‘Fly High Champion’: Dominican Wrestler Jack Veneno Dies at 79

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Legendary Dominican wrestler Jack Veneno died Tuesday (April 6) at the age of 79, ESPN first reported. He had been fighting pancreatic cancer for several years.

“We know that you are with your creator and that your beloved Jesus receives you in love,” Veneno’s son wrote on social media. “The truth is that we know that you are returning home. to rest. I love you dad and fly high, champion.”

Born Rafael Antonio Sánchez, Veneno grew up watching Mexican lucha libre wrestling as a teenager and entered the sport in the 1970s performing on the local wrestling show Lucha Libre Internacional.

His stock was at its highest in 1982 when he challenged Ric Flair for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Championship. The match took place in Santo Domingo with Veneno winning the fight by placing Flair in a sleeper hold. The story is that during the match, Flair decided that Veneno should win in front of his fellow Dominicans or a full-scale riot take place in the arena. Veneno’s victory was not recognized by the NWA.

Other accomplishments Veneno had during his career included winning the Light Heavyweight Championship six times with Dominicana de Espectaculos; winning the Dominican Republic Heavyweight Championship six times with the Dominican Wrestling Federation; and winning the WWC North American Tag Team Championship once with wrestling partner José Rivera.

In 2007, Veneno was appointed as Vice-Minister of Sports by Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández.

On Twitter, fans left their memories and condolences for the Dominican fighter. They called him “a cultural hero,” “Dominican Superman” and “the greatest Dominican wrestler of all time.”