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Johnny Valentine; Plane Crash Cut Short Pro Wrestler's Career

May 09, 2001

Johnny Valentine, 72, former professional wrestler whose career was cut short by injuries suffered in a plane crash in 1975, died April 24 at a hospital in Dallas. The cause of death was not announced.

Born John Theodore Wisniski in Seattle, Valentine in his prime was 6 foot 3 and 245 pounds. He wrestled in the heavyweight class and won his first professonal match at the age of 19. He had a successful career for 27 years and became one of the biggest stars on the East Coast. His longtime feud with Wahoo McDaniel made him a popular "heel" in the wrestling circuit.

But his career was cut short on Oct. 10, 1975, when the twin- engine Cessna he was a passenger in crashed. The pilot was killed, and Valentine suffered a broken back, foot and hand. A piece of bone lodged in Valentine's spinal column caused major damage, and Valentine used crutches the rest of his life.

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