Thursday, March 27, 2008

John Tenta

John Anthony Tenta (June 22, 1963 – June 7, 2006) was a Canadian professional wrestler, best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation as Earthquake.

John Tenta was born in Surrey, British Columbia. Named after his father, he was a large baby weighing 11 pounds, 3 ounces at birth. Inspired by professional wrestlers Gene Kiniski and Don Leo Jonathan, Tenta decided to pursue wrestling at age 6. He learned freestyle wrestling at North Surrey Secondary, becoming a Canadian junior champion in 1981. Shortly after his 18th birthday, he finished sixth in the super-heavyweight category at the World Junior Wrestling Championships at Vancouver.

Tenta won an athletic scholarship to Louisiana State University (LSU), where he competed in NCAA-level collegiate wrestling. At LSU he was nicknamed "Big John" Tenta, lettering on the Tiger varsity wrestling team and participating on the football team. LSU had dropped varsity wrestling to comply with Title IX in 1985, forcing Tenta to choose a new sport.

Tenta then moved to Japan to pursue a career in sumo after being recruited by a former Yokozuna who met Tenta on a trip to Vancouver. In October 1985, he joined a sumo stable, Sadogatake, run by former-Yokozuna Kotozakura Masakatsu (his stable also produced current Ōzeki Kotoōshū Katsunori from Bulgaria). Following tradition, the young sumotori took the name of Kototenta (Koto + Tenta), translated as Tenta the Harp.

Beginning the sport at age 22, he entered nearly 7 years later than many non-college aspirants. However, the combination of his size—he already weighed 192 kg (423 lb)—and training as a wrestler were to his advantage in learning and advancing in the sport. The novice won a string of 17 consecutive victories in his first six months, and was later renamed Kototenzan, Heavenly Mountain Harp. The novelty of being a rare Westerner sumotori in the mid-1980s, and the third-ever Caucasian, garnered him press coverage, and he earned the additional nickname of the "Canadian Comet".

Despite doing well as a newcomer he soon quit the sport due to the difficulty of the sumo lifestyle and the toll the hard ring surface was taking on his body. In addition, the sumo world frowned on the large tattoo of a tiger on his left biceps and, though he covered it during matches, would have required him to remove it via skin graft before moving up to the higher level competitions (in Japan tattoos are associated with gangsters). After leaving sumo, he quickly signed up for puroresu (Japanese Pro Wrestling) under the tutelage of Shohei "Giant" Baba. He made his professional wrestling debut with All Japan Pro Wrestling in May 1988. Tenta had a solid 18 month career, teaming with popular Japanese wrestlers Giant Baba and The Great Kabuki, before getting the attention of American pro-wrestling promoters.

Personal financial difficulties lead Tenta to contact WCW, Hulk Hogan, a longtime friend, lobbied to have Tenta come in, and so Tenta broke his WWF contract to join WCW.

Tenta was introduced as Avalanche and feuded with Sting, but the character name was dropped after WWF threatened legal action over similarities to the Earthquake character. He then joined the Dungeon of Doom faction as The Shark. He was even pressured by WCW management to change the tattoo on his arm of an LSU Tiger to that of a shark. He eventually left the Dungeon of Doom and wrestled under his real name after delivering a scathing promo about the many other names and gimmicks he'd been forced into in the past, including the memorable line "I'm not a fish. I'm a man".

Following a match with the Dungeon of Doom's Giant, half of Tenta's head was shaved by Big Bubba Rogers, another Dungeon member. The two would go on to feud against one another, with Rogers shaving off Tenta's beard as well.

Tenta retired from wrestling in 2004 after it was revealed that he had developed bladder cancer, in which he was given a twenty percent chance to live, assuming he continued with his chemotherapy treatments. During his November 18, 2005 interview on WrestleCrap RadioListen, Tenta announced that a recent radiation dosage did not go as planned, as it had no effect on the tumor. He also announced that multiple tumors had spread to his lungs.

The first public notice of Tenta's death was posted on on June 7, 2006 at approximately 12:30 p.m. EDT, which read:

John "Earthquake" Tenta passed away this morning, June 7, at the age of 42 after a lengthy battle with bladder cancer. Tenta is survived by his wife and three kids.

On the June 9, 2006 edition of SmackDown! and the June 12, 2006 edition of RAW, before each show began, the WWE showed an eyecatch that said "In memory of John "Earthquake" Tenta 1963-2006."

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