Gino Hernandez

Charles Eugene Wolfe Jr. (August 8, 1957 – February 2, 1986) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Gino Hernandez. He is perhaps best known for his appearances with the Dallas, Texas-based promotion World Class Championship Wrestling between 1976 until his death in 1986.[1] Hernandez's death was initially ruled a homicide case, but police later concluded that he had died of a drug overdose.

Gino Hernandez
Gino Hernandez.jpg
Birth nameCharles Eugene Wolfe Jr.
Born(1957-08-08)August 8, 1957
Highland Park, Texas, United States
DiedFebruary 2, 1986(1986-02-02) (aged 28)[1]
Highland Park, Texas, United States
Cause of deathCocaine intoxication
Spouse(s)
Janice Marie Bancroft
(m. 1976⁠–⁠1977)

(m. 1978⁠–⁠1979)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Gino Hernandez
Billed height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Billed weight240 lb (110 kg; 17 st)[2]
Billed fromHighland Park, Texas, United States[2]

Professional wrestling careerEdit

As a rookie, babyface wrestler in Ed Farhat's Big Time Wrestling promotion in Detroit, "Gino Hernandez" was a very young, fresh-faced performer who got over with female fans due to his long black hair, and good looks. He won Big Time's top title (its version of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship) by defeating "Bulldog" Don Kent. During this time, Wolfe also wrestled at least one match for WWE forerunner the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Gino lost the (Detroit) U.S. Title to his real-life boss: The Sheik (Big Time Wrestling owner and booker Eddie Farhat's 'Psycho-Arab' heel persona).

Southwest Championship WrestlingEdit

Wolfe's Gino character -- nicknamed "The Handsome Halfbreed" -- started wrestling in 1975 in the San Antonio, Texas wrestling territory, Southwest Championship Wrestling (SCW), after being trained by Jose Lothario. He was initially in a tag-team with Lothario, then turned into a singles act via a "protege vs. mentor" storyline. The storyline feud with Lothario culminated in a "hair vs. hair match", which Hernandez lost -- having his head shaved in the ring, as a result.

World Class Championship WrestlingEdit

In the late-1970s and early-1980s, Gino worked for Dallas-based territory, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) (called NWA Big Time Wrestling, at the time). The highlight was a storyline feud with David Von Erich over the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, which Gino won and lost back to David.[3] Gino returned to SCW, forming a hugely popular tag-team ("The Dynamic Duo") with the territory owner's son, Tully Blanchard. Hernandez and Blanchard's tag-team act became so successful that they were the top (based on box office drawing power) heels in the state of Texas -- regardless of territory.

Mid-South WrestlingEdit

In 1982, Gino instigated a storyline feud with Chavo Guerrero by hitting him over the head with a beer bottle, and later insulting the Guerrero family name. This short-lived feud played out across multiple Texas territories.

Return to WCCWEdit

Gino returned to WCCW in 1984, at different times individually or collectively feuding with the Von Erichs: Mike, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. That summer, Gino was paired with Nickla Roberts, who was billed Andrea the Lady Giant (a'la Andre the Giant). The duo worked a series of mixed tag team matches against Sunshine and Mike Von Erich. Even Sunshine's aunt, Stella Mae French, was involved. Gino was put in a tag team with WCCW newcomer Jake "The Snake" Roberts in August 1984. Gino also formed a tag-team with Chris Adams; WCCW called them "The Dynamic Duo", as SCW had Gino and Tully. This WCCW version proved the more famous, as Adams and Hernandez drew high revenues and television ratings for World Class in their feud with the Von Erichs.[4] The duo invented the famed gold scissors gimmick: snipping hair from the heads of their incapacitated opponents right after defeating them (a humiliation tactic meant to increase fans' anger toward the heels, increasing the heels' TV/live show drawing power). This gimmick was later used in the WWF by Brutus Beefcake.

