Tom Zenk, AKA Z-Man, Passes Away

Discussion in 'Old School Wrestling' started by Jack-Hammer, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. Jack-Hammer

    Jack-Hammer YOU WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!!!!
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    It's been making the rounds today that former mid-card and tag team star in the WWF and WCW Tom Zenk passed away on December 9th at the age of 59 in his hometown of Robbinsdale, Minnesota. Robbinsdale is a town that's produced or been home to some significant players in the history of pro wrestling like Verne Gagne, Larry Hennig, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Nikita Koloff, Gene Okerlund and others. The report doesn't specify the cause of death, only that he'd passed away as well as various funeral service info.

    Zenk's probably best known for his tag team, the Can-Am Connection, with Rick Martel in 1986 and much of 1987 in the WWF. They were a popular babyface tag team and looked to be heading towards the tag team titles when Zenk suddenly quit the WWF. Allegedly, the reason he quit was that Zenk believed, had been told or something that Martel had secretly negotiated an individual contract worth triple what Zenk was making; traditionally speaking, tag teams were paid roughly the same amount. Years later, however, Martel would claim that it wasn't true. Martel claimed that he never discussed money matters with other wrestlers, Zenk included, and believes that someone put it in his head that he was getting screwed over; Martel stated that Vince followed the traditional rules for tag teams at the time and that he was paid the same as Zenk and that he thought Zenk's biggest issue was that he was just overwhelmed by everything because he hadn't developed the physical and mental toughness needed to endure the grind of the road.

    After leaving the WWF, Zenk spent the next few years working in Japan, without any real success, before heading to the AWA in early 89 where he spent much of his time chasing Larry Zbyszko for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship before finally landing in WCW. Zenk initially saw success as a tag team wrestler in WCW with Brian Pillman and captured the NWA United States Tag Team Championship in February of 1990. They held the titles for a little over 3 months before dropping them to the Midnight Express and breaking up not long afterward. Zenk then embarked on a singles run that culminated in a 34 day run as NWA World Television Champion in December 1990 before dropping the title to Arn Anderson in the first week of 1991. Through 1991, Zenk would form an alliance with Dustin Rhodes and Big Josh, AKA the first guy to play Doink the Clown, that would lead to a WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship run before the group fizzled out. Zenk would spend the next few years puttering around WCW as an irrelevant undercard guy until being released in May of 1994. Zenk would retire in late 1996 following brief stints in All Japan and the American Wrestling Federation.

    Zenk had a great look and had he stayed in the WWF, I could see Vince eventually trying something with him as a singles wrestler. Even if Martel did negotiate a deal where he made three times as much as Zenk, Martel had been a 13 year veteran when they showed up in WWF while Zenk had been around only 2 years. Martel had been a significant tag team and singles player in a number of big companies in the US and Canada for a decade, he was also only about 6 months or so removed from a near 600 day run as AWA World Heavyweight Champion and had been a tag champ in the WWF a couple of times already in the early 80s, while Zenk hadn't been around long enough to have a cup of coffee. Martel had long since paid his dues, Zenk hadn't.

    I think one of Zenk's problems was one that was and is common to a lot of wrestlers to this day: he wasn't as good or as talented as he thought he was. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't great.
     
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  2. wrestlingmasters55

    wrestlingmasters55 Moderator
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    Kinda remember him from my childhood mostly from watching WCW during his Z-man phase and i remember him being a pretty decent wrestlers. Then i saw his stuff in WWE when he was teaming with Martel and i really did love them as a team. Too bad that he chicken out at the last minute on Martel's plan because he could have been a pretty strong babyface in WWE. But If you believe Rick Martel's story, Tom got cold feet and didn't want to split up the team and be the babyface in the feud so he just took his ball and left WWF.

    In WCW, he got a pretty decent run but again, he had the look but had a charisma of a doorknob. As a kid, i did liked him mostly because he was a colorful character and could do stuff that back in the day, you would see often, but the sad fact is that he didn't want to stand out from the pack and he's became just another name in wrestling.

    In the end, he will be miss and he another one that we loss at a very young age.
     
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  3. HeenanGorilla

    HeenanGorilla Championship Contender

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    No surprise the main site has no mention of his passing even several hours after the news was broken.

