Jerry Lawler was one of the first to break the news this morning that legendary territorial wrestler Ox Baker passed away in Hartford, CT, during the night. He was 80 years old.
Baker had a number of health issues and his death was attributed to a heart attack. He had been in a wheelchair for several months.
The Ox worked the territories throughout the 60s and 70s and was best known for his finishing move the Heart Punch. Although it was not in any way a dangerous move, the death of his opponent Ray Gunkel in 1972 was hyped as being the result of the finisher. Gunkel’s death was actually down to a blood-clot caused heart attack. The previous year another of his opponents Alberto Torres died of a ruptured appendix, which again was sold as being from the Heart Punch.
Baker’s distinctive look and charisma allowed him to be one of the few wrestlers to get acting roles, starring in Jackie Chan’s The Big Brawl and as Kurt Russell’s gladiatorial opponent in John Carpenter’s Escape From New York.
WWE.com issued the following statement:
“WWE is saddened to learn that Ox Baker, a feared villain of the ring for more than three decades, passed away Monday morning at age 80. A 6-foot-5 behemoth from Waterloo, Iowa, Baker originally competed in WWWF in the late 1960s and became one of the most intimidating forces known inside the squared circle — both due to his unique look and devastating heart punch. Over the span of an impressive career, the big man traded blows with the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race.
“Outside the ring, Baker also put the hurt on actor Kurt Russell as the brute played an appropriately savage warrior in the post-apocalyptic world of John Carpenter’s 1981 sci-fi classic, “Escape from New York.”
“WWE extends its condolences to Baker’s colleagues, friends and family.”