Acrylic on 24″ x 24″ wood
Pat O’Connor is universally regarded as the wrestler’s wrestler, as one of the finest mat technicians to ever compete, and the epitome of the sport. Patrick John O’Connor was born 1924 in Raetihi, New Zealand. After serving in the New Zealand Royal Air Force in 1945 he began training as an amateur wrestler and went on to represent New Zealand in the 1948 Pan American Games, won the New Zealand Heavyweight Championship for amateur wrestling in both 1949 and 1950, and took the silver medal for New Zealand in the 1950 British Empire Games. Following this he began training as a professional wrestler, moving to the United States in the 1950’s to compete. He won his first gold in 1955, taking the National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship with partner Roy McClarity, holding them for nearly a year. He went on to have a singles feud with Gene Kiniski, then with partner Whipper Billy Watson feuded with Kiniski and Fritz Von Erich.
In 1959 he won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dick Hutton, holding it for nearly two years. The NWA had a lot of faith in O’Connor due to his legitimate amateur background, knowing that he could fend off any wrestler or rogue promoter who may try to steal the title in a match. During this time he had notable matches with Bruno Sammartino and Johnny Valentine. In 1960, the American Wrestling Association broke its ties with the NWA and recognized O’Connor as their champion, although he never defended the AWA title. He was stripped of it 90 days later, with AWA owner Verne Gagne becoming their champion. O’Connor’s most famous match was against “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers on June 30, 1961, with Rogers winning the title. The match, held in front of 38,622 fans at Comiskey Park, was a professional wrestling record attendance for nearly twenty years following. Following this, O’Connor most notably worked as a tag wrestler, winning two tag championships with partner Wilbur Snyder.
Pat O’Connor later joined with Harley Race and Bob Geigel to run the Kansas City office for the Central States NWA territory, later taking over St. Louis as well. He passed away in 1990. In 1997 World Championship Wrestling held the Pat O’Connor Memorial International Cup Tag Team Tournament in honor of his career. He was inducted into the 2004 Class of the George Tragos and Lou Thesz National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the 2007 Class of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame. Bret Hart has gone on record several times saying that Pat O’Connor is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live.
About the piece: Being a Kansas City guy, I wanted to do something special for O’Connor’s piece as he’s still a legend here in town. I’ve been enjoying some of my minimalist pieces lately, so I continued that here. I watered down acrylic paint and daubed it on the surface, letting it drip wherever it wanted to. I then came in with the black, properly defining the figure over the more amorphous blobs of paint. I then touched up a little with white, and there you go!