Raymond Fred "Ray" Gunkel (February 16, 1924 - August 1, 1972) was an American professional wrestler and promoter in the state of Georgia. He died of heart trauma after a match in Savannah, Georgia in which he defeated Ox Baker.

Ray Gunkel
Ray Gunkel.jpg
Birth nameRaymond Fred Gunkel
Born(1924-02-16)February 16, 1924
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedAugust 1, 1972(1972-08-01) (aged 48)
Savannah, Georgia, United States
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Ray Gunkel
Billed height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Billed weight260 lb (120 kg)
Trained byBilly Thom

Early lifeEdit

Gunkel was born on February 16, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois.[1][2] He attended Kelvyn Park High School before attending Purdue University. He competed on the university's wrestling and football teams. As an All-American wrestler, he was undefeated in his junior and senior years and helped his team win the Big Ten Conference twice. As an individual, he finished second in the NCAA final to Dick Hutton. He also won the Amateur Athletic Union national championship in both 1947 and 1948.[1]

Professional wrestling careerEdit


Gunkel originally wanted to become a teacher, but he entered professional wrestling immediately after leaving university. He made his debut in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1948.[1] He then moved to Texas, where he competed for throughout the early 1950s. On September 4, 1951, he defeated Duke Keomuka to win the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship.[3] After dropping the title belt to Miguel Guzmán, he later regained it by defeating Keomuka again. His third and final Texas Heavyweight Championship came in 1953, when he defeated Mr. Moto to win the vacant championship.[3] He was also successful as a tag team wrestler, as he won the NWA Texas Tag Team Championship seven times with six different partners.[4] While wrestling in Texas, Gunkel was managed by professional boxer Jack Dempsey.[5]


After Gunkel and his last partner, Amazing Zuma, dropped the tag team title in Texas, Gunkel left the promotion. He moved to Georgia, where he competed for the remainder of his career and won two dozen championships. His first title belt in Georgia came when he teamed with Don McIntyre to win the Georgia version of the NWA International Tag Team Championship.[6]


On August 1, 1972, Gunkel wrestled Ox Baker in Savannah, Georgia. During the match, Baker punched Gunkel in the chest. Gunkel won the match, but he died later that day of heart problems.[1] An autopsy showed that Gunkel suffered from undiagnosed arteriosclerosis, but that his death was a result of heart trauma. It was determined that Baker's punch created a hematoma, which led to a blood clot that caused his death when it reached his heart.[1] Gunkel was buried in Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, Georgia.[2]

Following his death, Gunkel's wife Ann announced her intention to take his place in the ABC Booking wrestling organization. Gunkel's partners objected and closed the promotion. They immediately opened a new promotion that excluded Ann Gunkel.[1] Ann Gunkel formed the All-South Wrestling Alliance, which operated until November 1974, when she was forced to sell the company because of declining business.[1]

Ray Gunkel was posthumously inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame in 2008. His daughter Pam accepted the award on his behalf.[7]

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Johnson, Steven (2008-06-24). "How Ray Gunkel's death changed wrestling". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  2. ^ a b "Wrestler Profiles: Ray Gunkel". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  3. ^ a b c "Texas Heavyweight Title". Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  4. ^ "Texas Tag Team Title". Wrestling Titles. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  5. ^ "Ray Gunkel: 2008 Hall of Fame Inductee". Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum. Archived from the original on November 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  6. ^ "International Tag Team Title (Georgia)". Wrestling Titles. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  7. ^ Oliver, Greg (2008-06-28). "Piper, Saito, Jacobs enter Tragos/Thesz HOF". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  8. ^ *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.
  9. ^ "NWA Texas Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "NWA Texas Tag Team Title [E. Texas]". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  12. ^ Klingman, Kyle (June 20, 2008). "Flood won't stop Tragos/Thesz HOF 'Super Weekend'". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved November 6, 2018.

External linksEdit