WWE legend Blackjack Lanza passes away at 86

Blackjack Lanza
Image via WWE

The wrestling world is in mourning today after the news of legendary grappler Jack Lanza’s passing. The sad news was confirmed on Twitter by Jim Ross, who said that Lanza had passed away at 86. 

Born in 1935, Lanza trained with legendary promoter Verne Gagne. He started his career wrestling in NWA Mid-America before touring the territories, fighting everywhere from the American Wrestling Association to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. During this time, Lanza perfected the cowboy character that became his iconic, career-defining look. Known for his Iron Claw finishing move, he became one of the most known heels of the era and was often referred to as “the embodiment of evil” by the AWA. 

In 1971, Lanza would team up with Blackjack Mulligan to form the legendary tag-team The Blackjacks. Managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, this team would make a name for itself thanks to Lanza and Mulligan’s hard-hitting offense and no-nonsense attitudes. The pair would win titles across America, including the WWWF World Tag Team Championship and the NWA American Tag Team Championship. The WWE Hall of Fame inducted the team in 2006. And then, in 2016, Lanza was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2003, legendary wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated included Lanza in their list of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the era. 

After retiring from the ring in 1985, he became a road agent and producer for the WWE. He was the lead agent during the famous “Attitude Era” of the WWE, which massively increased the show’s popularity. This role made him even more highly respected amongst his peers, and he is the man who helped mentor and guide several of today’s biggest stars.  

When news of his passing broke, the hashtag #RIPJackLanza quickly started to trend on Twitter as tributes to the wrestler flooded in, with many sharing stories about him. This included praise from Sean “X-Pac” Waltman, who said he had a “lot of great memories of him.”

Jeff Jarrett also praised the man, describing him as a “great agent/producer/teacher.” 

Shane Helms echoed the statement by saying that he had “a couple really funny Lanza stories, as I’m sure anyone who knew him does.” He went on to say that he learned a lot from Lanza, saying “he wasn’t always pleasant in his delivery, but I damn sure appreciated his honesty.”

WWE owner Vince McMahon also paid tribute to him, calling Lanza a “man’s man, respected and beloved by all.”

Image via WWE