Butch Reed, who was one of the top pro wrestlers in the world in the early-to-mid 80s and had a number of memorable World title matches with Ric Flair, passed away today at the age of 66.
Reed had suffered two massive heart attacks in recent weeks and had been battling for his life ever since.
Reed's career peak would have been as a headliner with Mid South Wrestling, where at times he was both a top babyface and a top heel in the promotion, and headlined the Superdome before huge crowds in battles with Flair and Junkyard Dog.
Reed had been a career babyface, starting out as a shy but super athlete with a great physique in Kansas City. He was a star at Central Missouri State in football and had a combination of speed, power, and agility that few men in the history of the business possessed. He was both a sprinter and a powerlifter, to go along with his football prowess.
In Florida, Reed got a big break under booker Dory Funk Jr. during a period when Dusty Rhodes was out of the state and Reed and Sweet Brown Sugar (Skip Young) were built around as the top babyfaces.
Reed was exceptionally over, and had classic matches with Flair in 1982 going under his real name Bruce Reed. He also had success in Georgia, including winning the 1983 Thanksgiving night tag team tournament at the Omni with Pez Whatley as his partner, before coming to Mid South as the babyface Hacksaw Butch Reed.
It was there that he and Buddy Landel turned on JYD for a hot program. Reed was the top heel in the promotion and one of the most exciting wrestlers in the business. He had a great ability to carry opponents as his "Ghetto street fight" matches with JYD are generally considered the best matches of JYD's career.
When JYD left the promotion for the WWF, after a failure of trying to use former Canadian football star George Welles in the JYD spot as Master Gee, Watts turned Reed babyface with the idea of making him the biggest star in the company.
Reed did well in the spot, drawing big crowds with Flair in New Orleans, but in the long run couldn't follow JYD as a draw. Eventually he and Watts butted heads and he left, and never really achieved the level of success elsewhere.
After a forgettable period in the AWA, he went to WWF as "The Natural Butch Reed," with bleached blond hair. The idea was taken from Sweet Daddy Siki, a star from the prior generation. Vince McMahon was behind the idea big, and even bragged to people that he would be the next Gorgeous George.
Like with Mid South, Reed grew to hate the travel. He was being considered for the Intercontinental title at one point, and while the story that he didn't show up and Honky Tonk Man instead got the title from Ricky Steamboat isn't true, he was under consideration for that title win.
Later, Reed and Ron Simmons became the masked tag team called Doom, managed by Nancy Toffoloni as Woman. They held the WCW Tag Team titles and later unmasked. While a good tag team, by this point Reed was nowhere close to the level of performer he had been in the Florida and Mid South era.
Reed's career as a full-time wrestler ended in 1992, and he did indie shows as late as 2011. After wrestling, he spent years working as a rodeo cowboy.