Ox Baker (April 19, 1934 – October 20, 2014) was a legendary heel and one of the greatest promo men in the business. His devastating finishing move, the Heart Punch, was notorious due to wrestler Alberto Torres (in 1971) and wrestler/promoter Ray Gunkel (in 1972) dying after facing Baker, although Torres' death was due to a ruptured appendix and Gunkel's from a hematoma/blood clot. The move was sometimes called the "Hurt Punch", after Baker's famous catchphrase "I like to hurt people!" from which the title of a wrestling documentary was derived.
Baker was trained by Buddy Austin, Pat O'Connor, and Bob Geigel, and debuted in 1964. As time went on he was winning a majority of his matches by knock out caused by the Heart Punch. Initially debuting as a kind, horn-rimmed glasses wearing, country simpleton, Baker later turned heel. He was known for his unique look and ability to cut a promo. In 1967 Baker worked for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) as The Friendly Arkansas Ox. In his first appearance there, Baker teamed with Armand Hussein in a handicap match versus Gorilla Monsoon. Later on Baker went to fight in different promotions through North America, including Stampede Wrestling in Canada, the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico, and the United States-based American Wrestling Association throughout the 1970s. It was in Atlanta in the early 1970's that Baker hit his stride with the persona he'd become known for, generating heat as a top heel for the territory. On June 13, 1971, Baker and his partner the Claw were wrestling in an AWA Midwest Tag Team Championship tag team match against Alberto Torres and Cowboy Bob Ellis in Verdigre, Nebraska. Torres was injured during the match and died three days later. Though evidence indicated that Torres died of a ruptured appendix, Baker's Heart Punch was blamed; the death was worked into Baker's wrestling persona, reinforcing his heel character. On August 1, 1972, Baker lost to Ray Gunkel. Following the match, Gunkel died in the locker room; his death was attributed to a blood clot, which broke off from a hematoma caused by Baker, which led to a heart attack. Again, the death was worked into Baker's character, and in 1974, Baker caused a riot in Cleveland, Ohio, for continually Heart Punching Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd after the match was finished. Baker was hit by a bottle and cut with a knife while fleeing the arena. That's heat!During his career he defeated "Cowboy" Bob Ellis for the World Wrestling Association's World Heavyweight Championship in Indianapolis and Carlos Colon for the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship in Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council. Baker beat The Sheik to win the Detroit version of the US Heavyweight title; he also won the NWA American Heavyweight Championship and the NWA Texas Heavyweight title several times. In addition, Baker was a multi-time tag team champion; he teamed with Ole Anderson and Skandor Akbar to capture tag team championships in the National Wrestling Alliance and National Wrestling Federation. Baker teamed with Chuck O'Connor to win the WWA World Tag Team Championship in 1976. He also teamed with Superstar Billy Graham to hold the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship. He is noted for a feud with Randy Savage in International Championship Wrestling, the southern promotion that Savage ran with his father Angelo Poffo and his brother Lanny Poffo. Late in his career, Baker appeared with Central States Wrestling as a face and feuded with Rip Rogers.
Ox worked sporadically from the late 1980's until his death in 2014, appearing as a manager or legend, still full of piss and vinegar, ever the loud mouth heel, but knee injuries had tempered his work by the early 1980's and age and ill health eventually made it impossible.
Baker has worked in several movies over his career, most notably in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He appeared as a fighter in Jackie Chan's The Big Brawl (1980) and as Kurt Russell's gladiatorial opponent "Slag" in John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981). In addition, he was cast in the professional wrestling film named for his catch phrase, I Like to Hurt People. On January 19, 1981, Baker was a contestant on the game show The Price is Right. In 1985, Ox Baker played the Russian in the wrestling movie Blood Circus.
In 2006 the North Carolina-based indie band the Mountain Goats released a song on their Babylon Springs EP titled "Ox Baker Triumphant" in which Baker is betrayed by the wrestling community and rises up to strike vengeance upon them.
Ox Baker passed October 20, 2014. We miss him.
April 18, 1934