Jerry Blackwell Death – Automobile Accident
1949-1995 (Age 45)
While today’s wrestling landscape boasts many talented big men, that wasn’t always the case. Wrestling had its big men from the sport’s earliest days, but few could move like Jerry Blackwell or work long matches without looking for the nearest oxygen tank.
Jerry Blackwell was a talented worker who helped pave the way for other agile big men such as Bam Bam Bigelow and Vader by showing all that big men could do.
Blackwell achieved his greatest fame in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA) but enjoyed success in several National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories as well.
Unfortunately, Blackwell did not enjoy a long life, dying at the young age of 45.
Jerry Blackwell debuted in 1974 at a time when most big men got by on size alone – content to work slow matches where they utilized few holds and worked what could be seen as boring matches.Blackwell distinguished himself by showcasing an impressive combination of speed and agility in addition to his awesome girth. Although he only stood 5’9” tall, the 400-pound Blackwell dazzled audiences with his ability to throw dropkicks where men his size sometimes lumbered about the ring like three-legged elephants.
Blackwell’s early years in the squared circle saw him campaign in the Central States territory, Memphis’ CWA, Tulsa’s Tri-State promotion, and Southeastern Championship Wrestling.
Blackwell was invited to wrestle in the World Wide Wrestling Federation where he enjoyed a brief run under the guidance of manager the Grand Wizard.
His size and in-ring ability garnered Blackwell more attention, as seen by his run in the Sam Muchnick’s NWA St. Louis promotion and runs in Japan. Blackwell’s time in St. Louis and Japan (including later appearances in Japan in a tag team with the late Bruiser Brody) reflected his hard-earned reputation as a skilled wrestler and draw.
Jerry Blackwell enjoyed a lengthy run in Verne Gagne’s AWA and while he never won the promotion’s top prize, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, he was a top contender.
Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell feuded with the promotion’s biggest stars including Hulk Hogan, “Mad Dog” Vachon, and Reggie Lisowski aka “The Crusher.”
Blackwell and Lisowski battled over the rights to the “Crusher” moniker with Lisowski triumphing.
Eventually, Blackwell achieved championship success in the AWA when he teamed with Ken Patera and defeated the AWA World Tag Team Champions, “The High Flyers” (Jim Brunzell and Greg Gagne).
With manager Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey guiding them, Blackwell and Patera became known as “The Sheiks,” earning the fans’ enmity for working for the much-hated manager.
Although Jerry Blackwell had a fearsome reputation, he was known for being easy to work with. However, when the Road Warriors came to the AWA, they developed a reputation for refusing to sell for their opponents.
Hawk and Animal had a change of mind once they wrestled a match with Larry “The Ax” Hennig and Jerry Blackwell. The two legit tough men worked a stiff match with the Road Warriors, reminding them that selling for your opponents goes both ways.
By the mid-80’s the wrestling in the United States was undergoing massive change with Vince McMahon looking to take his WWF national. McMahon signed many AWA talents including Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and Ken Patera. Wrestling lore has it that Jerry Blackwell was invited to work in the company, but turned them down in disgust after waiting for hours to cut a try-out promo.
Blackwell remained in the AWA where he turned babyface after an attack by Bruiser Brody. Blackwell and Brody feuded, leading to a series of successful and well-received matches.
Blackwell also feuded with “Freebird” Michael Hayes during the Freebirds’ run in the AWA. In 1986, Blackwell even worked a Ladder Match, competing against Colonel DeBeers.
An Unexpected Passing
While Jerry Blackwell had once commanded respect with his size and ability, he began to put on more weight, leading to his workrate being reduced and a drop in his stamina.Blackwell, while still a draw, was no longer the agile big man with unbelievable reserves of stamina. Blackwell’s added weight led to him all but retiring from the ring. He retired in 1988, but returned to promote for an independent organization, Southern Championship Wrestling. An appearance on the independent circuit here or there was all that was left to remind fans Blackwell still wrestled.
Tragically, Blackwell began to suffer health problems including diabetes, gangrene, and gout. Additionally, Blackwell suffered personal losses such as the death of his son, a subsequent divorce, and the loss of his business. Blackwell came close to death after kidney failure and pneumonia, and suffered several automobile accidents.
In December 1994, Jerry Blackwell was injured in another automobile accident.
On January 22, 1995, Jerry Blackwell died as a result of complications from his automobile accident. He was 45.
Jerry Blackwell is buried at Zion Hill Cemetery in Cumming, Georgia.
Many other wrestlers died in the 90s, several of which also died before age 50.
What are your favorite memories of “Crusher” Jerry Blackwell? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.