Adams and Hernandez lost a "hair" match to Kevin and Kerry Von Erich at a Cotton Bowl show on October 6, 1985. After the match, Hernandez attempted to escape, but was tackled by Chris Von Erich, who was at ringside, and eventually had his hair shaved bald. His hair quickly grew back in two months, while Adams' hair took longer. With the Von Erichs storyline completed but the momentum from it still red-hot with fans, Gino was next booked to turn on Adams in December 1985. WCCW management intended this new feud to become its top storyline throughout 1986. On January 26, 1986, during a grudge match in Fort Worth, Hernandez threw "freebird hair cream" (a "hair-removal product" previously established in WCCW storyline continuity in 1983 by Freebird Buddy Roberts) into Adams' face, rendering Adams blind (in reality, Adams was returning to his native England to spend time with his new wife [Toni], and his family; however, WCCW told Adams he had to continue to "sell" the blindness whenever out in public). Hernandez was scheduled to perform on a house show the following Thursday, and on a non-televised show at Dallas' Sportatorium the following Friday. After Gino no-showed both events, WCCW management's phone calls to him went unanswered.

Personal lifeEdit

His mother was Patrice Aguirre and his father was Charles Eugene Wolfe Sr., with the latter's identity being unknown to the point that wrestling fans speculated that Wolfe's father was actually Houston Wrestling promoter Paul Boesch, due to how close they were. Wolfe adopted the Gino Hernandez name after his stepfather, Luis Hernandez, who trained with him when Gino was a child.[5]

Wolfe was married twice, both times to Janice Marie Bancroft.[6] They were first married on April 10, 1976 in Harris County, Texas, before divorcing soon after on January 27, 1977. During their first marriage, they had a daughter, Lisha. The pair remarried on April 12, 1978 before divorcing again on July 19, 1979. According to former WCCW colleague Jake Roberts, Hernandez was involved with the gay community in Houston.[7]

DeathEdit

On February 4, 1986, concerned with Wolfe's well-being, two WCCW officials (David Manning and Rick Hazzard) and several local police officers broke into his Highland Park, Texas condo, discovering Wolfe's decomposing corpse. He had been dead for approximately three to four days. Initially, Wolfe's death was ruled a homicide case; but following autopsy reports, his death was ruled the result of a cocaine overdose.[4]

Wolfe's drug abuse (e.g., alcohol and cocaine, among others) was no secret to many World Class mainstays, including onscreen manager/one-time booker Gary Hart, who claimed to have repeatedly encouraged Wolfe to "get clean".[8] The syndicated World Class TV episode scheduled to air the weekend of February 15, 1986 originally included a Gino Hernandez match taped on January 24 at the Dallas Sportatorium. This match never aired; instead, show announcer Bill Mercer gave an on-camera announcement of Gino's death, and a different match aired in its place.[9] Both Mercer and Marc Lowrance treated Hernandez's death as well as Chris Adams' blinding angle as equally significant during a time when World Class was about to go forward with their feud beginning at Texas Stadium. Adams returned the following May, and won the World Class Heavyweight Championship two months later. The funeral service and its expenses were handled by a reputed local drug dealer/trafficker called John Royal, with whom Hernandez had become friends. Family members were uncomfortable with Royal and his associates overseeing the funeral proceedings; many had never heard of or met them prior to Wolfe's death.[10]

SkepticismEdit

Although police dropped the homicide investigation into Hernandez's death, some still believe he was murdered in a drug-related incident.[10][11][12] According to David Manning, Hernandez had five times the amount of cocaine in his system that would have resulted in a fatality, and he and Kevin Von Erich stated that Hernandez also had cocaine in his stomach.[13] Manning also suspected foul play due to the fact that Hernandez's dead bolt on his door was not locked, as he made it a habit in the past to lock the dead bolt at all times.[13] In the weeks before his death, Hernandez had expressed to Manning and others the belief that his life was under threat.[10]

Former rival Michael Hayes said in a 2016 interview: "I have a real, real hard time believing that Gino Hernandez OD'd... he was most definitely hanging with the wrong crowd, and either ran his mouth too much, or knew too much, or all of the above."[14] Asked about Hernandez's death, Jake Roberts said: "Gino was attached to some heavy people... he was running in some pretty big circles, man, that maybe he didn't belong [in]."[7] Hernandez's mother Patrice Aguirre and ex-wife Janice Marie Bancroft expressed the belief that he was probably murdered; Aguirre reported that criminal Jon Royal had told her of debts owed to him by Hernandez. She later received a recorded message from a gangland source who was close to Hernandez, claiming that her son was not murdered.[10]

