Former pro wrestler Jack Brisco dead at 68
TAMPA - In a world full of trash talkers and giant egos, Jack Brisco was different. He was modest, soft-spoken and reserved. He was an excellent athlete who combined his skills and amateur wrestling training to rise in professional wrestling to become world heavyweight champion from 1973 to 1975. Before there were flamboyant characters such as The Rock and Hulk Hogan, his personable, low-key style made him a fan favorite in and out of the ring. "Jack really identified with the people," said his younger brother, Jerry Brisco, of Odessa. "He never lost his temper, never lost his cool. People could identify with that. He was a real modest guy."He identified with the fans because they knew he was one of theirs," Jerry Brisco said. Jack Brisco, of Odessa, died Monday morning due to complications from heart bypass surgery he had Jan. 2. He was 68. Jack Brisco was born in Oklahoma to a modest family. He was a football standout, earning all-state honors at Blackwell High as a fullback and linebacker. But his sophomore year he also joined the school's amateur wrestling team. He won the state wrestling title three times at 191 pounds. He then went to Oklahoma State University, where he won the national title once in his weight class. He turned professional in 1965 to help support his young family, Jerry Brisco said. Back then, wrestling wasn't the glamorous profession it is today. Wrestlers had to grind it out. Jack Brisco wrestled in Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, earning $25 to $50 a night on the mat. In three years, he built a following. By 1968, he had moved to Florida, where he joined National Wrestling Alliance's Florida Championship Wrestling. He fought many matches at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa when the sport's famed announcer and broadcaster, Gordon Solie, was at the helm. He became florida heavyweight champion in 1969, Southern heavyweight champion in 1970 and was world heavyweight champion from 1973 to 75. He competed throughout the United States, in Tokyo and Australia, creating a rivalry with Dory Funk Jr. Although he was 6-foot-1 and weighed about 215 pounds, he wasn't considered large in the wrestling circuit, Jerry Brisco said. He had athleticism and amateur wrestling experience. He combined those abilities with professional moves he learned and pioneered a style, Jerry Brisco said. His match-defining moves included the figure-four leg lock and the suplex. "He learned so many amateur moves and he was able to adapt those moves into pro wrestling that no one had seen before," Jerry Brisco said. "He was the most athletic wrestler of all time." Later, Jack and Jerry Brisco formed a tag team duo in 1976. They were the Brisco Brothers, and they won the Florida tag team title, the Southern Heavyweight tag team title and, finally, the world tag team title in 1983, defeating Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood in Greenville, S.C. "I just remember the guidance and the leadership and the love and the respect he gave to me," Jerry Brisco said. "He was my big brother and my mentor." Jack Brisco retired from wrestling in 1984. The brothers formed a business partnership with Travis Allred and opened Brisco Brothers Body Shop, 4315 N. Hubert St., in Drew Park in the 1970s. In the early years, they would meet with insurance and fleet companies to drum up business, Allred said. The name Brisco opened doors for meetings with prospective businesses. It didn't hurt that famed wrestler Andre the Giant sometimes tagged along to those meetings, Allred said. The business, which is still in operation today, always got visitors asking Jack and Jerry Brisco for photos and autographs. During baseball spring training, out-of-state New York Yankees fans would drive down the street from the nearby stadium to connect with a childhood hero. "I feel a great loss," Allred said. "It's going to take a while to get back on my feet. You think you're going to be ready for it, but you never get ready for it." Besides Jerry Brisco, Jack Brisco is survived by his wife, Jan; a son and two daughters, all of Oklahoma; brothers, Gene Brisco, of Lutz, and Bill Brisco, of Tampa; and sisters Sharon Spencer, of Orlando, and Shirley Murch, of Hunington Beach, Calif. Funeral services haven't been finalized.
Reporter José Patiño Girona can be reached at (813) 259-7659.