Wrestler Buddy Colt, who survived a plane crash in Tampa in 1975, has died

TAMPA — Asked to describe his “Buddy Colt” wrestling persona, Ronald Read once told the Tampa Bay Weather, “Wicked and vicious. Do anything to win. He was the villain character.

At a time when professional wrestling operated under the guise of legitimate competition, the Tampa resident was so good at playing the role that fans cheered news of the 1975 plane crash off the Davis Islands that ended Mr. Read’s career.

In recent years, fans have met the real Mr. Read.

A regular at pro wrestling events honoring industry legends, he made time to talk with his fans rather than just give a moment for a photo. If approached in public, he would tell old stories.

Mr. Read died on March 3. He was 85 years old.

“He was a cult figure,” said Barry Rose, who engaged Mr. Read at conventions. “People saw him and bonded with him. He’s loved and has developed this incredible popularity.

Fans paid tribute to Mr. Read on the Rose’s Championship Wrestling From Florida Archives group on Facebook.

“Buddy was the reason I was a huge wrestling fan. Greatest heel ever,” Michael Cook wrote.

Buddy Colt – real name Ronald Read – was a professional wrestling villain in the 1970s. He was known for jabbing his thumb into opponents’ necks to take their breath away. [ Courtesy of Ronald Reed ]

A Marine with a background in powerlifting, amateur wrestling and martial arts, Mr. Read headlined professional wrestling shows at Madison Square Garden and faced the greatest of his day – Killer Kowalski, Lou Thesz and “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers – as the bleached blond villain Buddy Colt, infamous for sticking his thumb into opponents’ necks to take their breath away.

Brian Blair, another retired wrestler from Tampa, said Mr Read helped him break into the industry in the 1970s and hired him to babysit daughters Vicky and Cindy.

“He used to call me his stepson,” Blair, 64, said. “I always said, ‘You’re my big brother’.”

Yet Mr. Read portrayed villainous Buddy Colt so well, Blair said, that he encouraged good Tampa guy Jack Brisco “to kick his ass.”

Once, after bloodying beloved Danny Hodge, Mr Read recalls, more than two dozen fans rushed to the ring to get at him.

“I started throwing a chain to protect myself,” Mr Read told the Time. “It was intense.”

He also claimed that a fan once shot him with a gun. The bullet missed, Mr Read said, but grazed another fan’s neck. Rose believes it happened on November 13, 1972 in Orlando.

Professional wrestling was different back then. Today’s big name, WWE, hasn’t dominated the landscape.

Instead, some areas of the country had local promotions and champions that reported to networks such as the National Wrestling Alliance, American Wrestling Alliance, or the World Wide Wrestling Federation, which later became WWE.

The stars traveled the country in hopes of gaining enough fame to win one of the major promotions world titles.

In 1972, Mr. Read began competing in Championship Wrestling from Florida, headquartered at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa and part of the NWA. A year later, he won the Florida heavyweight title and held it until 1974.

“Buddy Colt would have been a great NWA World Champion,” tweeted WWE Hall of Famer Sean Waltman. “He was so awesome. He had everything. Great looks, great conversation and great in the ring!”

Mr. Read once told the Time that he was “promised a world title with the NWA”.

The plane crash changed that plan.

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This article from the Tampa Tribune newspaper details the plane crash that ended Ronald Read’s professional wrestling career and killed his colleague.
[Times (1975)]

Mr Read was flying a Cessna 182 from a wrestling event from Miami to Tampa on February 20, 1975. The passengers were fellow villainous wrestlers Bobby Shane, Austin Idol and Gary Hart – real names Robert Schoenberger, Dennis McCord and Gary Williams .

Weather reports predicted clear skies as they left Miami. But, as they approached Sarasota, they learned that Tampa International Airport was closed to traffic due to a sudden storm. They were redirected to Peter O. Knight Airport near the tip of the Davis Islands.

“It was raining like hell,” Mr Read once told the Time. “I ran into a cloud and couldn’t see. When this happens, you feel dizzy. You can’t tell top from bottom or left from right. I was trying to find the landing mark and then bang.

They crashed in Hillsborough Bay, about 300 meters from the Davis Islands. Schoenberger is dead. The others swam to shore, Mr. Read’s broken ankles dangling from the sides.

“The next night, I think the fans in Jacksonville cheered the news,” Rose said. “There are two ways of looking at it. First, it was embarrassing. On the other hand, they were so good at their job.

Mr. Read never wrestled again.

He stayed in the industry for a few years, working as a wrestling manager and commentator in Florida, then forging a career in the building materials business.

The fans never forgot it.

“After the fight, he tried to come back to Ronald Read. Everyone said, ‘You’re not Ronald Read, you’re Buddy Colt.’ So he used the name Buddy Colt for the rest of his life,” his wife Lorraine Read said.

She wrote to fans on Mr Read’s Facebook page: “I know how many of you loved and respected him. I know how much he loved you all. He was always amazed at how many of you remembered him after all these years… I can’t even imagine a world without Buddy. I can’t imagine my life without him. »

Ronald Read

Birth: January 13, 1936

Died: March 3, 2021

Service: Lorraine Read said there was no service scheduled, but her ashes would be laid from the Howard Frankland Bridge. “He wanted this,” she said, “because years ago Paul Jones threw away the championship belt he wanted to win him from the Howard Frankland Bridge so Buddy couldn’t get it. .”

Robert J. King