Both Aguirre and Bancroft have explored the possibility that Hernandez faked his death, given that he had once talked about doing so, and because the autopsy report was replete with errors about his ethnicity and physicality. The family never saw his body, which was concealed by Hernandez's manager Walter Ayman due to its decomposed state, and honored in a closed-casket service.[10] Wrestler Brutus Beefcake has rejected the murder theory, saying that Hernandez "had a serious drug problem" and was an "intense, crazy partier".[15] A documentary on Viceland TV, part of the Dark Side of the Ring series, called "The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino", aired on May 8, 2019.

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "This Month in History: February". Power Slam. SW Publishing. January 1999. p. 28. 55.
  2. ^ a b Screen Caption (June 15, 2006). Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs (DVD). Right Here Pictures. Event occurs at Chapter: February 4, 1986. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  3. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  4. ^ a b Kristian Pope & Ray Whebbe (2003). The Encyclopedia of Professional Wrestling: 100 Years of History, Headlines & Hitmakers (2nd ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 978-0-87349-625-4.
  5. ^ Texas Divorces, 1968-2002
  6. ^ Texas Marriages
  7. ^ a b "Jake Roberts on Gino Hernandez Murder". The Hannibal TV. March 5, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  8. ^ Gary Hart (WCCW Booker) (June 15, 2006). Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs (DVD). Right Here Pictures. Event occurs at Chapter: February 4, 1986. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  9. ^ Bill Mercer (WCCW Commentator) (June 15, 2006). Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs (DVD). Right Here Pictures. Event occurs at Chapter: February 4, 1986. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  10. ^ a b c d e "The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino". Dark Side of the Ring. Season 1. Episode 5. May 8, 2019. Viceland.
  11. ^ Tully Blanchard. Shoot with Tully Blanchard (DVD). USA: RF Video.
  12. ^ Bill Mercer (WCCW Referee & Booker) (June 15, 2006). Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs (DVD). Right Here Pictures. Event occurs at Chapter: February 4, 1986. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14. Some people said he might have been murdered.
  13. ^ a b David Manning (WCCW Referee & Booker) (June 15, 2006). Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs (DVD). Right Here Pictures. Event occurs at Chapter: February 4, 1986. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  14. ^ "Michael Hayes". Legends with JBL. March 29, 2016. 30–31 minutes in. WWE Network. WWE.
  15. ^ "Brutus Beefcake on 'Was Gino Hernandez murdered?'". The Hannibal TV. June 16, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  16. ^ NWA United States Heavyweight Title (Chicago & Detroit) history At wrestling-titles.com
  17. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). "Texas: NWA / World Class American Heavyweight Title [Von Eric]". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. pp. 265–266. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  18. ^ "NWA United States Heavyweight Title (1967-1968/05) - American Heavyweight Title (1968/05-1986/02)". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  19. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). "(Dallas) Texas: NWA American Tag Team Title [Fritz Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. ISBN 978-0-9698161-5-7.
  20. ^ "N.W.A. American Tag Team Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  21. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). "(Texas) Dallas: NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Title". Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 271. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  22. ^ "Texas Brass Knucks Title [East Texas]". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  23. ^ NWA International Junior Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  24. ^ Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Heavyweight Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 268–269. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  25. ^ "NWA Texas Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  26. ^ Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Tag Team Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  27. ^ "NWA Texas Tag Team Title [E. Texas]". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  28. ^ World 6-Man Tag Team Title (World Class) history At wrestling-titles.com
  29. ^ prowrestling.com retrieved April 9, 2019
  30. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080616064424/http://www.100megsfree4.com/wiawrestling/pages/pwi/pwi500yr.htm
  31. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080616063257/http://www.100megsfree4.com/wiawrestling/pages/pwi/pwi100tg.htm
  32. ^ SCW Southwest Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  33. ^ SCW World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com

External linksEdit