As our favorite stars age, they begin to fade away. In the world of professional wrestling, dozens of those individuals are leaving us each year. For the past fifteen or so years, it's been an overwhelming trend. 2018 held many shockers, including one that many of us thought would truly live forever. This annual entry remembers just a few of those names, but as always is no sleight on any who may have been overlooked.
This year saw the deaths of Bruno Sammartino, Big Bully Busick, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Don Leo Jonathan, Dynamite Kid, Nikolai Volkoff, Brian Christopher, Brickhouse Brown, Johnny Valiant, Masa Saito, Matt Cappotelli, Frank Durso, Paul Jones, Rockin' Rebel, Big Van Vader, Larry Hennig, Dick Slater, Chris Champion, Doc Dean, Mt. Fiji, Frank Andersson, Jose Lothario, and Villano III.
The Pittsburgh wrestling community was rocked to its core with the death of Bruno who was the cornerstone of a once thriving wrestling hotbed. There is no doubt that with his passing, the Pittsburgh wrestling scene as it was is gone forever. The deaths of Busick, Valiant, and Volkoff also factor into the Steel City, with all three having major ties. In December, journeyman Frank Durso also passed. Nicknamed "Slip Mahoney" by the late voice of Pittsburgh wrestling Bill Cardille, Durso ended up getting back into the local independent scene up until a few years ago and possibly enjoyed his greatest fame.
Dick Slater's death was not unexpected due to many issues over the past decade. Though he spent time in nearly every major organization of his era, one must wonder if his career could have been much more than it ended up being. Though not a national household name, Slater had the respect of fans and peers alike for his in-ring work and truly living up to his WWF nickname of "The Rebel."
Paul Jones was always a personal favorite of mine, though I only came in on his managerial career. Looking back at old footage, reading the magazines, and hearing the enthusiasm and testimonials of so many old school fans at the Charlotte Fanfests over the years, the real "Number One" really came to life. Possibly too small to have caught on nationally, Jones was a bonafide superstar in areas like Florida and the Carolinas. He was also a really fun guy to talk to who kept it real with fans in his later years.
The list of 2018 almost seemed endless as it continued to grow. A variety of situations, circumstances, and ages surrounded these deaths. All we have left are the memories, carried by each and every fan who these individuals touched. As the rings get emptier and the convention guest lineups get shorter, the ring in the great beyond just grows more crowded.
To paraphrase Jim Cornette, "They aren't making any new legends."