Today in Wrestling History: Johnny Valentine
He is credited with launching the career of Antonio Inoki, putting the youngin’ in a fine series of matches, including dropping the NWA Toronto United States Title to him. He competed in the early days of the WWF promotion, winning their United States Tag Team Titles, but left the promotion soon afterwards, preferring his NWA commitments.He found most of his success in Florida and Texas. He won his only NWA World Title in 1973 defeating Harley Race, but would lose the belt to Terry Funk around 1 month later.
Just as Valentine’s career seemed to be peaking he was involved in the infamous plane crash which ended the careers of himself and Bob Bruggers, and caused serious injury to ‘Mr Wrestling’ Tim Woods, David Crockett, and Ric Flair. The crash embedded a bone fragment in Valentine’s spine rendering him paralyzed for life. Despite the severity of the injury, Valentine stayed close to the wrestling business as a manager using his wheelchair to get around the ring area. Following his short managerial stint, Valentine strayed away from the wrestling business, living out his quiet life in Texas. He suffered a fall at his home in August of 2001 causing the frail man several serious injuries. He was admitted to hospital, but would never recover. In a final sad episode, Valentine’s health insurance refused to pay out upon his death. Fortunately, Lou Thesz, a longtime friend of Valentine’s, convinced the Cauliflower Alley Club to contribute to the payments.
Also, on this day in wrestling history, wrestling legend Lou Thesz Would have been 98 years old.