Mark “Rollerball” Rocco, The Original Black Tiger, Dead at 69

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The UK scene is saddened to learn of the passing of former British wrestling legend Mark “Rollerball” Rocco on Friday. Rocco gained international recognition during his tenure in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was the first man to wear the mask as Black Tiger. He was 69 years old.

A second-generation wrestler, Mark Rocco was initially forbidden to train to become a wrestler by his father, pro wrestler Jim Hussey, but he secretly trained and eventually made his debut in 1969. It wasn’t long before he became a rising star with Joint Promotions, the UK company that provided the content for the popular Word of Sports wrestling on ITV, and in 1977, he won the British Middle Heavyweight Championship from Bert Royal.

In 1979, he made his Japanese debut with a two-month tour with International Wrestling Enterprise (IWE), and the following year he began to tour North America, including a brief stint with World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), where he competed in a tag team with AWA’s Greg Gagne.

In 1982, he was signed by NJPW to compete against the original Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama), after the two had had some strong matches in the UK (where Sayama competed as Sammy Lee). Rocco took on the character of Black Tiger, Tiger Mask’s arch-rival, and their feud continued for years in New Japan, with Rocco remaining with the company until 1990.

During the mid-1980s, he would make more appearances for the WWF, this time under the Tiger Mask persona, due to the WWF’s working agreement with NJPW. During his time in New Japan, he would also help train another future star in Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, whom would be the final feud of his career as Black Tiger. In 1991, he was discovered to have a heart condition after he collapsed following a match, and he was sadly forced to retire from pro wrestling at the age of 40. The Black Tiger character would live on, being portrayed by Eddie Guerrero (Black Tiger II), Silver King (Black Tiger III), Rocky Romero (Black Tiger IV), Tatsuhito Takaiwa (Black Tiger V), Tomohiro Ishii (Black Tiger VI), and Kazushige Nosawa (Black Tiger VII).

Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends our deepest condolences to the Hussey family, as well as Mark’s friends, peers, and colleagues in the pro wrestling and acting community. 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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