King Kong Bundy, who joined the original World Wrestling Federation in the early 1980s and participated in the first two WrestleMania events that helped launch the sport of pro wrestling into the pop culture mainstream, died Monday at age 61. The WWE confirmed the news Tuesday; the cause of death was not disclosed.
Bundy, whose real name was Christopher Pallies and hailed from Atlantic City, NJ, was 6-foot-4 and more than 450 pounds and would finish off most of his overmatched opponents with his signature “avalanche.”
“In fact, Bundy was so powerful that he demanded referees count to five when he pinned his opponents to show that there was no way they were getting up,” the WWE wrote today in a tribute on its website.
Bundy had been scheduled to sign autographs at next month’s WrestleCon in New York City.
A mammoth figure in the ring, Bundy famously wrestled (and lost) to Hulk Hogan in a steel-cage match title bout at WrestleMania 2 in 1986, after appearing in the inaugural event the year before. He left the organization later in the ’80s, then returned briefly in the mid-1990s as a member of The Million Dollar Corporation.
In 2016, he was part of a class action lawsuit along with 60 others who claimed WWE insufficiently protected its wrestlers from concussions and other head injuries, which in some cases led to long-term brain damage and CTE. That case was dismissed last September.
As befitting wrestling’s mainstream popularity, Bundy appeared on two episodes of Fox’s Married…With Children during the comedy’s run and was in the center ring for one of ESPN’s signature SportsCenter spots:
Hogan was among several colleagues who expressed condolences today on social media: