesome.
Shawn Tompkins (37- heart attack): A highly influential and important fight trainer, while unsuccessful in MMA himself, he was a very successful kick boxer and helped coach future up & comers like Sam Stout and Mark Homnicheck, as well as some of greatest fighters ever including Victor Belfort and Wanderlai Silva.
Umanosuke Ueda (71- respiratory failure): Not familiar with his wrestling career as he worked Japan in the 70’s and 80’s a bit before my time with the countries wrestling, but he was in cult Japanese film, Burst City, which I loaned to my best friend and which he never watched and which he still has… “somewhere” as he says. I was able to find Ueda matches on Youtube though. I knew which one he was immediately when I saw the long blond hair. It was kind of his trademark to be a platinum blonde in Japan during a time when that wasn’t normal. Here he is a match against The Funks and another match featuring Stan Hansen, Dick Slater and his main opponent Genichiro Tenryu.
Doctor X (43, gunshot to the head): Never a big fan of CMLL, but this Mexican wrestlers death is even more messed up than one of my favorite Mexican wrestler’s Abismo Negro’s. Dude was a religious party and a fight somehow breaks out. He tries to calm the situation down and gets shot point blank in the head. I know so little of Dr. X as a wrestler/lucha rudo that I don’t even know what match to show you. I know he was working reguarly up until his murder, so if you look up Dr. X and CMLL or Perros Del Mal you’ll find something. Here’s one from August of 2011, where he was now Dr. Xtreme teaming with Peligro and Jigga Ek Boam against Tony Rivera, Zumbi and Black Fire in Perros Del Mal Rebellion.