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Dick Beyer aka The Destroyer aka Doctor X

destroyer

Spray, acrylic and charcoal on 24″ x 24″ wood

Whether you knew him as The Destroyer of Doctor X or even his real name, Dick Beyer is a legend among legends in the world of professional wrestling. Born in 1930, even at a young age Dick Beyer excelled at athletics, playing on the varsity football and wrestling teams for Syracuse University, which he graduated from with a Masters Degree in education. He began wrestling professionally in the mid-1950’s under his real name, making his way out west to Los Angeles working primarily for the Worldwide Wrestling Associates. In 1962 he donned a mask and became The Destroyer, soon defeated ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie for the WWA World Title on July 27 of that year. He held the championship for 10 months, during which he defended it in LA’s Olympic Auditorium against Shohei ‘Giant’ Baba in three sold-out matches.

In May of 1963 he traveled to Japan to compete against Rikidozan, in a match viewed live by over 70 million people. Now, yes, that COULD be ‘wrestling numbers’ and not actual viewership, but let’s say it’s pretty close to real. That would be 70% of Japan’s population at that time, and 14 times the average weekly US viewership of Monday Night Raw. In American terms, at 70% of the audience share, that would be the second-most watched television event in history behind only the series finale of M*A*S*H. No other way to say it beyond The Destroyer was a massive star of his time.

Upon returning to the States, The Destroyer would soon lose the title back to Blassie. He mostly worked in Japan for the next year before coming back to the WWA and defeating Dick the Bruiser on April 22, 1964 to regain the World Title. He lost it in September to ‘Cowboy’ Bob Ellis. Destroyer regained it two months later, had a controversial loss to Toyonobori the next month that the WWA did not recognize, but officially lost to Pedro Morales on March 12, 1965.

The next year Beyer made his way to the American Wrestling Association in Minneapolis, working as another masked wrestler, Doctor X. This is not to be confused with the Dr. X who was a two-time World Champion in 1959 and 1961 in Omaha, NE, portrayed by Bill Miller. As Doctor X, Beyer defeated Verne Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on August 17, 1968, but lost it back to Gagne two weeks later. Doctor X had a long rivalry with Black Jack Lanza and later ‘Crippler’ Ray Stevens, until the Doc left the AWA in 1972. From 1973 Beyer wrestled in Japan for six years as The Destroyer, having a notable feud with Mil Mascaras. After that he worked in Canada before retiring in 1984.

Dick Beyer resumed his career in physical education in Akron, NY, also coaching football, wrestling and swimming. He remains heavily involved with the Cauliflower Alley Club and is a Certified Toastmaster for Toastmasters International. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005.

About the piece: I wanted to play a bit off of the visuals of wrestling cards from the middle of the last century, with the gradient of color descending vertically. I did that with red, orange and yellow spray paint. I then came in with black paint, and followed that with charcoal that I went over with water to give it a diluted ink look, again matching the appearance of the classic posters. The piece didn’t feel quite right for me, so I came in with the white to break up the space and put a focus on the Destroyer persona.

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