    I enjoyed the Can-Amers during their brief stint in WWF. I liked their opener at Mania 3, as the sound of that crowd was amazing, especially for that era. Also involved in the Islanders’ heel turn, but that was really all I remember. Maybe a match with the Harts. But it is sad that another guy I liked from that era is gone.
     
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  4. LibSuperstar

    LibSuperstar Occasional Pre-Show

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    Not that it excuses it but he wasn't on the best of terms w/ WWE. Let's see if they mention him tomorrow. News took me by surprise though.
     
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  5. HeenanGorilla

    HeenanGorilla Championship Contender

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    I meant the WrestleZone main site...and they still haven’t. They are a terrible site.
     
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  6. FromGlasgow

    FromGlasgow Championship Contender

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    I think most agree the guy was never a major star or really done anything that noteworthy during his career but he at least deserves a mention on the main page, Most long term fans knew who he was and he did compete at and open one of the biggest events in wrestling history at Wrestlemania 3, This site isn't very good for news like this as I check this website everyday at some point and couple of deaths that I never seen reported like Blackjack Mulligan and Dennis Stamp and only found out later, Same goes for Tom Zenk now even Bobby Heenan one of the biggest names in wrestling history only got a little one article mention.
     
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  7. TDFG

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    I remember him from WCW days back when he teamed with Brian Pillman & feuded with Arn Anderson for the TV Title.

    He just kind of disappeared on his way out, I remember him losing in a couple of minutes to Rick Rude when he debuted in WCW.

    I'm a bit surprised that WCW didn't employ him right up until they folded as they employed that much talent.
     
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  8. Jeff Deliverer of Mail

    Jeff Deliverer of Mail Join WZCW because writing is hip
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    He was a solid mid/low card guy in WCW. I'll probably remember him most for the violent DDT he received from Arn Anderson in the Battlebowl tournament. He tripped coming off of the ropes and Arn still went through with his fast DDT that could have easily broke Z Mans neck if he didn't flip over at the last second like he did.
     
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  9. THTRobtaylor

    THTRobtaylor Once & Future Wrestlezone Columnist

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    Only just saw this... sad another one has gone but I think by the sounds of it he was an early example of what the Kliq later did to Bam Bam Bigelow... someone who saw him as a threat in the WWF wound him up and watched him implode and leave the company. You'll never know who it was, but in 87 a lot of talent linked to the Minnesota area were around the business...and coming into the WWE over that year. Zenk going no doubt greased the road for Rude and Hennig to come in...

    I agree Martel was way ahead of him, indeed he was a FORMER WORLD CHAMPION at that point, the AWA belt was big enough in that era, so Martel being on 3x the money would be not only fair, but appropriate. Zenk always seemed like a C lister to me, even when he was in the WWF... like B.Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Raymond Rougeau or Dino Bravo... he proved it in WCW. I used to hate seeing Zenk EVERY week on Worldwide... it was clear he was going nowhere.

    Still, sad he's gone and that his career didn't work out for him.
     
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  10. MrMojoRisin

    MrMojoRisin Championship Contender

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    The only person who got in Zenk's ear was Zenk.

    Regarding the WWF, he said after food, travel and taxes, he was making about $50 a night, and he was never as enamored with being in the WWF as most (remember this was back when they would work upwards of 300 nights a year, so it was a really grueling schedule). He also thought that Martel had a side deal where he had to get paid more than Zenk, which really bugged him because as the junior guy on the team, he was the one taking most of the bumps every night. The way he saw it, he did more work, and Martel made more money. So he quit over it.

    Looking at how they both turned out after the split, I think the truth is more that Martel probably was making more money, which makes sense. He was the more established guy. He was also probably a lot better with his money, so he always had more when they were on the road. Look at him today. He's a very successful real estate agent. He was also someone with a great work ethic who was always willing to put the work in to succeed.

    And Zenk? He was the type of guy who always felt like he was owed something. Go back and read some of his shoots from back in the late 90's if you doubt that. It probably held him back more than anything, because the guy had talent, and he had the personality. Seriously, go back to those old shoots when he would just be himself. If he could have ever been that guy on TV? He'd have been huge.

    RIP. What could have been.
     
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  11. LibSuperstar

    LibSuperstar Occasional Pre-Show

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    The best gimmicks are an extension of the person’s real personality.
     
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