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February 1, 2010

Former NWA world champion Jack Brisco dies

Jack Brisco, one of pro wrestling's top stars in the 1970s, died today due to complications from open heart surgery, according to multiple reports. He was 68.

Brisco had undergone the surgery a few weeks ago, and a little over a week ago he collapsed while undergoing rehab and was in rough shape, according to wrestlingobserver.com. There are no further details at this point.

For longtime fans as well as younger fans who know the industry’s history, Brisco’s name is synonymous with wrestling excellence. His long program with then-NWA world champion Dory Funk Jr. in the early 70s is considered the standard for outstanding technical wrestling.

Shortly after winning the 1965 NCAA wrestling championship at 191 pounds while at Oklahoma State, Brisco made a seamless transition from amateur to pro wrestler. Regarded as one of the greatest in-ring workers of all time, Brisco won the NWA world title – which at the time was considered the true world championship – from Harley Race in July 1973 and held it for nearly a year and a half, except for a week in December 1974 when he lost and then regained the title from Shoehei “Giant” Baba in Japan.

In addition to being a singles star in various NWA territories into the early 80s, he also formed a very successful tag team with his brother, Gerald “Jerry” Brisco. In any discussion about the greatest tag teams of all time, the Briscos and the Funks (Terry and Dory Jr.) are often the first two mentioned. The Briscos had a classic feud against Rick Steamboat and Jay Youngblood over the NWA world tag team title in 1983, culminating in a match at the inaugural Starrcade that was billed just below the NWA world title match between Race and Ric Flair.

The Brisco brothers also played a huge role behind the scenes in changing the course of wrestling history. In 1984, Jack and Jerry gained a majority interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling and sold the company to Vince McMahon, which resulted in the WWF taking over the coveted 6:05 p.m. Saturday time slot on SuperStation TBS. A year later, McMahon sold the slot to Jim Crockett Promotions.

In the 1970s, the Briscos discovered a twenty-something blonde-haired muscleman in Florida who was interested in becoming a pro wrestler. The young man’s name was Terry Bollea. They referred him to trainer Hiro Matsuda, and Bollea eventually became the biggest star in wrestling history as Hulk Hogan.

Having grown up in Baltimore, a traditional WWWF/WWF city, I only got to see Jack Brisco wrestle in person on a couple occasions, although I knew about him from wrestling magazines. When I began following wrestling, Brisco, Bruno Sammartino (WWWF) and Verne Gagne (AWA) were the three world champions.

I was excited the first time I actually got to see the legendary Brisco in action. It was April 1984 at The Baltimore Arena shortly after the Georgia territory began expanding into the Northeast. Brisco was in the main event, challenging another superstar who I had never seen in person until that night for the NWA world title – Flair.

After the Briscos had cut the deal with McMahon for the sale of Georgia Championship Wrestling in the summer of ’84, the Briscos came to the WWF as a tag team later that year, and I saw them unsuccessfully challenge then-WWF tag team champions Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis at the Arena.

Jack Brisco retired not long after that at 43. According to The Wrestling Observer, while the Briscos were wrestling in the WWF in late ’84, there was a blizzard in the Northeast and Jack told his brother that he was flying home and calling it a career. He never wrestled again.

The Briscos were inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, and Jack also is a member of The Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame and the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum.

I extend my condolences to Brisco’s family and friends.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:15 PM | | Comments (26)
        

Comments

Hated to hear this news today. Saw him many times at the Columbia Township Auditorium in SC when I was a young kid. Good memories of me and my dad having fun wrestling nights out. A class act. RIP and thanks for everything, Jack Brisco.

He was one of the good guys, Can't say a bad word about him even if I tried to all night. It brought a tear to my eyes, I really liked to watch him in the ring. God bless you for being such a great person too!!

Thanks for the the great post Kevin - Jack Brisco's heyday was before my time, but it's good to know the history and about the contributions talents such as Mr. Brisco made to the industry.

