Arnold Skaaland Death – Undisclosed Causes
1925-2007 (Age 82)
More than a babyface manager, Arnold Skaaland enjoyed a lengthy wrestling career before guiding the careers of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund. Behind the scenes, Skaaland served as an advisor and confidante for Vince McMahon Sr. and Vince Jr., holding shares in McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Wrestling and later working as a road agent.
White Plains, New York native Arnold Skaaland was born on January 21, 1925. Skaaland served in the U.S. Marines during World War Two and tried his hand at boxing. However, boxing did not prove lucrative so he turned his attention to pro wrestling.
According to his obituary at SLAM! Wrestling, Skaaland began wrestling at age 19, which would have been sometime in the mid-1940s. Standing 5’11” and weighing 205 pounds, Arnold competed as a light heavyweight, finding himself booked high on the card of promotions such as the Pacific Northwest that catered to light heavyweight wrestlers.
One of Arnold Skaaland’s frequent opponents was Joe Savoldi, with the two clashing in singles and tag team matches. Eventually nicknamed “The Golden Boy,” Skaaland continued wrestling throughout the country, including a campaign in the WWWF where he held the promotion’s United States Tag Team Championship with Spiros Arion.
A Wrestling Rarity—A Babyface Manager
As his in-ring career slowed down (although Skaaland continued wrestling occasionally into the 1980s), Skaaland served as a wrestling rarity—that of a manager for babyfaces.
While heel managers served any number of purposes (interfering in their charge’s matches or helping less-gifted talkers with promos), Arnold was largely a figurehead for the men he managed. However, Skaaland managed no jabronis, guiding the careers of WWWF Champions Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
Skaaland also managed Andre the Giant on occasion and in an unusual change of events, managed Andre as a heel in Japan. Wrestling legend has it that Skaaland, a known heavyweight drinker was also on hand to make sure Andre got to and from his various wrestling gigs.
Arnold Skaaland occasionally became involved in angles (typically where a heel would attack him, leading to one of Skaaland’s wrestlers vowing revenge) but his most memorable moment as a manager happened on December 26, 1983, when WWF Champion Bob Backlund defended the title against the Iron Sheik. Backlund, who was working with a kayfabe shoulder injury, was trapped in the Sheik’s dreaded Camel Clutch, but refused to give up. Skaaland threw in the towel for Backlund, the storyline being that he didn’t want to see Backlund suffer a permanent injury.
This allowed Backlund to save face and it set things up for Hulk Hogan’s match and win over the newly crowned WWF Champion, the Iron Sheik.
Behind the Scenes Figure
Skaaland worked behind the scenes in the WWF in addition to his managerial role. He was a trusted advisor of both Vince McMahon Sr. and later, Vince McMahon Jr. Indeed, Skaaland would work during the Capitol Wrestling era, the World-Wide Wrestling Federation era, and the World Wrestling Federation era. He also was in charge of promoting shows at the Westchester County Center.
In later years, he came a road agent for the WWF.
Once he stopped managing, Skaaland largely remained behind the scenes. However, he did show up in the 1987 music video for the WWF’s Piledriver album’s song “Piledriver” where Skaaland played the foreman on a construction site. In 1994, Skaaland entered the WWF Hall of Fame.
Tough as Nails
Skaaland was known for a number of traits including his toughness and his loyalty. According to the March 26, 2007, edition of Figure Four Weekly, Skaaland broke his thumb in a match and was told he had to go to the hospital to have it rebroken. Skaaland insisted it be broken there on the spot and it was, a horrifying sight which reportedly caused WWE Hall of Famer “Special Delivery” Jones to vomit. Vince McMahon repeatedly praised Skaaland’s loyalty and credited “The Golden Boy” with helping the WWF to become the top wrestling promotion in the world.
Arnold Skaaland Death
Arnold Skaaland suffered an illness that eventually led to his death on March 13, 2007. Skaaland was 82 when he passed away, his wife Betty by his side. He was survived by his wife and three children.
Arnold Skaaland is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.
Other wrestlers to pass in 2007 include Bad News Brown, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bronko Lubich, Nancy Benoit, Chris Benoit, Brian “Crush” Adams, John Kronus, Mike Awesome, The Fabulous Moolah, Sherri Martel, and The Missing Link.
What are your favorite memories of Arnold Skaaland? Let us know in the comments below.