Monday, September 17, 2007

Former Winnipeg Wrestler found murdered

I only knew him briefly over a period of about 5 years through the 1980's, starting with me holding a microphone straight up in the air to interview him with New Brand Wrestling on Videon.

Big John Radocaj, who promoter Walter Shefchyk affectionately called Lumpy the Giant, was by far the tallest wrestler around at 6'9", and as Ivan the Giant wrestled off and on from about 1982-85.

He never really took to the effort needed to travel the territories in those days, but at his size he could have made a bundle. He was the proverbial wouldn't hurt a fly kind of giant, very easy going and never in a hurry. And he loved a good sandwich.

Shefchyk even tried to repackage him in what was a major sports scandal at the time, when the wily promoter sidestepped the Manitoba Boxing and Wrestling Commission and started the NorthAmerican Sumo Style Championships.

It was a shoot but the rules made it relatively harmless- striking was limited, there was no submissions holds involved, and it was just a pushing match on mats. A number of Walter's other pro wrestling trainees, including Dangerous Dan Denton, Randy (Unrah) Rose and the recently deceased Monte Black, took part along with Brian Jewel and some other young wrestlers and local athletes.

It was pro wrestlers doing something that was not pro wrestling, but was it exciting watching competitive athletes try to move the immovable grinning man mountain.

Sumo packed the hall a couple of times in St Andrews and Selkirk and drew the attention of Don Stone, the Commissioner, who wanted his piece of the action even though as Walter said, " McMartin, do you think Don Stone would tell Inoki what to do if he ran a sumo show at the Arena? If I was Japanese they'd be asking for my autograph."

The pressure from the government kaiboshed the business and with it, Radocaj's career as an athlete.

Last Friday, a man was found dead in his home in Manitoba's Interlake region near Inwood, about 50 miles North of Winnipeg, not far from my mother's ancestral home in Narcisse. An autopsy at the St. Boniface Hospital revealed he had died of blunt force trauma. He was mis-identified on TV as "I-van Rad-o-cay", not "Rad-o-cadge", so at first I did not connect the 43 year old's passing with someone I knew.

At 1.30 this morning, I realized that Ivan = John, and that a link to my past was the victim. RCMP continue to investigate and later, on today's show we'll discuss some of the events of John's life, his misfortunes, and what we know about his tragic end.

Our condolences to his parents and siblings.