On Wednesday, June 7, 2006 the wrestling world lost a great man. While John Tenta didn’t have the glamorous gimmicks of a Shawn Michaels or the lasting in-ring legacy of an Undertaker or Hulk Hogan, he made the very best of whatever situation he was given. When WWE told him to “kill” Jake Roberts’ pet snake, he did so; when they paired him up with Hulk Hogan early in his career, he matched Hogan’s size and strength at a very young age; and when WCW gave him the gimmick of being a Shark…he took the shtick and performed admirably.
Before debuting in WWE, Tenta was an extremely successful Sumo wrestler and an accomplished amateur wrestler. Undoubtedly, though, Tenta’s biggest professional success came as part of a tag team with Fred “Tugboat/Typhoon” Ottoman. As the Natural Disasters, Earthquake and Typhoon physically dominated their opponents and even won the prestigious WWE Tag Team Championship at a time when that title meant something.
This website, in its early years, even started a mildly successful online campaign to “Bring Back the Natural Disasters,” which, we understand, made both Tenta and Ottoman get a good-hearted laugh. For all of the years of entertainment that this man brought to the fans and me personally, I am glad that we could do something to return the favor, even if it was unsuccessful in bringing them back to TV!
From his WWE debut squashing the Ultimate Warrior in the middle of a push-up contest to his final days in the ring as “Golga” of the Howard Stern inspired Oddities, John Tenta did what he could to give the fans their money’s worth. His personal humility outside of the ring is a trait that many of today’s “superstars” could learn a thing or two about. John Tenta was a rare man in the wrestling business…a man who put his family and friends before his legacy.
And perhaps that will be his greatest legacy in professional wrestling – the fact that after he passed away, his contemporaries and fans only have positive, great things to say about him. John Tenta may not leave behind multiple world championships or a cadre of in-ring success, but he does leave behind fans who respect the effort that this man put in to his trade. Tenta was a performer and a man who could perform on the biggest stages against the best competition.
I extend my deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends and I join in grieving for this good-natured, mild-hearted man who was taken away from the world way too early at the age of 42 from one of the world’s greatest killers, cancer.