Ronald Heard, who competed in WWE in the 1980s under the ring name “Outlaw” Ron Bass, passed away on Tuesday at a Florida hospital. He was 68-years-old.
According to a report from PWInsider, Bass’ cause of death may have been related to a burst appendix, which he was hospitalized for immediately prior to his passing. The report suggests that Bass wasn’t aware of his condition at first, and had waited a week before seeking medical assistance, thus making a successful recovery impossible.
At the time he joined WWE in 1987, Ron Heard was already 38-years-old, and had more than 15 years’ experience wrestling in other promotions. According to SLAM! Wrestling, Heard debuted in 1971 in the Gulf Coast territory in Florida, and had taken on the kayfabe surname Bass as a storyline “brother or cousin” to Gulf Coast mainstays Sam and Don Bass. As a territorial star, he had also gotten a good push in Georgia and in Oregon, working a cowboy gimmick similar to the one he would work in WWE.
During his two-year tenure in WWE, “Outlaw” Ron Bass was mostly pushed as a mid-card heel. His first major feud was against the late Sylvester Ritter, a.k.a. The Junkyard Dog, with the rivalry starting after “JYD” eliminated Bass at WrestleMania IV’s 20-man battle royal.
For most fans who were watching the then-WWF at that time, “Outlaw” Ron Bass’ most memorable rivalry was his feud against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake ahead of SummerSlam 1988.
As PWInsider recalled, Beefcake was supposed to be fighting the Honky Tonk Man for the latter’s Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam, but was instead attacked by Bass, with WWE making it appear as if the spurs on the Outlaw’s boots had ripped Beefcake’s forehead open. The attack was meant to be so brutal that WWE had placed a big red “X” on Beefcake’s head on television, thus making the beating look worse than it really was. In storyline, this allowed Brutus to be taken out of SummerSlam due to his kayfabe injuries, and allowed The Ultimate Warrior to take his place and defeat Honky for the Intercontinental title.
Last November, “Outlaw” Ron Bass appeared on the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast (quotes h/t Wrestling Inc.) and looked back on the Beefcake rivalry, specifically how he used a spur to cut Brutus’ forehead open. At that time, Bass said that the feud had the potential to last longer than it did, but was still a fulfilling one because outside of the ring, he and Beefcake (a.k.a. Ed Leslie in real life) were getting along quite well.
“We could have worked that thing for a year up there because you’re in a different town and different state every night. We could have got a lot more mileage out of that one but it worked out well. With Beefcake, I had known him and Hulk Hogan since they were Terry and Eddie Boulder just getting started in the Tennessee territory. It was a good run for us and he is a good guy.”
It was in January 1989 when WWE blew off, or ended the feud between “Outlaw” Ron Bass and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, as the latter beat the former in a “Hair vs. Hair” match, shaving off Ron’s hair on national TV. Bass told the Two Man Power Trip that while he had to face the shame of getting his head shaved per stipulation, this wasn’t the first time he was in such a storyline, and he still got paid quite nicely for the match.
“It’s funny because when you talk about (the Beefcake match on Saturday Night’s Main Event), that is one of the highest paid deals I ever had because I got residuals off that show for a long time. I got paid through the New York office, but also got paid through (NBC) and it was a pretty good and lucrative deal for us.”
Last year, “Outlaw” Ron Bass was one of several former WWE wrestlers and personalities suing the company for allegedly mishandling their concussions and brain injuries. He had also finished work on a film entitled Silent Times, where he played a 1920s football coach alongside fellow 1980s WWE alumni Brian Blair.
[Featured Image by WWE]