Ox Baker was a notorious villain in the world of professional wrestling for more than 30 years. He was known for his distinctive appearance, his brutal finishing move, and his catchphrase “I love to hurt people!”. But what many fans may not know is that Ox Baker was also involved in two tragic incidents that resulted in the deaths of his opponents. How did Ox Baker cause the death of two wrestlers with his heart punch? And what was the impact of these events on his life and career? This article will explore the story of Ox Baker and his deadly weapon.
The Origin of the Heart Punch
Ox Baker was born as Douglas Allen Baker in 1934 in Sedalia, Missouri. He was an accomplished high school athlete, but he dropped out of school and married young. He started wrestling in 1964 to support his family, and was trained by Buddy Austin, Pat O’Connor, and Bob Geigel. He initially debuted as a friendly country simpleton, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a straw hat. But he soon turned into a heel, a villainous character who would cheat and taunt his opponents and the fans.
Baker adopted the heart punch as his signature move from another wrestler, Stan Stasiak, who called it the “heart punch of death”. The heart punch was a simple but effective move, where Baker would strike his opponent in the chest with his fist, supposedly stopping their heart. Baker renamed the move the “hurt punch” after Stasiak objected to him using the same name. Baker also added a theatrical touch to the move, by raising his arm and pointing his finger at his victim before delivering the blow.
Baker claimed that the heart punch was a legitimate and lethal move, and that he had learned it from a karate master in Japan. He also said that he had to register his fist as a deadly weapon with the police. Of course, these were all part of his wrestling persona, and the heart punch was not really dangerous, as long as it was performed safely and with the cooperation of the other wrestler. However, things took a dark turn when two of Baker’s opponents died shortly after facing him in the ring.
The Death of Alberto Torres
The first incident happened on June 13, 1971, in Verdigre, Nebraska. Baker and his partner, the Claw, were wrestling against Alberto Torres and Cowboy Bob Ellis for the AWA Midwest Tag Team Championship. During the match, Baker hit Torres with several heart punches, and pinned him for the win. Torres was carried out of the ring on a stretcher, and died later that night in a hospital. The official cause of death was heart disease, but the promoters decided to use the incident to boost Baker’s reputation as a killer. They announced that Torres had died from the heart punch, and Baker began to brag about it in his interviews.
Baker later said that he felt terrible about Torres’ death, and that he had no idea that Torres had a heart condition. He also said that he tried to visit Torres’ family to express his condolences, but they refused to see him. Baker said that he was haunted by the incident, and that he had nightmares about it for years.
The Death of Ray Gunkel
The second incident happened on August 1, 1972, in Savannah, Georgia. Baker was wrestling against Ray Gunkel, a popular wrestler and promoter in the Georgia territory. Gunkel was a veteran of the business, and had been wrestling since the 1950s. He was also the owner of the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion, and had a lot of influence and respect in the industry. The match between Baker and Gunkel was supposed to be a routine affair, with Gunkel winning by disqualification after Baker used a foreign object. However, things went wrong after the match ended.
Gunkel collapsed in the locker room, and was pronounced dead shortly after. The cause of death was a blood clot that had formed in his chest, and had traveled to his heart, causing a heart attack. Some sources claim that the blood clot was caused by Baker’s heart punch, while others say that it was a result of a pre-existing injury that Gunkel had suffered in a car accident. Either way, the promoters once again decided to blame Baker for the death, and announced that Gunkel had died from the heart punch. Baker was again portrayed as a murderer, and was banned from wrestling in Georgia.
Baker later said that he was shocked and saddened by Gunkel’s death, and that he had no intention of hurting him. He also said that he was afraid for his life, as Gunkel’s widow, Ann, who took over the promotion, had put a bounty on his head. Baker said that he received death threats from fans and wrestlers, and that he had to hire bodyguards to protect him.
The Aftermath of the Deaths
The deaths of Torres and Gunkel had a profound impact on Baker’s career and life. He became one of the most hated and feared wrestlers in the business, and was often booed and attacked by the fans. He also faced legal troubles, as he was sued by both Torres’ and Gunkel’s families for wrongful death. Baker managed to settle both cases out of court, but he had to pay a large sum of money to the plaintiffs.
Baker continued to wrestle for various promotions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and faced some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, and Harley Race. He also appeared in several movies, most notably Escape from New York, where he played a savage warrior who fought Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken. He retired from wrestling in 2014, on his 80th birthday, after a final match against his longtime friend and rival, Baron von Raschke.
Baker died on October 20, 2014, in Hartford, Connecticut, due to complications from a heart attack he suffered earlier that year. He was 80 years old. He was survived by his wife, Peggy, and his son, Douglas Jr. He was remembered by his fans and peers as a legendary wrestler and a kind-hearted man.
Ox Baker was a unique and unforgettable character in the history of professional wrestling. He was a master of psychology and storytelling, and he knew how to draw heat and emotion from the crowd. He was also a victim of circumstance, as he was involved in two tragic deaths that were beyond his control. He had to live with the guilt and the stigma of being a killer, and he had to face the consequences of his actions. He was a complex and controversial figure, who left a lasting legacy in the world of sports entertainment.