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WWE has issued a statement on the passing of Dick Beyer, who was better known to ring fans as The Destroyer, at the age of 88. They wrote the following:

WWE is saddened to learn that Dick Beyer, a masked wrestling pioneer who was better known to ring fans as The Destroyer, has passed away at age 88.

Beginning his career in the 1950s, Beyer thrilled fans and terrified opponents for three decades. He came to prominence in the Los Angeles territory, where he rivaled the likes of Freddie Blassie and Gorgeous George. Beyer famously defeated the latter in a Hair vs. Mask Match at the hallowed Olympic Auditorium in 1962, resulting in Gorgeous George losing his trademark golden locks.

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Beyer achieved perhaps his greatest notoriety, however, in Japan, becoming one of the first foreign attractions in the country. His 1963 match against Rikidōzan, a former sumo wrestler and cultural icon in Japan, drew the eyes of more than 70 million TV viewers, making it one of the most-watched bouts in history. Beyer eventually became a beloved figure in Japanese pop culture himself and was even a regular performer on a top-ranked variety show.

Beyer also made waves in the now-defunct American Wrestling Association under the alias “Doctor X,” capturing the territory’s heavyweight title from Verne Gagne in 1968. As Doctor X, he wore a different but no less menacing mask, and his veiled countenance became immortalized when Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry was once photographed onstage wearing a shirt with his likeness on it.

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A regional sports hero in upstate New York, Beyer wrestled and played football at Syracuse University before turning to the ring. His impact in sports-entertainment was felt long after his retirement, too, as Beyer is credited with training former WWE Tag Team Champion Mike Rotundo.

WWE extends its condolences to Beyer’s family, friends and fans.

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