Wrestling Legend Ox Baker — Whose 1974 Match Caused a Riot in Cleveland — Dies at 80


Wrestling legend Ox Baker — a massive 6'5" guy known for his "heart punch" — passed away this morning at the age of 80. The news was announced by Jerry Lawler:

If you hadn't heard of Ox Baker, he's the guy whose 1974 match at the old Cleveland Arena was interrupted by rioting fans. Watch it here:

Check out this site for some solid info on the riot:

Four thousand wrestling fans were on hand for the highly anticipated match between Ernie Ladd and Johnny Powers. It would be fought as a ‘Texas Uncle’ (one that could only be won with submission holds- not by decision). Additionally, Ladd stood to win $5,000 from Powers if he could extract himself from the latter’s signature hold.

During the match, Powers eventually had Ladd trapped in his hold- the “Powerlock”. It was not looking good for the former football player… until, in a surprise, it became clear that he was about to escape! Before he could, however, something unexpected happened…

A newcomer, Ox Baker, suddenly stormed the ring. Baker was a bushy-eyebrowed, Fu Manchu’d, bald wrestler who had a move that was said to have killed two people. It was his deadly ‘heart punch’. Baker smacked Ladd, and Powers broke loose. Baker sized up Ladd and applied the ‘heart punch’! Powers stalked the two, and Baker laid into Ladd.

A fan rushed the ring, tossing a chair. Powers was there to knock it away. Baker continued his assault on Ladd, and fans began to approach the ring. A couple were said to have brandished knives. They were enraged. Plastic cups and chairs began flying into the ring. Powers and Baker were trapped. Powers made a run for it, breaking through the angry mob. He made a bee-line for the hockey boards, escaping to safety. Baker followed.

Here's the WWE's statement on the wrestler's death:

WWE is saddened to learn that Ox Baker, a feared villain of the ring for more than three decades, passed away Monday morning at age 80. A 6-foot-5 behemoth from Waterloo, Iowa, Baker originally competed in WWWF in the late 1960s and became one of the most intimidating forces known inside the squared circle — both due to his unique look and devastating heart punch. Over the span of an impressive career, the big man traded blows with the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race.

Outside the ring, Baker also put the hurt on actor Kurt Russell as the brute played an appropriately savage warrior in the post-apocalyptic world of John Carpenter’s 1981 sci-fi classic, “Escape from New York.”

WWE extends its condolences to Baker’s colleagues, friends and family.

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Doug Brown

Doug Brown is a staff writer at Scene with a passion for public records laws and investigative reporting. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., he has an M.A. in journalism from the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a B.A. in political science from Hiram College. Prior to joining Scene,...
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