POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 5, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 9:10 p.m. HST, Dec 9, 2010
Curtis Iaukea, a Hawaii sports legend as a high school athlete and later a pro wrestler, died yesterday after a long illness.
"He died peacefully, with family around him," his son, Rocky, told the Star-Advertiser, last night. "At his home in Papakolea."
Iaukea was 73.
Iaukea starred in sports at Punahou, and then at the University of California, where he received an award for standing out on offense and defense.
He went on to a year in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and several seasons in the CFL.
But his biggest claim to fame came as a pro athlete in wrestling, where he was known as "King Curtis Iaukea," and Curtis "Da Bull" Iaukea.
Iaukea, who stood 6 feet 5 and weighed 350 pounds, was one of the main headliners who made the 1960s and 1970s the golden age of pro wrestling in Hawaii.
He, along with promoter Ed Francis (father of former NFL great Russ Francis), "King Ripper" Collins and "Handsome" Johnny Barend made 50th State Big Time Wrestling must-see TV during its time with its wild and captivating locker room interviews and antics, much like what's seen in the WWE.
Iaukea would oftentimes hold his interviews in sunglasses with his broad back to the camera.
Iaukea's signature move in the ring was the "Big Splash," where he would launch himself onto a fallen opponent for a pin.
He also had a successful concession in Waikiki.
"He was a pioneer of the modern-day beach stand. He was a visionary in many ways," said his son. "His accomplishments went beyond football and wrestling."
Rocky said his father had not been well for a while.
"He was originally crippled from wrestling in 1979," he said. "Over the last year things accelerated, but his health problems started a long time ago."