Judo Gene LeBell Passes Away At Age 89, WWE Comments

Ivan "Judo" Gene LeBell has passed away at 89 years old.

Bas Rutten shared the news in a post on Facebook:

NWA 74 Women's Title Bout, Madi Wrenkowski, More Set For 9/27 NWA Pretty Empowered Surge

The great Gene Lebell, toughest man I know, has passed away and left us at the age of 89.... My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Midge, his kids and all his other family members and friends. You will be greatly missed Gene, I love you my friend, till we meet again!




At the age of seven, LeBell started training under the legendary Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and he also learned from Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz. He wrestled around the world, and among other accolades, he won the NWA Hawaii Championship. He also memorably officiated the classic match between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki in 1976. LeBell won the Frank Gotch Award in 2005, and he was inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in 2011.

"The Godfather of Grappling" left an indelible mark on the business as he worked with names ranging from Ronda Rousey to Roddy Piper. His knowledge of combat sports was renowned in both wrestling and MMA. Earlier in this career, Bryan Danielson's Yes Lock was called The LeBell Lock as a sign of respect to LeBell.

Outside of combat sports, LeBell was involved with numerous movies and TV shows. He appeared in three of Elvis Presley's movies and always started a fight with the latter's character. He also wrote 12 books about combat sports.

In his later years, he formed a close connection with Rousey, as he accompanied her to the ring for her MMA fights.

WWE commented on the news of his passing in a post on its official website:

WWE is saddened to learn that Gene LeBell has passed away at the age of 89.

A towering figure in the world of martial arts, LeBell was nicknamed “The Godfather of Grappling.” Training under legends Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz, LeBell went on to earn a 10th degree red belt in Judo and a 9th degree black belt in Ju-jitsu. LeBell trained some of combat sports most notorious fighters such as Chuck Norris, WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and current WWE Superstar Ronda Rousey.

An icon of professional wrestling, LeBell wrestled and promoted the National Wrestling Alliance's Los Angeles territory, NWA Hollywood Wrestling, from 1968 through 1982. LeBell squared off against WWE Hall of Famer “High Chief” Peter Maivia, The Rock’s grandfather, in his last in-ring match in 1981. He also served as the referee for the infamous fight between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki in 1976.

Throughout his lifetime, LeBell appeared in more than 1,000 films as either a stuntman or an actor and served as an inspiration for Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth in the 2019 Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.”

WWE extends its condolences to LeBell's family, friends and countless fans.

Fightful would like to send our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of "Judo" Gene LeBell.

Get exclusive pro wrestling content on Fightful Select, our premium news service! Click here to learn more.
From The Web