Wednesday, 07 June 2006 03:17
On Wednesday June 7th 2006, just 15-days short of his 43rd birthday John "Earthquake" Tenta passed away at the age of 42. John had a very long and difficult battle with bladder cancer, but in the end it was just too much for him to overcome. John Tenta is survived by his wife and their three kids.
It’s never an easy day for wrestling fans when they lose one of their heroes, someone they watched on TV every week. It is even harder when you get to know the person, you read their thoughts, know they are battling cancer and start to realize that they are nothing but a great person. That is what happened with John Tenta. People started to get to know him through his updates and postings at the WrestleCrap message board, and he grew a cult following of people that loved the person. Let’s take a short look back on the career of John, what he accomplished and all the characters he will be remembered for, whether good or bad.
- UWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion
- WWF World Tag-Team Champion w/ Typhoon
PWI Achievement Awards:
- 1990 Match of the Year, 2nd Runner-Up (Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan)
- 1990 Match of the Year, 3rd Runner-Up (Royal Rumble)
- 1990 Feud of the Year, 1st Runner-Up (Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan)
- 1990 Most Hated Wrestler
- 1992 Tag-Team of the Year, 1st Runners-Up (Natural Disasters)
John spent a lot of his time in Japan at the beginning of his career. In the late 1980’s he would work for All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he would work against all of the top names in Japan. In 1987 he teamed with The Great Kabuki and entered the AJPW Real World Tag League. They would make a good showing, but not good enough as Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu would win that year. In 1988 he would once again compete in the AJPW Real World Tag League, this time with Shunji Takano as his partner. That year was dominated by Stan Hansen and Terry Gordy, but Tenta was making a name for himself. He would use this as a catapult to greater things.
Those things were the then World Wrestling Federation. He would make his debut being pulled from the crowd at a WWF show, a show in which Dino Bravo and the Ultimate Warrior were having a pushup contest. Bravo of course did the pushups with him on his back, but when it was Warrior’s turn, he squashed the Warrior. “Big John” would then be named “The Canadian Earthquake” and would team with Dino Bravo. He and Bravo would battle Hogan and Warrior for the next few months all around the loop, and at the Main Event V, they met defeat when Hulk Hogan & Tugboat defeated them.
He would drop the “Canadian” moniker and just be known as “Earthquake.” Earthquake was seen as one of the big men to be out in Hogan’s path. Earthquake would take out Hogan with multiple Earthquakes, and at the time it was so real that millions of fans would send cards to Hogan wishing for his recovery. Earthquake would also eventually turn Hogan’s friend Tugboat against Hogan, and he would then be known as the “Typhoon.” Earthquake and Typhoon would eventually become the “Natural Disasters” and in July of 1992 they would defeat Money Inc. for the WWF tag Team Titles. After a short 3-month run with the belts, they would drop them back to Money Inc. Earthquake and Typhoon would separate, and Earthquake would go on to compete in the 1993 Royal Rumble before being let go by the WWF.
Earthquake would return back to Japan where he had started, working for WAR, New Japan and even UWFI during a next few months. The scope on North American Wrestling had changed though as Hogan had gone to WCW, and Hogan had a job for his friend and also one of his favorite opponents. The only problem was that he couldn’t use the Earthquake name.
In late 1994, the “Avalanche” debuted in WCW. For the next year he would play the same role he did in the WWF, playing monster to the faces, just this time it was Hogan, Sting and Savage. But the Avalanche wasn’t exactly what WCW wanted, so he went under another change. He would he known know as “The Shark” and would be a part of the Dungeon of Doom. He would still battle the faces such as Hogan, Sting, Savage and Luger, but now under the ridiculous guise of a giant man shark. They would eventually get him out of the gimmick when half of his beard and hair were shaved by Bubba Rogers. He would then wrestle as John Tenta, defeating Bubba and then quietly he was gone from WCW in 1996.
He would return to Japan and work for the WAR promotion and various Independent promotions is the US. Eventually WWF came calling again, in the oddest way possible. In 1998 “Golga” would debut in the WWF as part of a group called the Oddities. It was John under a big gold mask carrying around a Cartman Doll. Long time fans realized it was him, and many thought the job was given to him by McMahon as a thanks for his early years of service and the mask was to protect his identity in the groups of, oddities. The gimmick ran its course in about a year, and once again John was off of the radar.
He would make his last “big time appearance” in the Gimmick Battle Royal during WrestleMania 17. After that it was off to some Japan trips for All Japan in 2002 and 2003. He would open up a wrestling school in Sanford, Florida during this time, and even ran some small events. In May of 2004 John Tenta shocked the wrestling world by announcing that he had advanced bladder cancer, and would start chemotherapy. He was told that he would have 13-18-months maximum to live without treatment. There were times where John underwent 4-chemotherapy sessions a day, but it wasn’t enough. He developed lumps on his lung and a lump on his hip. In November of 2005 it was discovered that the chemo wasn’t helping with those, and most knew that it would only be a matter of time. Seven months later, time ran out.
Wrestling is a business where you often hear that you can count your “real friends” on one hand. I think that anyone that knew John counted him as one of those 5-friends. He’s one of the guys that you never heard a bad thing about, and in this backstabbing business that is rare. The one time Sumo Wrestler turned Japanese wrestling star and eventually World Wide Star accomplished more than most could hope in their careers, and now leaves an honorable legacy behind him.
In the end it doesn’t matter if he was your favorite wrestler or not, what matters is that you realized what he has done in the wrestling business, the sacrifices he made and the pain he went through in his final years; and he still took the time to share his life with us, the fans. I had the honor of meeting John one time, for about 4-minutes of that. I was working a show and he was brought in as a legend to sign autographs and such. He didn’t arrive until the opening match started, which I was in, so after I was done I made sure to introduce myself. He didn’t know me at all, but took the time to say, “Nice work kid, you got some game.” That always stuck with me, because he didn’t have to say anything to me. He was a true gentleman, and a true ambassador of this sport of professional wrestling. There aren’t too many of those type of people left in the business, so to lose another one the caliber if John makes it even harder.
Thank you for everything you did for us. For the long times on the road, the aches and pains, the annoying fans, the rude fans and any other things you had to put up with to make a living for your family. Thank you for everything John, you were one of the truest ones and you’ll be missed. Thank you sir.
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