Cheon Gyu-deok, One of Korea’s Early Wrestling Stars, Passes Away at 88

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Photo: Cauliflower Alley Club

Sad news out of South Korea as news has broken that Cheon Gyu-deok, one of the early pioneers of professional wrestling in Korea in the early 1960s, has passed away following a long chronic illness. He was 88 years old.

Cheon Gyu-deok was part of the first great wave of pro wrestling in South Korea, that saw the formation of Korea’s top promotion, Korean Wrestling Association (KWA) in 1961. Founded by Kintarō Ōki, a Korean wrestler who had trained under Rikidōzan (a Korean who had moved to Japan to become the godfather of Japanese puroresu), Ōki returned to his native Korea and competed as Kim Il, “The Headbutt Master”.  Cheon Gyu-deok was part of a class of wrestlers that included the likes of “Super Dragon” Lee Wang-pyo, Yeo Geon-bu, and many others, who helped usher in professional wrestling into the country. Sadly, infighting between promoters, particularly between Kim Il and Chang Yong-chol (the man responsible for helping kickstart pro wrestling in Korea, and by the mid-1970s, pro wrestling had fallen out of favor in Korea.

Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends its deepest condolences to Cheon Gyu-deok’s family, friends, peers, and fans around the world. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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