Name: Johnny Valentine
Year Inducted: 2006
Induction Category: Television Era

Johnny Valentine

"Everything he did seemed meaningful." It's a statement you hear again and again from the contemporaries of Johnny Valentine. His slow, methodical style of beating up opponents infuriated fans, while his requests for harder hits from his foe would thrill those same fans. Everything was designed to make it look as real as possible.

"Johnny's way was to get a guy in a simple hold-like a hammerlock-cinch up on it, let go, beat the &*@# out of his opponent, then clamp on the hold again. This could go on for ten, even twenty minutes," wrote Ric Flair in his autobiography. "But you know, the crowd got into it. They really believed that he was hurting the guy with that hold."

"In the ring he's like a wild animal, snarling, slugging, gouging at his victim's eyes and trying to dismember the head from the rest of the body," once wrote the respected Stanley Weston. The Brain Buster elbow drop was Valentine's finisher, and he also used the Human Torture Rack and the Atomic Skull Crusher elbow smash. But it was ring psychology that was his greatest weapon. He would only reluctantly run the ropes or take bumps since, in his way of thinking, that would never happen in a real fight.

Born John Wisniski on September 22, 1929 in Hobart, Washington, he got into wrestling in 1947 and was soon travelling the world. His career began in Argentina, but he quickly made a name for himself in the United States and Canada, with trips to Japan mixed in. A headliner for most of his career, the 6'4", 240-pound Valentine could be counted on to have the fans talking about him after they left the arena.

During his illustrious career "Handsome" Johnny Valentine amassed an impressive 50+ championships belts, varying from the Florida title-the first he held-beating Danny Dusek on July 17, 1950 to the U.S. title in the Mid-Atlantic territory, which he beat Harley Race for in 1975. The U.S. belt was to be his last, as he was forced to vacate the title when injuries sustained on a October 4, 1975 plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina forced him to retire.

Valentine would still be around wrestling for years, however, at ringside in the Mid-Atlantic, and through the exploits of his son, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. "I never grew up with my father, but when I watched him wrestle it was like a voice inside of me saying, 'This is you. You can do this. This is you!' My father might have known that too," once said "The Hammer."

On April 24, 2001, the great Johnny Valentine died in River Oaks, Texas after battling many health issues. He was 72.

- Chris Sokol and Greg Oliver



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