I still remember when you crushed Jake's snake, Damian! RIP big guy.
I am very sorry to report that after a very public and lengthy battle with bladder cancer, former WWF and WCW star John Tenta, best known professionally as Earthquake, passed away this morning at 42.
A native of British Columbia, Tenta was a former sumo wrestler before breaking into professional wrestling. Trained by Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsruta, and The Great Kabuki, Tenta made his way to All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Tenta soon appeared in the World Wrestling Federation, debuting as a planted fan in the crowd who attacked The Ultimate Warrior during a show of strength against Dino Bravo. Tenta headlined Summerslam '90 against Hulk Hogan while managed by Jimmy Hart, playing off an angle where he injured Hogan so bad, it appeared Hogan would never return.
Tenta held the WWF Tag Team championship as a member of the Natural Disasters with Typhoon and later portrayed a number of characters in WCW as a member of the Dungeon of Doom, including The Shark and The Avalanche. He later returned to the WWF for a brief run in the late 1990s under a mask as Golga, a member of the Oddities faction that carried around an Eric Cartman doll.
While considered generally to be a nice, gentle person to work with, Tenta was a legitimate tough guy. In May 1991, he ended up in a shoot with former sumo star Koji Kitao while working for the SWS promotion in Japan. To check out footage of that incident, click here.
In a statement issued on May 11, 2004, Tenta announced he would be retiring from the ring to battle cancer. While he turned down interviews and appearances during his illness, Tenta remained in close contact with his fans via the www.WrestleCrap.com website run by his good friend R.D. Reynolds. That message board still features a number of diary entries from Tenta discussing his battle with the disease. Tenta's last post, made in April, discussed how proud he was of his children and how patient and caring his wife was during his illness. He noted all the good things in his life, finishing with, "WOOHOO! Life does not totally suck for me either!"
Tenta did visit backstage at several WWE events during his illness, writing at the time that he would never forget the kindness shown to his family and his children by WWE's staff, particularly Triple H.
Tenta also wrote the foreword of Reynolds first book, Wrestlecrap - The Very Worst of Professional Wrestling, noting, "No one knows for certain whether a wrestler's gimmick will work or fall flat on its face. It;s the fans who decide. All we can do, as wrestlers, is give it our best shot. I didn't like dressing up like a shark, but it was what I was given to do and I did my best. Some fans even had fun with it. When fans come up to me now, they inevitably recite an interview I did at the end of the gimmick. "I'm not a shark," I said on Nitro. "I'm a man. I'm John Tenta." People remember that, so I guess I did my job."
"Underneath the gimmicks, wrestlers are all just men and women trying hard to be successful in their jobs. We're trying to climb that ladder to the top, even though the ladder may have a few rungs missing or be a little short. We do what is asked of us. Some people asked why I agreed to play the role of a fish man. The answer is plain and simple, If I hadn't, there were plenty of other people who would have. I just wanted to be able to provide for my family. I was just a guy trying to make a living. Take away my gimmicks, good and bad, and I'm just a regular person like you."
Tenta had been living in Florida the last several years, but was in Friendswood, Texas when he passed away this morning. He is survived by his wife and three children.
PWInsider.com sends our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and fans of John Tenta.