FanDuel - WFBC

February 26, 2009

Legendary Wrestler linked to slaying of 97 year old man: Amateur and pro wrestling legend Verne Gagne was involved with an incident that lead to the death of 97 year old Helmut Guttmann. According to several accounts Gagne shoved Guttmann who was then hospitalized and later died. Minneapolis police are ruling Guttmann's death a homicide. Gagne's family, who say he is suffering from Alzhimer's, think any charges pressed againt Verne would be inhumane.

posted by HATER 187 to other at 12:22 PM - 20 comments

For those not in the know Verne Gagne was a founder of the AWA (American Wrestling Association) he helped start the careers of Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Sorry thar everything is from the same source. It seems that the local papers were following this story more closely than most other sources and the updates were more frequent on the city pages blog.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:24 PM on February 26

I remember Verne Gagne as the wrestler that used the "sleeper hold" to subdue opponents. He then would have to wake them. I remeber one TV bout that lasted 20 minutes between him and "Leapin' Larry Shane", and ended in a draw. They were both considered clean wrestlers.

posted by coach at 04:32 PM on February 26

As one that grew up in Minnesota in the 60's and 70's, Verne Gagne was my hero!

I loved the AWA, not that I thought it was "real" just loved the entertainment.

I'm thinking that Guttmann threw down some sort of challenge that insulted Gagne's honor, and he had no choice but to body slam the guy into the floor.

posted by dviking at 06:05 PM on February 26

Slight correction: it's the victim's family saying it would be inhumane to press charges:

But in news reports today, family members of the victim, Helmut Gutmann, said charges against Gagne would be "inhumane".

posted by hootch at 06:08 PM on February 26

I never liked the guy, but that's only because my brother at random moments throughout my childhood would say (like the intro to the show), "Alll.....Staaarr....Wrestling!" and then proceed to beat the crap outta me.

posted by hootch at 06:09 PM on February 26

This whole situation is very sad. Alzhimer's patients need to be under constant supervision, I suppose the staff was on break when this incident occurred.

posted by thatch at 06:59 PM on February 26

Holy shit! As a wrestling fan that's about all I can formulate at the moment.

posted by Drood at 07:21 PM on February 26

hootch, I suffered the same fate repeatedly. Two older brothers that practiced every move they saw on the AWA on me.

Good thing the sleeper hold doesn't really work!

posted by dviking at 08:24 PM on February 26

Your brothers were doing it incorrectly :)

posted by BoKnows at 08:55 PM on February 26

I agree with BoKnows...the sleeper if applied correctly will cause one to pass out, as it stops blood flow to the brain.

posted by jthorpe611 at 09:48 PM on February 26

but, in addition, good grief, Vern has to be in his 80's by now. I watched him wrestle in the 1950's on TV! (Along with Hans Schmidt, Hans Shnable, The Mighty Atlas, Gorgeous Gorge, Antonino Rocca etal...ah, those were the days..channel 9 at 11pm. 2 Falls with a 30 minute time limit!)

posted by jthorpe611 at 09:54 PM on February 26

Whoops, I misread my own post, thanks for the correction and not crucifying me for it.

I have to seriously call into question the actions of the staff at Friendship Village. From the MinnPost article it was stated that he was involved an several alleged incidents before this one. The staff had to have known he posed a threat to other patients.

I know its funny to shit on wrestling and make jokes about Sleeper Holds and what not but Gagne did illegitimately try to choke Gutttmann out once before this. He was allowed back into the community after this incident but no mention is made as to how his level care was changed after this. In my mind the blame can fall squarely on the shoulders of the Friendship Village management.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:06 AM on February 27

I agree with BoKnows...the sleeper if applied correctly will cause one to pass out, as it stops blood flow to the brain.

I think Hulk Hogan actually demonstrated this on a reporter once, caused him to pass out and bust his head open, and he later sued the Hulk for several million.

posted by bdaddy at 09:43 AM on February 27

In my mind the blame can fall squarely on the shoulders of the Friendship Village management.

I can agree with this, but it is tough dealing with Alzheimer's patients because many of them have physical outbursts. Physical violence and aggression is a pretty common symptom in Alzheimer's patients, even those who weren't wrestlers. Sometimes it is why they end up in nursing care instead of home care since their families have difficulty coping.

posted by bperk at 10:26 AM on February 27

I think Hulk Hogan actually demonstrated this on a reporter once, caused him to pass out and bust his head open, and he later sued the Hulk for several million.

It was actually Richard Belzer (better known as Munch from Law & Order SVU).

Here's the video, but be warned, the quality is pretty much crap.

As far as the title goes, I think calling this unfortunate event a "slaying" is a bit of hyperbole.

Gagne pushed an elderly patient down, and elderly patient suffered a broken hip. Elderly patient ends up dying due to complications of the broken hip. Both suffered dementia. It's a terrible thing to have happened, but hardly a "slaying".

posted by AaronGNP at 01:06 PM on February 27

oddly, that video of the Hulkster applying the sleeper hold looked almost as real as when Vern did it back in the AWA days.

While I can understand that blocking blood flow to the brain could cause a person to pass out, the problem was that when Gagne applied the hold the effect was almost instantanious. The other wrestler would faint too quickly, it reminded me of Spock's Valcan nerve pinch. Damn, those were the days...good clean violence on TV.

Aaron, I totally agree that the use of the word "slaying" was over the top sensationalistic journalism.

posted by dviking at 03:55 PM on February 27

While I can understand that blocking blood flow to the brain could cause a person to pass out, the problem was that when Gagne applied the hold the effect was almost instantanious.

That is the way it would work in the real world. The way Hogan used to fight out of the sleeper with the ref checking his arm three times is bogus. Blood chokes know you out in a matter of seconds.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:17 AM on February 28

While I think i know what you'r saying...the way Gagne put his "Sleeper"hold on wrestlers wouldn't have knocked anyone out...that was my only point. (and, it was really just a joke at that).

To take this debate in a slightly different direction, my favorite move was always "The Claw". Easier to apply than the sleeper hold, and seemingly just as effective.

I do love the announcer pointing out several times that Baron Von Raschke "is the Claw Master"

posted by dviking at 10:35 AM on February 28

What a tragedy this is. I note that there is a "limited investigation" underway, and I hope that no overzealous prosecutor tries to make his bones with this. It would be unjust in the extreme.

posted by Howard_T at 01:41 PM on February 28

I seriously doubt anything will come of this, as Gagne never had the necessary intent to commit a crime. "Homicide" itself is a neutral term, simply meaning that one human being killed another, and is not necessarily a crime. It's not a crime until the mens rea, or intent element comes in, and in the case of an Alzheimer's patient, that's simply not there.

And, yeah, "slaying" is a bit of a loaded word, isn't it? To me, it implies malice and willful violence.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:15 PM on February 28

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