As first announced by his son on Facebook, legendary professional wrestler Dick "The Destroyer" Beyer passed away today at his home in Akron.
Beyer had been in hospice care in recent weeks and was surrounded by loved ones as his health was diminishing.
Beyer, 88, had a career spanning over four decades that included over 8,000 matches in the United States and Japan. During it's span, Beyer held the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship in both Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the American Wrestling Assosication's Heavyweight title. He's also been a NWA United States Heavyweight Champion for the central states, a NWA World Tag Team Champion in Texas, a NWA International Television Tag Team Champion in L.A., and a NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Champion.
As part of the classic All Japan Pro Wrestling, Beyer held the Asia Tag Team Championship with partner, Billy Red Lyons and he also held the PWF United States Heavyweight Championship on four separate occasions.
Beyer was also inducted in to the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002, and he was officially inducted in to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005.
In the aforementioned Facebook post, Beyer's son, Kurt wrote, "It is with a very heavy heart to let you know that Dad — aka the Destroyer, aka Doctor X, aka Dick Beyer, aka Coach — passed away shortly past noon today. He was in bed at home, and was surrounded by all of his children and wife as he slipped peacefully away. I will have more to share later, but wanted you to hear this sad news from me first. Thoughts and prayers are most welcome at this time. Peace."
WWE has since issued out a statement on Beyer's passing. The statement reads:
WWE is saddened to learn that Dick Beyer, a masked wrestling pioneer who was better known to ring fans as The Destroyer, has passed away at age 88.
Beginning his career in the 1950s, Beyer thrilled fans and terrified opponents for three decades. He came to prominence in the Los Angeles territory, where he rivaled the likes of Freddie Blassie and Gorgeous George. Beyer famously defeated the latter in a Hair vs. Mask Match at the hallowed Olympic Auditorium in 1962, resulting in Gorgeous George losing his trademark golden locks.
Beyer achieved perhaps his greatest notoriety, however, in Japan, becoming one of the first foreign attractions in the country. His 1963 match against Rikid?zan, a former sumo wrestler and cultural icon in Japan, drew the eyes of more than 70 million TV viewers, making it one of the most-watched bouts in history. Beyer eventually became a beloved figure in Japanese pop culture himself and was even a regular performer on a top-ranked variety show.
Beyer also made waves in the now-defunct American Wrestling Association under the alias "Doctor X," capturing the territory's heavyweight title from Verne Gagne in 1968. As Doctor X, he wore a different but no less menacing mask, and his veiled countenance became immortalized when Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry was once photographed onstage wearing a shirt with his likeness on it.
A regional sports hero in upstate New York, Beyer wrestled and played football at Syracuse University before turning to the ring. His impact in sports-entertainment was felt long after his retirement, too, as Beyer is credited with training former WWE Tag Team Champion Mike Rotundo.
WWE extends its condolences to Beyer's family, friends and fans.
Below are some matches from the legendary career of Dick "The Destroyer" Beyer:
Jeffrey Hammond, Keith Goessl and James Stewart contributed to this article.