Jackie Fargo Death – Heart Failure
1930-2013 (Age 82)
Jackie Fargo epitomized the drawing power of top stars during the territory era, with the brawling badman eventually turning babyface and becoming the top star in Memphis Wrestling as well as a local icon.
Long after retiring, Fargo could still be used to get both wrestlers and angles over, a testament to his enduring popularity with his fans.
Henry L. Faggart was born on June 26, 1930 in Concord, North Carolina. He quickly transitioned from amateur wrestling to the pro ranks after winning the North Carolina state championship tournament.
Recruited by promoter Johnny Long around 1949, Faggart transformed into Jackie Fargo and quickly went from $10 a night payouts to earning a cool $250, wrestling in Cuba. As noted in the book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons, Jackie’s easy money days came to a halt when he was drafted, serving during the Korean War. However, his wrestling career had merely taken a detour.
After finishing his military obligation, Fargo bounced back to the top of the wrestling game, working in the team “The Fabulous Fargos” as “Wild Man” Jackie Fargo alongside “Wild Man” Don Stevens.
The Fabulous Fargos terrorized Vince McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Wrestling promotion (which later became the World-Wide Wrestling Federation), building up to a historic match against the promotion’s top babyface team, Argentina Rocca and Miguel Perez, drawing Madison Square Garden’s first 20,000 crowd.
In New York, Fargo developed his signature spot—the Fargo Strut. While wrestlers such as Buddy Rogers and Roy Shire may have done it before him, Fargo claims he never saw it performed by other wrestlers. The strut (not to be confused with Ric Flair’s style strut) would be adopted by a variety of wrestlers ranging from “Superstar” Bill Dundee to Jeff Jarrett and even Mr. McMahon, who brought the strut to another generation of fans. The move was used to taunt opponents and forever associated with Fargo.
It would be in Memphis, Tennessee where Fargo became more than just a main eventer—he became a cultural icon as big to Memphis fans as Elvis Presley, “The King of Rock-and-Roll.”
After years working as a heel, Fargo became a babyface, battling a variety of wrestlers such as Tojo Yamamoto, Don Kent, and Al Greene.
During his time in Memphis, Fargo occasionally teamed up with his real-life brother Sonny (better known as “Roughhouse” Fargo) whenever he needed extra help in the ring. “Roughhouse” supposedly was locked up in a psychiatric hospital except when called upon by his brother. Ironically, Sonny Fargo served as a referee in Jim Crockett Promotions, showing none of his psychotic proclivities.
Later in his career, Jackie Fargo helped introduce a man into the sport who would become an even bigger legend than himself-Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Fargo worked a feud with Lawler and in his autobiography, It’s Good to be the King-Sometimes… Lawler credits his program with Fargo for earning his nickname “The King” after a fan remarked “You beat Jackie Fargo so that makes you the new king.”
One of the signs of a great wrestler is his willingness to give the rub to a rising star and help put them over. Such was the case in the early 1980’s when he got behind the team of Steve Keirn and Stan Lane, better known as the Fabulous Ones.
Legend has it the original plan was for the Fabulous Ones to turn heel on their mentor but they proved so successful that the plan was scrapped. The Fabulous Ones became a big success, so much so that Memphis promoters had to create a “B” version of the Fabs because business was so booming. This so-called “B”-team would achieve tag team immortality as the Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson).
Jackie Fargo maintained a presence in Memphis Wrestling, making occasional appearances either in person or in taped segments. Fargo wrestled occasionally, including matches when he was in his mid-70s. In addition to his work in the ring, Fargo operated a restaurant, had a brief dalliance as a country music singer, and worked behinds the scenes as a booker for Memphis promoter Jerry Jarrett.
Jackie Fargo Death
Jackie Fargo passed away on June 24, 2013 at the ripe age of 82. According to his obituary in the July 1, 2013 Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
“Fargo had been having severe heart problems over the last month. Fargo, who lived in China Grove, NC, was found unconscious at his home on 6/14 and rushed to the hospital. His heart was only working at 15% strength. He went into a coma and was in critical condition all week. Down to 130 pounds, his family made the decision to take him off live support, and he passed away at about 6 a.m. on 6/24.”
He is buried at West Lawn Memorial Park in China Grove, North Carolina.
Other wrestlers to pass in 2013 include Matt Osborne (Doink the Clown), Mad Dog Vachon, and Paul Bearer.
What are your favorite memories of Jackie Fargo? Let us know in the comments section below.