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Dick 'The Destroyer' Beyer passes away at 88 years old

Richard "Dick" Beyer, who was probably the single biggest non-Mexican masked wrestling star in pro wrestling history as The Sensational Intelligent Destroyer, as well as Dr. X, passed away today at the age of 88.

His son Kurt wrote, "It is with a very heavy heart to let you know that Dad--aka The Destroyer--aka Dr. X, aka Dick Beyer, aka Coach--passed away shortly after Noon today. He was in bed at home and was surrounded by all of his children, and wife, as he slipped peacefully away."

Beyer had been in hospice care in recent weeks and a number of his friends had called him in recent days, including Ric Flair. 

In particular, in Japan, The Destroyer was legendary for having beaten Rikidozan, who he was good friends with and whose death haunted him for years. Rikidozan asked him to stay an extra day after the conclusion of the final tour of 1963 in Japan, and go out with him on December 8, 1963. Instead, Beyer decided, after thinking about it, to go home to see his family. Rikidozan went out to a club that night, where he was stabbed, and one week later, passed away.

Shortly before Rikidozan's death, a live 61-minute rematch between Rikidozan and The Destroyer drew a 64.0 rating on NTV. At the time it was the most-watched television show ever in Japan, and aside from one night of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, it was number two for decades.

That feud made Beyer such a star that he lived in Japan for six years during the 70s with his family and had a featured role on a network comedy television show that was at one point the most popular show in the country. He also by that time wrestled regularly for All Japan Pro Wrestling as a babyface, regularly teaming with Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, and feuding with the likes of Abdullah the Butcher and Mil Mascaras, the latter over the mythical title of the world's greatest masked wrestler.

His love for Japan was such that he built a Japanese style short golf course, called Park Golf, near his home in Akron, New York, a business that his daughter ran called The Destroyer Park Golf course.

Beyer was a star college athlete at Syracuse University, a starter in the 1953 Orange Bowl football game and a heavyweight on the wrestling team. During his senior year, he went undefeated during the season but didn't place in the NCAA tournament.

He received a Master's Degree, but after teaching school, became a local babyface pro wrestler. He studied Pat O'Connor (who he considered the best babyface worker of that era) and Buddy Rogers (who he considered the best heel) heavily.

He also, after graduation, spent several years both wrestling locally and being an assistant football coach at Syracuse. He was voted 1955 rookie of the year in pro wrestling by Wrestling Life magazine.

During the 60s, The Destroyer and Ray Stevens were often talked about as the two best in-ring wrestlers of that era.

Beyer was still just a journeyman wrestler, working in Hawaii, when Fred Blassie, the top star in Los Angeles, would regularly see him when he was flown in for major shows. Blassie raved about working with Beyer, who he called the best babyface worker in the country. Then, after Beyer turned, he went back, watched him, and saw him wrestle as The Sensational Intelligent Dick Beyer, Blassie said he was the best heel in the country, and brought him to Los Angeles.

He came to California, where booker Jules Strongbow told him he was going to be a masked heel, The Destroyer. He was against the idea, and tried his first mask and hated it. Later, Ox Anderson made him a mask made out of a women's girdle. He would brag that nobody could break his figure four leglock and nobody could unmask him. His pet line was, since he was wearing a mask made from a girdle, that you can't take a girdle off someone who doesn't want it taken off.

He became a multi-time WWA Champion during a business boom, routinely selling out the Olympic Auditorium, including multiple times against a young Giant Baba. This got him coverage in the Japanese sports newspapers since he beat Baba, who was a major star in Japan, and also held wins over Rikidozan and later Antonio Inoki, the only man to have beaten all three of Japan's biggest stars. He credited an on-the-spot television angle with Killer Kowalski on Japanese TV for getting him over at first for Rikidozan.

He got over so big as The Destroyer that when Strongbow wanted him to unmask, he instead quit the territory and went to Oregon. He spent the rest of his career as a masked wrestler, as The Destroyer almost everywhere, but Dr. X when working for Verne Gagne in the AWA, where he very briefly held the AWA World Heavyweight title.

He returned to the United States and took a job at Akron Central School in Akron, New York, coaching sports. Until recent years, every summer he would come to Japan and bring young American amateur wrestlers with him to learn and compete with the Japanese, including Ric Flair's son Reid.

He was also a regular at get togethers such as the Cauliflower Alley Club, where he would almost always wear his mask. He wrote a 2011 biography called "Masked Decisions."