By Mike Mooneyham
June 8, 2006
John Tenta, a professional wrestling star best known as Earthquake, died Wednesday at the age of 42 following a lengthy battle with bladder cancer.
Tenta, who had been living in Florida for the past several years, passed away in Friendswood, Texas.
The British Columbia native, a college wrestler and football player at Louisiana State University, was an accomplished sumo wrestler before breaking into the pro wrestling ranks under the tutelage of Japanese stars Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta.
A 6-6, 450-pound mountain of a man, Tenta debuted for the World Wrestling Federation in 1989 as The Canadian Earthquake (later changed to simply Earthquake) and quickly cracked main-event status in feuds with The Ultimate Warrior and later Hulk Hogan, with whom he headlined the 1990 Summer Slam pay-per-view, following that up with a series of stretcher matches at house shows around the country.Tenta held the WWF tag-team title as a member of The Natural Disasters with Typhoon (Fred Ottman) in 1992 and later portrayed a number of characters, including The Shark and Avalanche, in World Championship Wrestling as a member of The Dungeon of Doom. He later returned to the WWF for a brief run in the late 1990s under a mask as Golga, a member of the Oddities faction.
Tenta retired from the ring in 2004 due to his battle with cancer. He visited backstage at several WWE events during his illness and wrote of the kindness shown to his family and his children by the WWE staff.
Tenta, who was extremely well liked behind the scenes, wrote the foreword to the 2003 book “WrestleCrap – The Very Worst of Professional Wrestling,” which took a humorous look at failed gimmicks and characters in the wrestling business.
Tenta, who admittedly had some bad gimmicks of his own, took some good-natured jabs at his own failures.
“Being the Shark and being an Oddity – that was WrestleCrap, no doubt about it. But it was also kind of funny. Unlike some folks in this business, I can laugh at it, because I can laugh at myself.”
He also could laugh at his friends.
“Who can forget my former partner Typhoon as the Shockmaster in WCW? I know he wishes he could. He was actually set for a huge push, but maybe the push was a little too big; during his first entrance he stumbled through a hole in a wall that he’d just burst through. What was that I was saying about gimmicks falling flat on their faces? Maybe his head, which was covered in a storm trooper helmet, was getting too big?”
Tenta also took a realistic approach to the business.
“Underneath the gimmicks, wrestlers are all just men and women trying hard to be successful in their jobs. We’re trying to climb that ladder to the top, even though the ladder may have a few rungs missing or be a little short. We do what is asked of us. Some people asked why I agreed to play the role of a fish man. The answer is plain and simple. If I hadn’t, there were plenty of other people who would have. I just wanted to be able to provide for my family. I was just a guy trying to make a living. Take away my gimmicks, good and bad, and I’m just a regular person like you.”
Tenta is survived by his wife and three children.