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Pro wrestler, "Mr. Perfect", found dead in Florida


Professional wrestler Curt Hennig, 44, of Champlin, who began his career in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association more than two decades ago, was found dead in his hotel room Monday in Brandon, Fla. Hennig, also known by his ring name of Mr. Perfect, was to wrestle Monday night at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said that a housekeeper at the Homestead Suites Motel found Hennig's body at 1:30 p.m., and that paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said that foul play was not suspected but that the office was investigating. Hennig's body had been turned over to the medical examiner's office, the Associated Press reported, but calls to the office were not returned. Hennig, the son of former professional wrestler Larry (the Axe) Hennig, graduated from Robbinsdale High School and a short time later followed his father into Gagne's now-defunct wrestling organization. "He worked out, trained hard, and he became pretty good," said Gagne, who schooled Curt Hennig in pro wrestling. "He didn't have much of an amateur background, to the best of my knowledge, but he took to the pro style very well. "He was a good athlete, and he picked up things quickly -- like getting thrown out of the ring at different angles and leaping off the top [ring] rope. "With a wrestler not as athletic as he was, that takes time." Gagne said that Hennig, who stood about 6-foot-2, weighed 225 pounds when he started out, but eventually jumped to 250. Gagne's son, Greg, also was a second-generation pro wrestler who wrestled with and against Hennig. "At first, he was pretty meek and laid back," said Greg, who also had a hand in training Hennig. "He was intimidated by a lot of the (more experienced) wrestlers. "But eventually his real personality came through: He was arrogant, a little cocky." 'Fun guy' Both Gagnes called Hennig "a fun guy," and Greg said, "He always knew how to make people laugh." After wrestling in main events in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in the late 1980s, Hennig worked in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment. It was McMahon, a bitter rival of Verne Gagne, who gave Hennig his nickname of Mr. Perfect -- reportedly based on Hennig's comment that "anything I do, I'm perfect." All told, Hennig won the AWA heavyweight title; the intercontinental title in McMahon's organization, in 1990, and other titles in World Championship Wrestling, in 1997 and 1999, as reported in today's editions of the Tampa Tribune. At the time of his death, Hennig had joined Jimmy Hart All-Star Wrestling. "He always kept himself in the best condition," Hart was quoted in the Tampa newspaper. "He always looked great, like he never aged." Greg Gagne said that he didn't think Hennig suffered from major health problems, but that his sisters had heart trouble. Larry Hennig could not be reached for comment Monday night, and details of his son's personal life were sketchy. Greg Gagne said that Hennig was married and had four children, two boys and two girls. He said the older boy, about 22 or 23, had not pursued a career in professional wrestling. Before Monday night's wrestling matches in Tampa, the crowd of more than 2,000 stood for a 10-bell salute to honor Curt Hennig, the Tampa Tribune reported. Said Greg Gagne: "We lost a good competitor. He was good for the sport of wrestling."

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