Former professional wrestler and manager “Luscious” Johnny Valiant was killed on Wednesday morning in Pittsburgh after he was hit by a pickup truck. The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Famer, who was born Thomas Sullivan, was 71-years-old when he died.
Valiant apparently ran as he tried to cross a busy street when he was hit by the passing truck, according to New York Daily News. The death of the wrestling great was first reported by WXPI, the local TV station in Pittsburgh, which is affiliated with NBC.
According to the WXPI report, Valiant was crossing the McKnight Road near the Siebert Road intersection in Ross Township, PA before dawn when the accident happened. The driver of the truck did not leave the scene. He pulled over and was reportedly cooperative with the authorities investigating the accident.
“There’s no indication that this was anything other than a terrible accident at this point, but we’re still investigating,” Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.
Valiant was brought to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
After learning of Johnny Valiant’s death, WWE personalities, including Luke Gallows, Sean Waltman, and The Iron Sheik, took to social media to express their grief and pay tribute to the fallen wrestling legend.
Valiant barreled into the wrestling scene in 1969, according to 24 Wrestling. He used to set up rings on a property owned by the late Ed Farhat, known in the wrestling circle as The Sheik. Valiant not only competed in the matches but also was a referee in some of them.
Valiant was one of The Valiant Brothers, a popular wrestling tag team in the 1970s. The other two were “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant and “Gentleman” Jerry Valiant, James Fanning and John Hill in real life. The Valiant Brothers, the most popular heel tag team during their pinnacle, wrestled for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), and the World Wrestling Association (WWA). Johnny and Jimmy Valiant won the World Tag Team Championship in 1974.
Johnny Valiant was originally from Pittsburgh but lived in Queens, New York for most of his adult life before moving back to his hometown. After retiring from professional wrestling, Valiant began a career managing other pro wrestlers. His stable included the legendary Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. He also worked as a color commentator for WWE. “Luscious” Johnny Valiant was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.