Grappling With Tragedy: Jerry Blackwell

Brian Damage

Grappling with Tragedy is a series of articles that deal with unfortunate, tragic incidents that have occurred throughout the history of professional wrestling. It is unlike the ‘Wrestling with Sin’ series that deals more with the seedier side of wrestling like arrests, murders and suicides. Grappling looks more at particular tragic incidents that have in some instances altered pro wrestling in some way.

Crusher Blackwell

Jerry Blackwell began his career in 1974 after being trained by Gino Brito. He spent his first few years wrestling in the northeast, until settling in with Verne Gagne’s AWA in 1979. He was initially known as ‘Farmer’ Blackwell, but absolutely hated the name and changed it to Crusher Blackwell. He only stood around 5 ft 9 in, but weighed close to 500 pounds and had great speed and agility in the ring. In fact, Blackwell at his size, could execute standing dropkicks.

Blackwell feuded with ‘The Crusher’ Reggie Lisowski over use of the Crusher nickname in the AWA. He was also nicknamed the “Mountain from Stone Mountain, Georgia.” Blackwell remained with the AWA up until 1984, when he was persuaded by Vince McMahon to join the ever expanding WWF. The day he joined the WWF, he was sent to cut promos, but allegedly had to wait in line with several other wrestlers. Blackwell decided that he did not want or need to wait in line, because he was a wrestler, not a corporate employee and quit the WWF before he even debuted.

Blackwell returned to the AWA and pledged his loyalty to Verne Gagne, where he remained for the rest of his career. Blackwell wrestled as both a top face and heel for the company. He replaced Hulk Hogan as the AWA’s top babyface once Hogan left for the WWF. Blackwell challenged for the world title on numerous occasions, always coming up short in the process. He also turned heel and aligned with Ken Patera and Sheik Adnan, winning the AWA world tag team titles from Jim Brunzell and Greg Gagne. Blackwell also competed in feats of strength and had the ability to drive nails into 2×4’s using only his forehead.

Jerry Blackwell retired from wrestling in 1989, after years of putting his body through the physical punishment associated with pro wrestling. His body also began breaking down due to his weight as he suffered from a multitude of illnesses including diabetes, gangrene and gout. Blackwell would be involved in a number of automobile crashes after his retirement. Some have speculated that Blackwell was intentionally crashing his cars in suicide attempts, but that was never confirmed. His last crash came in December of 1994. His injuries were severe enough that he suffered kidney failure and contracted pneumonia. He later died stemming from his injuries on January 22, 1995. Jerry ‘Crusher’ Blackwell was just 45 years old at the time of his death.

4 thoughts on “Grappling With Tragedy: Jerry Blackwell

  1. His team with Patera is underrated. Had no ideas about the car crashes. If he hasn’t quit WWF on the first day, he probably would have been one of the hillbillies. Because that’s how Vince would probably have seen him

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Damn. Hope the suicide attempts by car crash tales are not true. That’s a truly depressing and extreme way to try and end it all. A shame Jerry does not get his just due anymore. He was a trendsetting big man who could be face or heel.


  3. As a kid growing up in mn, AWA was my introduction to wrestling. Its where i first saw Hulk Hogan. I was an AWA hulkamaniac before it was in WWF.
    Jerry Blackwell was my first real heel/face experience i bet. AWA used to do TV tapings in select cities and tape 3 or 4 weeks worth of shows. One of these sets was where Col Debeers piledrove Big Scott Hall onto the cement floor, causing him to develop a cuban accent shortly after.
    Back to Jerry, so as a kid, big mean crusher scared me, then here he is back, a good guy and high fiving kids and fans, then a bit later he’s bad again. I’m sure time periods were longer but still seemed short time frames. As a kid it was so cool getting a walk by five from crusher after being scared of him as a 7 and 8 year old.

    Never knew he tried out for wwf. Always figured like Greg Gagne, Nick Bockwinkle and a few others he was essentially an AWA lifer.

    Knew he died of pneumonia, but none of the events leading up to all of that. Very sad to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I forgot to add, he had a great dropkick for his size and a fun few battles with Andre. I remember seeing a house show battle royal, pre AWA hulk, last 2 were Andre and Blackwell. Andre won of course, and at one point stepped on and walked over Jerry on his chest. Very memorable.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.