World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame wrestler Johnny “Luscious” Valiant died Wednesday after being hit by a pickup truck in a Western Pennsylvania. He was 71.
Valiant, real name Thomas M. Sullivan, was crossing a street in Allegheny County’s Ross Township outside Pittsburgh around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday when he was struck, local outlet TribLive reports. According to the Associated Press, Sullivan was not in a crosswalk at the time of the incident, and the driver remained at the scene.
The wrestler was taken to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was later pronounced dead. Police reportedly do not suspect foul play, and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, no charges have yet been filed.
“At this point in the investigation, there is no indication that this was anything other than a terrible accident,” Ross Township detective Brian Kohlhepp told TribLive.
A Pittsburgh native, Sullivan entered professional wrestling in the late 1960s, joining brother and fellow pro “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant, who began his career in 1964 sparring in regional matches. In the early 1970s, the Valiant Brothers, as they were to known, joined WWE, which was then known as the World Wrestling Federation. By 1974, the pair were World Tag Team Champions.
In 1979, Sullivan paired up with a third fictional “brother,” “Gentleman” Jerry Valiant, to again become a World Tag Team Champ in 1979. The Valiant brothers split up in the 1980s, prompting Sullivan to pursue managerial duties with stars like Hulk Hogan during his days in the American Wrestling Association, and the WWF’s Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine, according to a WWE biography. Sullivan also went on to provide color commentary for WWE.
Following his wrestling career, Sullivan went on to become an actor, and landed roles in shows such as The Sopranos, in which he played New York mob boss Carmine Lupertazzi’s bodyguard.
Sullivan and his brother Jimmy were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
“WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer “Luscious” Johnny Valiant reportedly passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 71,” the wrestling organization said in a statement. “WWE extends its condolences to Valiant’s family, friends and fans.”
Fans and fellow pro wrestlers memorialized Sullivan on social media:
Saddened to learn of the death of "Luscious" Johnny Valiant. He was so talented, so witty and vastly under rated. Rest In Peace Johnny.
— Brian Heffron aka The Blue Meanie (@BlueMeanieBWO) April 5, 2018
— Sean Waltman (@TheRealXPac) April 5, 2018
Very sorry to hear of WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Valiant’s passing. Loved Luscious Johnny as a wrestler & manager – and will never forget his commentary during the third match of my career. https://t.co/VllbtiQCOB
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) April 5, 2018
R.I.P Luscious Johnny Valiant….Always kind to me and very helpful early in my career.
— Luke Gallows (@LukeGallowsWWE) April 5, 2018
RIP MY BROTHER JOHNNY VALIANT
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) April 5, 2018
RIP Luscious Johnny Valiant.
— Frankie Kazarian (@FrankieKazarian) April 5, 2018
RIP Johnny Valiant. I first saw his work as a kid when he was paired as Brutus Beefcake's manager in WWF. I was surprised when I later learned about his successful tag team run. Underrated promo guy. pic.twitter.com/8w7YfozWlu
— Old Wrestling Pics (@OldWrestlingPic) April 5, 2018
Saddened to hear the news of Johnny Valiant's passing. Johnny (real name Tom Sullivan) was a top act during the '70s with storyline brothers Jimmy and Jerry in the old WWWF. A funny and entertaining guy, and WWE Hall of Famer, who will be missed. pic.twitter.com/MFHt51O63p
— Mike Mooneyham (@ByMikeMooneyham) April 5, 2018
Godspeed, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant.
— Adam Pearce (@ScrapDaddyAP) April 5, 2018
Rest in peace, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant. Johnny V was one of my favorite talkers in WWF history and I always hoped he would be a guest on a podcast. Terrible loss.
— Jordan (@JMRubes) April 5, 2018