Gino Hernandez

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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)

Janice Marie Bancroft (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]
Trained byJose Lothario
Debut1973

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 best known for his appearances with the Dallas, Texas-based promotion World Class Championship Wrestling between 1976 and 1986.[1] Hernandez' death was initially ruled a homicide case, but police later concluded that he had died of a drug overdose.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

At the beginning of Gino Hernandez' career, he wrestled as a rookie babyface for Ed Farhat's Big Time Wrestling out of Detroit. Gino was a young, fresh-faced, inexperienced wrestler who got over with female fans due to his long black hair and good looks. He won the United States Heavyweight Championship in the Detroit area by defeating "Bulldog" Don Kent. Gino also wrestled at least one match around this time in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Gino eventually lost his United States Heavyweight Championship to the man who ruled Detroit for many years: The Sheik (promoter Eddie Farhat's in-ring Psycho-Arab heel persona).

Southwest Championship Wrestling[edit]

"The Handsome Halfbreed" started wrestling in 1975 in Southwest Championship Wrestling (SCW) after being trained by Jose Lothario. He formed a team with Lothario and eventually turned on him, starting a feud that saw Hernandez lose his hair to Lothario as the result of a hair vs. hair match.

World Class Championship Wrestling[edit]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gino went to World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), then known as Big Time Wrestling, where he feuded with David Von Erich over the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, which he won and lost to Von Erich.[3]

He returned to SCW and formed a tag team called "The Dynamic Duo" with Tully Blanchard that was quite successful. They were the top heels in Texas.

Working the Mid South territory[edit]

In 1982, he instigated a feud with Chavo Guerrero by hitting him over the head with a beer bottle and later insulting the Guerrero family name. This would lead to a short-lived multi-territory feud.

Return to WCCW[edit]

He returned to WCCW in 1984 and feuded with the Von Erichs; Mike, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. In the summer, he was paired with Nickla Roberts, who was billed at the time as Andrea the Lady Giant. The duo was paired in a series of mixed tag team matches between Sunshine and Mike Von Erich, with Sunshine's aunt Stella Mae French also getting involved.

He formed a tag team with WCCW newcomer, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, in August 1984. He also formed a team with Chris Adams, also called the "Dynamic Duo". This version proved to be the most famous, as Adams and Hernandez drew in high revenues and television ratings for World Class in their feud with the Von Erichs.[4]

The duo invented the famed gold scissors, and were known to cut hair off of their opponents after each win, a trend which would later be used in the WWF by Ed Leslie, aka Brutus Beefcake.

Adams and Hernandez lost a hair match to Kevin and Kerry Von Erich at the Cotton Bowl 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.

He soon turned on Adams in December 1985 (two months after losing their hair at the Cotton Bowl) and started a feud, which was to have been the top storyline of 1986 for World Class. On January 27, 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 the face of Adams, who was to sell his blinding injury so he could spend time in England with his new wife Toni and his family.

Hernandez was scheduled to compete on a house show the following Thursday and a non-televised wrestling card at the Sportatorium in Dallas the following Friday. Gino did not show for either of those matches, and phone calls made to him were never returned.

Death[edit]

On February 4,1986, concerned with Hernandez's well-being, two World Class officials, David Manning and Rick Hazzard, and several local law enforcement officers broke into his Highland Park apartment and found Hernandez dead. He had been dead for approximately three to four days. Initially, Hernandez's death was ruled a homicide case, but following autopsy reports, his death was ruled as a result of an overdose of cocaine.[4]

His cocaine addiction was not a secret to many World Class mainstays, including manager Gary Hart, who tried to encourage him many times to drop the habit.[5] On the DVD documentary The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling, Hart said that he had pictures of all of the wrestlers he managed except for Hernandez, because it made him too upset to see a picture of Gino.

The syndicated World Class broadcast (scheduled for a February 15 airing) was scheduled to have aired a match involving Gino Hernandez, originally taped on January 24 at the Dallas Sportatorium. That match never aired; instead, announcer Bill Mercer made the announcement of Gino's death, and a different match aired.[6]

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 criminal known as "John Royal", with whom Hernandez had become friends. Family members were uncomfortable with Royal and his men overseeing proceedings, with many unsure of who they were.[7]

Skepticism[edit]

Although police dropped the homicide investigation into Hernandez' death, many people still believe he was murdered in a drug-related incident.[7][8][9] According to David Manning, Hernandez had three 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.[10] 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.[10] In the weeks before his death, Hernandez had expressed to Manning and others the belief that his life was under threat.[7]

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."[11] Asked about Hernandez' 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]."[12] Hernandez's mother Patrice Aguirre and ex-wife Janice Marie Bancroft expressed the belief that he was probably murdered; Aguirre reported that criminal "John Royal" had told her of debts owed to him by Hernandez. She later tended toward the overdose ruling, however, after receiving a recorded message from a gangland source who was close to Hernandez.[7]

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 race 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.[7]

Wrestler Brutus Beefcake has rejected the murder theory, saying that Hernandez "had a serious drug problem" and was an "intense, crazy partier".[13]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Wolfe was married twice, both times to Janice Marie Bancroft.[14] 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. Wolfe adopted the Gino Hernandez name after his stepfather, Luis Hernandez, who trained with him when Gino was a child. [15]

According to former WCCW colleague Jake Roberts, Hernandez was involved with the gay community in Houston.[12]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. 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. ^ 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. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  6. ^ 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. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino". Dark Side of the Ring. Season 1. Episode 5. May 8, 2019. Viceland.
  8. ^ Tully Blanchard. Shoot with Tully Blanchard (DVD). USA: RF Video.
  9. ^ 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. Retrieved 2007-07-14. Some people said he might have been murdered.
  10. ^ 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. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  11. ^ "Michael Hayes". Legends with JBL. March 29, 2016. 30–31 minutes in. WWE Network. WWE.
  12. ^ a b "Jake Roberts on Gino Hernandez' Murder". The Hannibal TV. March 5, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  13. ^ "Brutus Beefcake on 'Was Gino Hernandez murdered?'". The Hannibal TV. June 16, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  14. ^ Texas Marriages
  15. ^ Texas Divorces, 1968-2002
  16. ^ NWA United States Heavyweight Title (Chicago & Detroit) history At wrestling-titles.com
  17. ^ NWA American Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  18. ^ NWA American Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  19. ^ Texas Brass Knuckles Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  20. ^ NWA International Junior Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  21. ^ Texas Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  22. ^ Texas Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  23. ^ World 6-Man Tag Team Title (World Class) history At wrestling-titles.com
  24. ^ prowrestling.com retrieved April 9, 2019
  25. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080616064424/http://www.100megsfree4.com/wiawrestling/pages/pwi/pwi500yr.htm
  26. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080616063257/http://www.100megsfree4.com/wiawrestling/pages/pwi/pwi100tg.htm
  27. ^ SCW Southwest Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  28. ^ SCW World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com

External links[edit]