AreJay and Mark Briscoe, wrestling in ROH, related?

Another wrestling legend gone. Jack was surely one of the most read wrestlers back in the late 70's when I started reading wrestling mags. Jack and Harley Race were one of my favorites back then.

I grew up in Florida and had the privilege of seeing Jack Brisco many, many times in person and on TV. He truly is one of the all-time greats. This might not seem like a big deal in these days of punch-and-kick wrestling, but nobody could snap off a arm-drag takedown better than Jack Brisco.

Thanks for this post.

I have only seen two Jack Brisco matches (the Starrcade tag match you reference and the match with Flair on the recent WWE DVD) but was tremendously impressed with how smooth he was, even well after his prime. Do you (or any of your commenters) know where I can find additional Brisco matches?

Thanks again.

Hey Kev, I always thought that Baltimore was NWA country, with a lot of the GAB's and house shows being in Balitimore in the 80's and 90's. I guess the 70's it was WWWF territory. Am I wrong?

RESPONSE FROM KE: It was one of the main WWF/WWF cities in the 1960s and 1970s. The territory was basically from Washington up north to the New England area. The NWA/WCW started running Baltimore in around 1983. WWF also continued to run Baltimore, so we were getting both promotions on a regular basis.

I remember Jack Brisco at the end of his career when him and Jerry held the NWA World Tag Team titles in the early 1980s. I didnt really appreciate them until much later. They would put alot of teams of today to shame. Rest in peace Mr Brisco.

When is WWE going to make Santino Marellas a star?

I want to say it 83'. GCW was on cable and they were having a TV tournament to see who would face Ric Flair in ....Baltimore!

I think I pestered my dad to buy tickets right away. Anyhow, the winner was Jack Brisco.

So in addition to seeing the Road Warriors, Ronnie Garvin and King Kong Bundy I was treated to a quality main event old school wrestling match between two masters.

RIP Jack.

I sit here tonight with a very heavy heart. Not only was Jack a Great Wrestler, he was a Great Person. I thank god for giving me the chance to know not only Jack the wrestler, but Jack The Man. #1 Brisco Brothers - Always.

Thanks for all the memories. God Speed my friend

R.I.P Jack Brisco

You will be missed my thoughts and prayers are with the Brisco Family.Thanks Jack for all the memories.

My family moved from Baltimore to Orlando when I was about seven years old, and I grew up watching Jack Brisco wrestle, live and on TV. His amateur background gave him extremely impressive technical ring skills. Some of the matches I witnessed between Brisco and Dory Funk were simply amazing. They would go to a one hour time limit and it wasn't the least bit boring. I don't know if there is anyone out there today that could do that without putting the crowd to sleep.
While the large part of his career was spent as a face, I happened to catch a match in Lakeland, FL, when Brisco did a rare and very effective heel turn against Bill Watts in one of the most memorable matches I ever witnessed.
About three or four years ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jack Brisco. He was a true gentleman and was kind enough to share some wonderful stories from his wrestling days. I felt like that completed the round-tripper of meeting all my childhood sports heroes- Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Johnny Unitas, and Jack Brisco.
My condolences, as well, to the Brisco family.

WWE did mention Jack's passing on RAW last night. they did the In Memory Of thing, and had a nice video tribute.

RIP Jack Brisco

Kevin,
That is very sad news. I grew up in Tampa watching Jack and Jerry at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory as a kid. Their classic battles with Bob Roop and Bob Orton (Randy's father) were some of the greatest matches I have ever watched. In his later years they owned Brisco Brothers Auto Repair in Tampa and I would find myself drive by just for nostalgic reasons.

Truly one of the great technical wrestlers the pro circuit has ever seen. Like you, Kevin, I grew up in WWE (wwwf) territory and only saw The Briscos on occasion but he and brother Jerry were tremendous wrestlers. Sad to hear this news.

Nice piece. How was the match with Flair?

