Howard "Pepper" Martin passes away at 85

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Howard “Pepper” Martin died last week at the age of 85.

Greg Oliver at SLAM Wrestling reported that Martin died last Friday after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Martin was born in Hamilton, Ontario on September 20, 1936, and joined the Navy at the age of 16, lying about his age, which was discovered after he suffered a knee injury.

Martin returned home to rehab and began working at Al Spittles’ gym, which was his entry point into professional wrestling and took him to Sarnia, Ontario to begin his career.

His career spanned the U.S. with stops that included Detroit, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Oklahoma, New Orleans, Texas, San Francisco, and Oregon.

While wrestling for Don Owen in Oregon, he won the promotion’s Pacific Northwest heavyweight title five times between 1964 and 1966. He first won the title from Don Manoukian in September 1964 in Eugene and feuded with Pat Patterson, Stan Pulaski, and Mad Dog Vachon over the belt. He lost it for the final time to Tony Borne in September 1966.

During that run, he also held the Pacific Northwest tag titles on eight occasions with partners Billy White Wolf, Luther Lindsay, Shag Thomas, Rene Goulet, and Paul Jones.

Beginning in 1968, Martin engaged in a second career in film appearing in a plethora of movies including the role of ‘Rocky’ in Superman II where he had a fight scene with Christopher Reeve.

His TV and film credits include role I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, the 1973 film Walking Tall (a film about Sherriff Buford Pusser, which was remade in 2004 starring Dwayne Johnson), the 1974 version of The Longest Yard (starring Burt Reynolds and was remade in 2005 with Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, and Bob Sapp having roles) Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files, The Incredible Hulk, Hawaii Five-O, and many others.

Over the years, Greg Oliver wrote several stories on Martin for the SLAM! Wrestling site.

We send our condolences to the friends and family of Howard “Pepper” Martin.