Wrestling Tragedy: Verne Gagne Linked to Death of Fellow Nursing Home Resident

Ryan SimonCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2009

He is the pioneer of the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA), of which he was a 10-time World Heavyweight Champion. He also holds the record for most combined days as World Champion.

He also played for the Chicago Bears in the National Football League (NFL) and competed in the 1948 Olympics on the Wrestling Team. He is one of the most decorated and accomplished figures in wrestling history, along with the likes of Lou Thesz and Wahoo McDaniel.

He is also the man that helped put Hulk Hogan on the map (in the AWA) and then tried to end "Hulkamania" prematurely by apparently offering the Iron Sheik $100,000 to break Hogan's leg in their WWF Championship match at Madison Square Garden.

Sheik refused and the rest is history.

Verne Gagne is a man whose name is synonymously known in the wrestling industry. He is the man who molded "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, The Iron Sheik, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, among others, in his intense training camp on his farm in Minnesota.

The stories and accomplishments of Gagne's legacy are endless. He is without a doubt one of the forefathers of the wrestling industry, period.

With all that said and done, back to present day. Unfortunately, Gagne is now suffering from the disastrous effects of Alzheimer's related Dementia.

Now in his 80's Gagne has lived the last few years in the memory loss unit of the Friendship Village Nursing Home in Bloomington, Minn.

This is where, on Jan. 26, Gagne reportedly got into an altercation with another Alzheimer's patient, 97-year-old Helmut Gutmann. Gagne reportedly slammed Gutmann to the floor, causing a broken hip and a head injury.

Gutmann was hospitalized and released. Gutmann, an accomplished cancer researcher and violinist who fled Nazi Germany in 1936, was treated for his injuries but later was hospitalized again.

Gutmann died on Feb. 14 due to complications from the injuries sustained in the incident.

It is reported that Gagne has had several altercations in the past while at the home, including a previous incident were he choked and pushed Gutmann.

Gutmann's daughter, Ruth Hennig, commented; "I don't blame him, in the sense that I know he's not fully responsible for what he did," Hennig said. "But on the other hand, I know that my father would still be alive today if they hadn't had this altercation...I'm more sad than I am angry."

Verne Gagne no longer resides at Friendship Village Nursing Home.

Bloomington Police have launched an investigation into the death but it is unlikely that Gagne will be charged with anything, due to his deteriorating mental capacity. It is so unfortunate to see such a legendary figure in the business not even aware that his wrestling days are long over.

Not much more information has been given on this unfortunate situation due to patient privacy practices and the ongoing investigation.

Gagne's son, Greg Gagne, described the incident as a terrible accident. He referred all other questions to the family attorney, Julian Hook, who did not return calls.

Verne Gagne and his wife could not be reached for comment.

Well, folks I just got this news and I figured I would share it with you. It is an unfortunate incident with unfortunate circumstances. And the fact that it involves one of the pioneers of the wrestling industry makes it that much more important.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Verne and his family in their courageous battle as well as the Gutmann Family in this unfortunate time.

It makes other trivial bullshit like B/R Wrestling Section factions seem minuscule.

This is reality, folks. As "Rowdy" Roddy Piper has said in the past, "This is your reality check!"

I recently read a well-written article by Jason LeBlanc on here about how he will not write anymore articles on this "faction thing" or anything non-wrestling.

I couldn't agree more. It was a great article, I must say. As wrestling journalists, we have more important things to write about than "Internet factions."

I for one, am guilty of writing about "this faction thing" in a couple of articles.

We are wrestling journalists, NOT "internet faction journalists" or "Joe Burgett journalists."  We report the news on wrestling and we write about what we are passionate about. I have been disenchanted as well with the B/R Wrestling Section lately because of the foolishness.

With all due respect to Joe Burgett, I was sent an article on my profile saying how Joe was having a rap battle or whatever. Then I go to check the article out and in the title is some kind of elementary line about someone that "poops ice cream."


I didn't give it the time of day because it seemed ridiculous for me to even spend a minute reading something like that. I came here to read and write about the Professional Wrestling Industry, not about "pooping ice cream" or "this faction thing."

I'm sure it was a nice little rhyme but that isn't my cup of tea at all. Save it for recess on the playground.

I respect well-written articles that mean something. That article to me meant that the B/R Wrestling Section has indeed turned into a circus and is not the well-oiled machine it should be.

Please excuse the harsh language, wrestling fans. But this topic has been bugging me for a few days and I wanted to give my input on this whole fiasco. Jason's article made perfect sense and it made me realize and analyze what's really important here.

Especially now with this very serious Verne Gagne situation, to which our #1 writer on the wrestling section refers to it as a joke. I found that to be an appalling and juvenile comment.

OK, I need to get off my soap-box because I can go on and on about this.

As always, wrestling fans, this is about you. What are your thoughts on this Verne Gagne situation? Is it a joke? Has the B/R Wrestling Section really turned into a circus?

Please let your voices be heard, ladies and gentlemen.

That's all for now, but there's more where that came from.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.