Ox Baker was a classic Heel who legit frightened (and fascinated) me as a child. He was big, ugly, hairy, and cruel looking with his thick Dad-Bod, bald head, and those long whiskers. As a boy, I was intimidated by any big, loud adult male let alone a massive, violent Heel!
And Ox would utterly dominate his jobbers, allowing them zero offense and really beating them down — then finishing them off with his cruel Heart Punch that, we were told, temporarily stopped their heartbeat!
I found this classic Ox Baker squash match from 1977 on an old DVD under my stairs. I recently uploaded it to YouTube if you want to watch the whole match.
I seem to be on a Bear Hunt lately, because I’m really into Ox’s big hairy torso and ponderous mid-section as he works over jobber Blackie Guzman. Call me a perv, but I really want to press up against that daddy’s Bearhug right now, and I’d love to be Scissored in between those blue tights with the white strip down the sides! Maybe it was Beardrooler’s artwork that gave me this craving for bear meat in tights.
Speaking of bear meat, when they filmed the movie “Escape from New York” in 1981, they needed to find a brutal monster to punish young Kurt Russell in a shirtless fight to the death. Of course they chose Ox Baker to play Slag because he is like the dictionary definition of a vicious manly gladiator!
In this scene, the mostly male audience cheers wildly as this spectacular man-beast enters the ring. We get the sense that the crowd is wildly aroused at the sight of his powerful body, so I was too!
The Kurt Russell character (Snake Plisskin) is forced at arrow-point to get in the ring with this monster. We worry for poor Kurt because he’s so darn handsome and his lean torso is just not as massive and thicc as the Ox he will be fighting. This young man is in trouble, wrestling fans!
If you’ve seen Escape From New York, you may recall that their fight scene is all too brief, with Russell not suffering nearly enough abuse. They also cut away frequently to show what other characters in the film are doing during this fight — and I’m all like, Damn it, keep the camera on Kurt!
But in those days, it was a delight to find even a few minutes of shirtless in-ring fighting in a movie or television show. We didn’t have as much easy access to wrestling content back then, so I got wood for even a glimpse of some rasslin, especially when a heartthrob like Kurt Russell was involved…
Back in 1977, I was a youngster and our local TV channel aired the Big Time Wrestling show with Ox on the roster. So I may have seen this very match 42 years ago (I vividly recall several hot wrestling scenes that excited me back then, but not this particular match…)
When you’re a kid and you watch wrestling, you still believe it’s real. A lot of people still thought the wrestling was real back in 1977. So I believed that Ox was truly paralyzing this poor jobber with that Shoulder Claw when, ironically, this is probably one of the most gentle and harmless wrestling moves in the sport. The dude is literally getting a shoulder massage!
Ox begins hammering the jobber’s chest, yanking him back by the hair to expose his ribs. The commentator then begins to tease Ox Baker’s Heart Punch:
“Ox Baker uses as his submission maneuver that deadly Heart Punch. When I say ‘deadly’ I mean it, because three times in the past, three wrestlers have met an unfortunate end thanks to Ox Baker’s Heart Punch. A man by the name of ‘Enrique Torres’ comes to mind as one who succumbed to that Heart Punch in the ring.”
Wait — did he just say that Ox Baker actually kills his opponents?! As a gullible youngster, I was shocked by this I’m sure — that Ox was so sadistic, he actually murders his jobbers in the ring while the fans watch in horror! WTF !?
As mentioned, I still believed that pro wrestling (including the Heart Punch) was real when this match aired. And of course I trusted the words of a grown-up — especially a guy on television wearing a necktie. So the possibility that this brute was going around sadistically stopping the hearts of his vulnerable young opponents — and that the officials in charge of pro wrestling carelessly permitted this cruelty — utterly shocked and fascinated me. We had no way to easily fact-check statements like this in the pre-Internet age to verify if Ox actually killed three men…
First, it was not THREE men who died after enduring this move — there were only TWO: Alberto Torres (not “ENRIQUE” Torres) in 1971 and Ray Gunkel in 1972. It seems the commentator was exaggerating — to put Ox over as a vicious frightening monster.
Finally, Gunkel in fact died of a heart attack hours after wrestling Ox Baker — but he had arteriosclerosis resulting in a BLOOD CLOT. He was just as likely to die climbing stairs or mowing his lawn.
But regardless of the truth, Ox Baker was packaged and sold as sadistic monster who will at least maim his opponents — and possibly kill them right before your eyes. Just imagine the anxiety and fascination, the total adrenaline rush, that this dreadful possibility would elicit in an impressionable young viewer! It’s no wonder I can’t quit you, pro wrestling.
BTW, while gathering these other examples of Ox’s dreaded Heart Punch, I found this interesting clip from 1974 — not long after Ox “killed” his two victims.
We see him relentlessly Heart Punch and then stomp on Ernie Ladd until the audience riots. As I mentioned, many people sill thought that wrestling was real back then, and it truly looks like Ox is planning to murder his third victim, so of course the audience tries to rescue the poor guy. As a youngster, one would hear about wrestling riots and fall further under the spell of this strange, violent, and dramatic gladiatorial spectacle.
“The Heart Punch is just that — that punch thrown directly into the heart.
Ox Baker has got it all mapped out though — knows exactly the position, exactly the spot, the EXACT SPOT to throw that punch in…
“Besides that, he’s got his FIST TAPED! So he throws that TAPED FIST into that EXACT SPOT on his man’s heart. And 100 percent of the time, that results in a win.
Then we witness the Heart Punch we’ve all been waiting for, which ruins Blackie Guzman as he rebounds off the ropes. I’m sure I was on the edge of my seat at this point, worried for poor Blackie and watching in rapt attention to ensure he didn’t die.
And that’s the story of Ox Baker’s “deadly” finishing move and how it stirred up feelings of fear, hate, anxiety, and excitement back in the Golden Age of wrestling. I’m sure many modern viewers may be bored by this slow-paced action. Admittedly, neither wrestler is conventionally attractive or especially enticing to look at, but they turn me on anyway.
As someone who grew up in that era, getting worked up every Saturday afternoon over these sleazy, violent, homo-erotic displays of in-ring sadism, this squash match and the other Heart Punch clips are very triggering and exciting to watch. It’s still sexy to me, damn it!
And here’s an interesting footnote. Immediately after the Ox Baker match, they announce a Tag Team bout coming up after the commercial break. And on the screen, they post this suggestive cartoon drawing depicting four shirtless men in black boots down on the floor, their bodies entangled in a writhing knot of limbs and gaudy yellow flesh, the background painted a fiery red color. You better believe I did not touch that dial!