Gene Anderson Death – Heart Attack
1939-1991 (Age 52)
Eugene Avon Anderson was a founding member of the infamous “Minnesota Wrecking Crew,” a tag team that gained notoriety in the 60s and 70s and which greatly influenced the creation of the legendary Four Horsemen faction. Gene Anderson wrestled with Lars and Ole Anderson, but he was the only wrestler whose name was actually Anderson.
Born on October 4, 1939 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Gene Anderson was a skilled amateur wrestler. Anderson underwent training with Verne Gagne, debuting in 1958. In 1961, Gene went to work in Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA), forming “The Minnesota Wrecking Crew” with his kayfabe brother, Lars Anderson in the mid-1960s.
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew became a dominant force in tag team wrestling, with the Andersons utilizing moves as described as coming from the Anderson school of wrestling. The Andersons would target an opponent’s body part, attacking it throughout the match until they often were able to win via submission.
Gene Anderson was the epitome of an old-school heel, a scary-looking mug who looked like he’d rip out your eye just as likely as he’d apply an arm bar. Anderson was no muscleman, but his style made it clear he was double-tough. Indeed, Anderson was known for working stiff and making his opponents earn his respect. Even as a manager, Anderson was a menace to anyone who got close to him and he would savagely bludgeon wayward opponents with his trusty cane.
While the team of Gene and Lars won several tag team titles, it would be Gene’s team with his equally kayfabe brother Ole that would become legendary in Georgia and the Carolinas. This version of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew terrorized babyfaces in Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and Jim Crockett Promotions’ (JCP) Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, often competing for and holding the NWA World Tag Team Championship. This was at the time when the NWA had multiple versions of the tag titles, including one in GCW and one in JCP.
Gene and Ole held the Georgia version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship as well as the JCP version, battling top teams such as Mr. Wrestling I and II, Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel, and fellow heels Greg Valentine and Ric “Nature Boy” Flair.
The feud with Valentine and Flair was a family feud as Flair was billed as Gene and Ole’s cousin. Flair initially got along with his cousins, but Flair and Valentine’s ego eventually saw them battle the Andersons in some of JCP’s most violent battles, a heel vs. heel program fans referred to as a “battle of the bullies.”
Health problems temporarily slowed Gene down and he transitioned to managing wrestlers in JCP, handling the careers of such villains as Ray Stevens, Jimmy Snuka, and the Masked Superstar. Hsowever, in 1981, Gene had one last run alongside Ole, winning the JCP version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship one last time before an injury sidelined him again.
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew would be reborn when Ole Anderson teamed with Arn Anderson (sometimes billed as Ole’s nephew; other times as his cousin).
While Gene wasn’t involved, he had given the new crew his blessing and they carried on the Anderson tradition of brutal matches and underhanded victories. Eventually, the Andersons reunited with cousin Ric Flair and fellow heel Tully Blanchard, forming the Four Horsemen.
Gene Anderson retired in the mid-80s, but he remained active in the industry, opening a wrestling school. He went to work as a deputy sheriff in North Carolina, one of several wrestlers from JCP who would enter law enforcement after retiring from the ring.
Gene Anderson Death
On October 31, 1991, Gene Anderson was attending a law-enforcement training class when he left the class. As noted in the November 11, 1991 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, afterwards, Anderson was found dead in a bathroom after he’d been gone for 20 minutes. It was later determined he’d suffered a massive heart attack, dying at age 52.
Anderson was survived by his wife Edith and his three children, Brad, Alice, and Pauline.
Gene Anderson is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Weddington, North Carolina.
As previously reported, many other pro wrestlers have died from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart related complications.