Tommy Lister Death – Undisclosed Causes

wrestler zeus dead

Actor and one-time pro wrestler Tommy “Tiny” Lister (best known to wrestling fans as “Zeus”) dies at age 62. photo: wwe network

1958-2020 (Age 62)

Standing 6’5,” Thomas Lister, Jr. was a natural for playing menacing monsters in film and TV, and his size and presence made it inevitable that he step into the squared circle as well.

The story of Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. (aka WWF Superstar Zeus) is a reminder of the fine line between sports entertainment and Hollywood as some people are naturals for both worlds.

Turning a Blessing into a Curse

Lister was born blind in his right eye due to a detached and deformed retina. However, the birth defect turned into a blessing when he interviewed with a talent agent, who recognized Lister’s potential as a character actor. After a number of small roles, the ironically nicknamed “Tiny” was cast in the film that would change his life.

No Holds Barred

“Tiny” was cast in the film No Holds Barred as the film’s villain Zeus, a seemingly invulnerable wrestler determined to destroy the film’s protagonist Rip Thomas (played by Hulk Hogan).

Although Vince McMahon hoped the film might launch Hulk Hogan into a career as an action star (further expanding Hulkamania and the WWF’s dominance), its modest success did little for Hogan’s acting career. Lister on the other hand benefitted tremendously, with his already budding career turning into a lifetime of appearances both big and small.

Wrestling legend has it that when Vince McMahon saw No Holds Barred wasn’t going to be the blockbuster he envisioned, he decided to try Lister out as an opponent for Hogan in the WWF. Whatever the motive, Lister worked as Zeus in the WWF, feuding with Hogan from the summer of 1989 until the year’s end.

Zeus teamed with Hogan’s rival Randy “Macho Man” Savage with the tag team battling Hogan and Brutus Beefcake in a variety of high-profile matches including the WWF’s SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie, an odd pay-per-view which featured an airing of Hogan’s film followed by a steel cage match featuring Zeus and Savage vs. Hogan and Beefcake.

Later Years

“Tiny” Lister would go on to star in a number of films, with memorable roles such as Deebo in the Friday series, President Lindberg in The Fifth Element, and smaller roles ranging from appearances in Matlock to Austin Powers in Goldmember to The Dark Knight.

In 1996, Lister returned to wrestling when he appeared as Z-Gangsta at WCW’s Uncensored pay-per-view, joining forces with the Alliance to End Hulkamania.

Tommy “Zeus” Lister Death

According to CBS Sports, the 62-year-old actor was preparing for an upcoming film shoot when he began experiencing COVID-like symptoms and cancelled. His manager Cindy Cowan told CNN that Lister had started feeling sick and had trouble breathing.

Police were notified after Lister did not answer his phone or doorbell and he was found dead in his Marina Del Ray apartment. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department ruled the initial cause of death as natural causes but a coroner has yet to reach a conclusion.

Wrestler Deaths in 2020

Sadly, many other pro wrestlers died in 2020 including Kamala, Pat Patterson, Road Warrior Animal, and Rocky Johnson to name a few.

What are your favorite memories of Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr., either as Zeus or as a Hollywood actor? Let us know by leaving a comment below.