RESPONSE FROM KE: It was very good. Definitely an NWA-style world title match, which was a lot different than what I as used to seeing.

Kev you are 2 weeks behind in comment of the week.

RESPONSE FROM KE: I'm not really behind. None of the comments blew me away last week, so I went without it.

I watched Jack from his very beginning in the middle 60's. He was the greatest wrestler of all time with Thesz and maybe Angle. In the early 70's there used to be a card at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa every year in February where wrestlers from other areas and promotions (Detroit's Shiekh, Bob Brazil, New York area stars, and Carolina stars) not necessarily with the NWA, also AWA and WWWF. It was called the Gasparilla Spectacular. In maybe 1975 or 1976 or 1977 Jack Brisco put over Ric Flair in Tampa. Ric used his Figure 4 which was also Brisco's finishing hold although they started with different legs. That, to me, defined Jack Brisco's love and understanding of the business. People seldom remember that he and Don Muraco were tag partners very early in their careers in Tampa. I always chuckle when I hear about the occasional "Iron Man" match put on by the WWE. Brisco and Dory Funk, Jr. would go an hour with fans on the edge of their seats once or twice a month!

RIP Jack.

In response to an earlier post-No, Mark and Jay Briscoe are not related to Jack Brisco. If you haven't had chance to see them, check out some of their videos. They have put on some great shows on the indy scene long enough to have quite a collection of highlights on the internet.

I remember TBS hyping the tournament to get the title match in Baltimore, where brisco beat Brad Armstrong to get the match, I was at the same card you referenced and the match was as good as anything I'd seen to that point. Brisco respected the business and the fans, RIP

This will be my first comment about Wrestling Something I use too Love before One Man bought it All. I grew up buying the Magazines and since I lived in The South I got to see a lot of the NWA. JackBrisco was The World Champion when I first Started Watching, he had just Beat Harley Race.I remember Gordon Solely as he would call the Action and tell how much of a master Jack was in the Ring. No Matter what you did he would get that far mans carry on you and if he puts The Figure Four Leg Lock on you it was Over. Jack Brisco Matches with Former NWA World Champion Dory Funk Jr was the stuff legends are made of, The Close thing to it for you young guys would be Steamboat and Salvage match at Wrestlmaina 3 it's Ironic that after all those great match's a lot of them one hour time limits Draws it would be Terry Funk, Dory Funk Little Brother who ended Jack Brisco 3 Year Title Region.Ive been looking for that footage one of the best matches you will ever see, if any one can post that one it would be great to go back down memory lane.Jack Brisco is without a Doubt one of The Best World Champions of all times!!! Rest in Peace Mr. Brisco.

R.I.P jack.you will always live on in my heart.you were my favorite wrestler during the 1970s when i was growing up.my heart goes out to the brisco family.thanks for the great memories,jc from australia.

Jack was one of the greats he was world chamon many times traveled world wide he came from a good Family he was loved by many my son who passed in 1995 was a good freind of Wes Brisco both went though school togeather many time Jerry would pull money out of his pocket to buy kids wresling shoes he has a big heart he is a grate guy who helps young kids spends allot of time teaching and helping out at sickels its a tuff loss for Jerry and his whole family all our prayers go out to him and his family a loss of a loved one is hard to deal with it takes alongtime to heal and you never get over it all we can do is go on a day at the time life is short Jack lived a full life and I know he will be missed by alot of people God Bless and best wishes to the Brisco Family JIm and Pat

I cried today.....when I read the news about
"JACK ( ANYTIME ) BRISCO"...the first and last time I saw Jack & Jerry was in Columbia S.C.....I remember some special times spent with them we were friends. During a match when I was sitting ring side Jack was out on the mat
and I yelled "ANYTIME Jack u can get up ANYTIME" that was my special nick name for him..and Jerry's was Running Bare...lol
I will always love the Brisco's and my heart goes out to the family....I never got to say good bye.......ANYTIME !!!!

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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