“Luscious” Johnny Valiant, a wrestling star of the 1970s and ’80s and a Hall of Famer, died Wednesday of injuries he suffered when he was struck by a pickup truck as he crossed a busy street in Ross Township, Pa.
The 71-year-old, whose real name was Thomas M. Sullivan, was pronounced dead at Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side, WWE announced Wednesday night. The accident occurred at about 5:30 a.m., Ross Detective Brian Kohlhepp told Triblive.com.
“The driver of the truck stayed here on the scene,” Kohlhepp said (via WPXI.com). There’s no indication that this was anything other than a terrible accident at this point, but we’re still investigating.”
The wrestler, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, began learning the basics of the sport in 1969 and five years later, the “Valiant Brothers” — “Luscious” Johnny and “Handsome” Jimmy — won the World Tag Team Championship.
The two competed as “heels,” or bad guys of wrestling events, but quickly gained popularity and won the WWA World Tag Team Championship in January 1974, then signed with Vince McMahon’s WWF four months later and quickly won that classification’s tag team championship.
They started a nationwide tour of National Wrestling Association territories in 1976, until Jerry Valiant, another pretend-brother, replaced Jimmy, who retired to become a manager.
In 1979, Johnny and “Gentleman” Jerry Valiant won the tandem titles again under the management of Captain Lou Albano. The group split for good in 1980.
According to the WWE, Luscious Johnny began managing tag team champions and big names in the American Wrestling Association before returning to WWE in 1985. He led Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake to the World Tag Team Championship with a win over Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. He also managed Hulk Hogan in the AWA and later returned to WWE to manage Dino Bravo and Demolition.
He went on to do color commentary for WWE, then returned to AWA in 1989 as a manager and eventually became a stand-up comedian and actor, landing roles in “The Sopranos” and “Law & Order.”
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