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THE ORIGINAL DR. DEATH, DON ARNOLD, PASSES AWAY

By Mike Johnson on 2013-01-27 16:24:29

Evan Ginzberg of Wrestling Then & Now passed along the sad news that Don Arnold, who wrestled in the 1950s through 1970s, actually passed away on 11/22 in Hawaii. Arnold was 89. News was slow to be released as news and communication with Arnold greatly slowed once he was moved there by his daughter.

Arnold worked as a heel for most of his career, doing a very under-spoken, serious style promo as opposed to spouting all sorts of random and loud threats at the top of his voice. If you've ever seen the type of promos that Arn Anderson and Harley Race would do, Arnold's promos were similar in that style and delivery. Arnold worked babyface as well, but was always stronger in a heel role and preferred that style.

A San Diego native with a big amateur background, Arnold broke into the business in 1950 in the Southwest after a stint in the air force and worked a number of territories as well as internationally in New Zealand and Australia.

As a singles star, he worked on top in the Ohio version of the AWA in the 1950s, holding their championship while facing the likes of the original Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers and Dr. Bill Miller. He also headlined in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Arnold also worked in the Carolinas for the Crocketts against Johnny Valentine. At one point, he challenged Lou Thesz for the NWA World championship, doing several one hour draws against Thesz.

Arnold, who would often split time between his pro wrestling career and teaching, retired at one point in the early 1970s, but later returned to work on the West Coast under a mask as the original "Dr. Death", a moniker that Steve Williams would adopt a decade later.

The entire time, Arnold, now in his early 60s, was working as a teacher and counselor, but kept the wrestling gig completely quiet and separated from his full-time profession.

After leaving the business, Arnold continued teaching and wrote a number of books, including one on being a nudist as he lived in nudist colonies for many years. He held a PhD degree in Human Behavior and taught the subject for years at Cuyamaca College in San Diego, CA.

While his health had slowed him down in recent years following several strokes, he was said to have been as sharp as ever mentally and was an extremely intelligent and eloquent person.

Our deepest condolences to Arnold's friends and family on his passing.