Remembering Jack Tunney

Craig Wilson

My first non-wrestler “Remembering” post was inspired by Jamie’s post the other day where he reminisced about the olden days in the WWE and mentioned the former President Jack Tunney, who sadly died in 2004 aged 68.

Jack Tunney was known worldwide for his appearances on WWF television as the promotion’s figurehead promoter, suspending wrestlers, stripping them of titles and ordering matches, all during the WWF’s 80’s boom period while Hulkamania was at its peak.

Perhaps lesser known was that Jack, born John Tunney, was actually from a long line of promoters in Toronto. His father, John Tunney, and his uncle Frank Tunney were promoters in Toronto of wrestling, with John being the head promoter until his sudden death., Tunney entered into employment with the company as they promoted all over southern Ontario, and what they didn’t promote, they still had control over, allowing small promoters to run small towns where it suited them.

When Frank Tunney died in May 1983, Jack Tunney and his cousin Eddy Tunney, Frank’s son, took control of the company. With the years of experience under his belt, Jack moved into the spotlight his uncle loved, and Eddy was a silent partner. In 1984 the two of them switched their allegiances from the NWA to Vince McMahon’s fledgling WWF and what a business masterstroke that proved to be. They began promoting only WWF cards, becoming another stop on the WWF circuit.

Tunney has successfully positioned himself as the WWF’s man in Canada and in the summer of
of 1984, he was named the company’s storyline “President”. This made him a household name across the world. However, the title was ceremonial only, as he held no backstage power beyond that of a regional promoter; as such, his main roles were that of a storyline authority figure and to announce major decisions or events on television.

Some of his major television appearances were iconic moments in WWF history including stripping the Million Dollar Man of the title after he bought it from Andre the Giant, restricting Demolition to only two members after Crush joined the team, distorting Ric Flair’s “real world title” on WWF television and banning Jack ‘the Snake’ Roberts from bringing his snake to ringside. His run with the WWF coincided with the the WWF’s boom period with the peak of his reign arguable being WrestleMania VI, the first WrestleMania held outside of the U.S., which saw 67,000 fans attend the event at the Toronto’s SkyDome.

As the 1990s progressed, his onscreen appearances decreased with one of his final major appearances coming at the start of 1994 when he declared Bret Hart and Lex Lugar as the co-winners of that year’s Royal Rumble. In 1995, McMahon chose to run the shows in Toronto without any involvement from the Tunneys and that year Tunney was forced out of the WWF. After leaving the WWF he retired and disappeared from the wrestling scene.

Jack died Saturday, January 24, 2004, in Lindsay, Ontario aged 68. Nobody from the WWE attended Tunney’s funeral, nor was his passing announced on WWE.com. He will, however, be fondly remembered by WWF fans for his appearance with the company and the memorable, and iconic, moments he was involved in during his spell as WWF President.

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