Noted technician, Japanese wrestling pioneer and former WWA World’s and PWF US Heavyweight Champion The Destroyer, Dick Beyer, has passed away in his home state of New York, aged 88.
Beyer built his athletic reputation at the Syracuse University in New York where he obtained an MA in Physical Education and was a member of both the Football and Wrestling squads. Upon GRADUATION, he would teach and coach swimming, beginning wrestling in the late fifties.
Beyer caught on in the WWA, where WWE Hall of Famer Pedro Morales made his reputation, the Los Angeles promotion that had set up outside of the NWA and which recognised its own World’s champion.
Lead heel at the time and known creative mind, “Classy” Freddie Blassie. Suggested a new gimmick for Beyer, an intimidating masked man, Beyer gave it a try and was immediately pushed towards the WWA World title, a belt he would hold for ten months. His run would not go unnoticed.
The WWA had a talent swap initiative with the Japan Wrestling Association and regularly hosted its top stars including its main drawing talent. Recognising Beyer’s wrestling ability which always sold well in Japan, and his ability to work heel, Rikidozan invited the Destroyer to Tokyo for a match in 1964. It would be the most watched wrestling match in history at the time. 70 Million Japanese fans tuned into watch a half hour mat classic.
He would become a mainstay for the JWA in the ensuing years paving the way Gaijin wrestlers who grew to appreciate the generous pay offs for athletic matches that enabled rest and recovery time.
Beyer did have more runs in the US, most notably the AWA, but his main focus would be Japan. When Giant Baba founded All Japan Pro Wrestling, Beyer was first on his call sheet. The Pacific Wrestling Federation United States Championship, which predates the IWGP US Title by some forty years, was adopted from the Hawaii territory.
Beyer had become the NWA North American Champion, the top title on the Island, but when the belt fell into disrepair he had a new one made and was billed as a US Champion.
Champion on arrival, Beyer worked hard to make the US title a vital part of the All Japan tapestry for the next six years. He would hold the belt for five years before beginning his bloody and violent feud with Abdullah The Butcher, then again dropping it to Lucha Libre star Mil Mascaras in 1978.
His four reigns with the championship proved that Gaijin could be a strong draw as a babyface champion in Japan, and while he wasn’t the first, he would become a pioneer of cross platform media approaches, becoming a rising star of Television in Japan with his show Uwasa No Channel. When he left All Japan in 1979, the US title was abandoned as Baba aimed to streamline the singles division.
After working in the US to close out his career, going back into Physical Education, Beyer then moved into retirement, became a Board member of the Cauliflower Alley Club and opened The Destroyer Golf Park in Akron. He was also awarded the “Order of the Rising Sun “a lifetime spent promoting goodwill and bi-cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States”.
He inducted noted LA wrestling legend Gorgeous George into the WWE Hall of Fame, and in his last act in professional wrestling was to send a letter of congratulation to his old nemesis Abdullah The Butcher at his retirement show last month. To frail to travel, he sent a picture that was shown on the big screen at Ryogoku, his mask on, a smile on his face and showing his fist to the camera, with the entrance to his own Golf Park in the background. Still fighting all those years later.
Beyer was a noted technician, as William Regal posted in tribute on Twitter “The Dick Beyer was a head (snap) mare , tackle, sleep (drop down), vault (leapfrog) and reverse monkey climb (flip). Tony Charles and Dick Beyer came up with those sequences and they were so well respected that their names were kept as terminology.”
The shorthand of wrestling pros and they way the presented themselves was changed forever by a wrestler who clearly showed pride in his work, who opened doors to new markets, and helped secure the future of a wrestling dynasty in Japan.
Pictures courtesy of WWE.