Richard Beyer, a former American pro wrestler who was popular in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s, died at his home on the outskirts of Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, his son said. He was 88.
"It is with a very heavy heart to let you know that Dad — aka The Destroyer, aka Doctor X, aka Dick Beyer, aka Coach — passed away shortly past noon today. He was in bed at home, and was surrounded by all of his children and wife as he slipped peacefully away," Kurt Beyer said on Facebook.
Beyer, once known by the ring name "The Destroyer," visited Japan for the first time in 1963 to wrestle in Tokyo with Rikidozan, a postwar wrestling legend in Japan. The televised bout garnered a huge 64 percent rating and sparked an unprecedented wrestling boom in Japan.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Beyer taught physical education in Akron, New York, and promoted exchanges between young Japanese and American wrestlers. He was also active in assisting people affected by the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan.
In 2017, Beyer received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, one of Japan's highest honors. In a news conference in February 2018 following a presentation ceremony in Buffalo, he said that although Japan had been a World War II enemy when he was in high school, he became a big fan of the country after traveling there.
He also said at the time that he hoped to visit Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and while there spend some time coaching amateur Japanese wrestlers.