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.