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Sunday, December 3, 2023

NFL Pro Bowler, pro wrestler Russ Francis dies in plane crash

Russ Francis, who was a renowned NFL player and wrestled for years, died tragically on Sunday.

Francis died in a plane crash on Sunday in Lake Placid, New York. Francis and a fellow passenger were flying a Cessna 177, which experienced an issue after takeoff, they crashed into a ravine and both men were killed.

He served as a tight end with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers with three trips to the Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl in 1985 with the 49ers.

Francis’ ties to professional wrestling were noteworthy as the son of Hawaii promoter Ed Francis, who passed away in November 2016.

The younger Francis famously appeared in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2 in April 1986, which was won by Andre the Giant. The match included football players Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, Bill Fralic, Jimbo Covert, and Williams “Refrigerator” Perry (who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 in Chicago).

Francis also had stints in the AWA and wrestling for his father in Hawaii alongside his brother, Bill in 1978.

Francis would wrestle during the off-season, beginning his career in the Pacific Northwest. He wrestled most actively in 1976 for the AWA from March through August, where he feuded with Bobby Duncum. In 1978, he challenged Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA Championship in Honolulu and won by disqualification.

Francis retired from football after the 1980 season due to ongoing issues he had with the sport and took a role with ABC Sports but returned to the NFL in the 1981 season with the 49ers and played throughout the decade, retiring for good in 1989.

Francis was 70 years old.

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