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By Mike Johnson on 3/7/2019 2:26 PM

"The Destroyer" Dick Beyer, who had an extensive professional wrestling career in both Japan and the United States, passed away shortly after 12 PM this afternoon, his son Kurt announced.

"It is with a very heavy heart to let you know that Dad -- aka The Destroyer, aka Doctor X, aka Dick Beyer, aka Coach -- passed away shortly past Noon today," Kurt wrote on his Facebook page.  "He was in bed at home, and was surrounded by all of his children and wife as he slipped peacefully away. I will have more to share later, but wanted you to hear this sad news from me first. Thoughts and prayers are most welcome at this time. Peace."

Beyer, 88 at the time of his passing, had an extensive professional wrestling career in Japan, wrestling for the late Giant Baba's All Japan Pro Wrestling and was an extremely important and popular personality in that era, helping to cement the sport in that country. He had a legendary rivalry with Giant Baba, sparked by a series of matches at the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.  That led to Beyers heading to Japan for the first time, where he wrestled the legendary Rikidozan, a match that was viewed by 70 million (not a typo) when it aired.  He was one of the most successful gaijin talents in Japan, wrestling there for years.   Last year, he was honored by the Japanese government with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays for a lifetime spent promoting goodwill and bi-cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States.  The Award is similar to the United States' Congressional Medal of Honor.  Beyer personally received his award from the Japanese Ambassador to the United States.

Beyer broke into the business in the early 1950s and first gained acclaim working as the masked Destroyer in the old Los Angeles territory, using the figure four leglock as his finisher.  He was convinced by Freddie Blassie to wear the mask as it would be a big gimmick for him and for the rest of his life, he wore it during public appearances.  Beyer defeated Blassie to win the WWA title, holding it for ten months as a heel.  He had a second run, beating Dick The Bruiser, then a third, beating Bob Ellis

Beyer continued on as a masked competitor in the AWA, now billed as Dr X.  He actually did an angle where he removed his mask on his own, revealing himself to be Dick Beyer, in order to petition for another match against Blackjack Lanza, his former partner in the promotion.  They continued the unmasking in other markets, sometimes where he was unmasked by opponents and other times where he did it himself, as he was working his way out of the promotion and would not be using the name going forward.  He was written out of the territory by having his "leg" broken by Ray Stevens, emphasizing the "Crippler" moniker.

Beyer has an amazing autobiography that is well worth tracking down to read, Masked Decisions: The Triangular Life of Dick 'The Destroyer' 'Doctor X' Beyer; From American Athlete to International Icon. sends our deepest condolences to the fans, friends and family of The Destroyer, Dick Beyer.