Ruben Cruz a.k.a. 'Hercules Ayala' passes away at the age of 69

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Hercules Ayala, who gained his greatest fame wrestling in his native Puerto Rico, has died at the age of 69.

The news of his passing was shared by the Cauliflower Alley Club, stating that he died on Wednesday evening due to heart issues.

He was born Ruben Cruz on July 14, 1950, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He would later move to Boston to live with his mother and that is where he met Angelo Savoldi and would begin training.

He would debut in 1970 and worked several WWWF cards in 1974 and 1975 on the undercard.

According to Ayala in an interview with Greg Oliver at SLAM Wrestling, he met Bret Hart and Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington in Germany and that opened the door for him in Stampede Wrestling.

He teamed with Jim Neidhart and the pair won the Stampede International tag titles on September 27, 1980, and held the titles for two months dropping them to Duke Myers and Bobby Bass in November.

His career took him to Mid-South in 1979, Lutte International in Montreal, the Maritimes wrestling for Emile Dupree, New Japan, but his greatest success was in Puerto Rico.

He returned to his place of birth to work for Capitol Sports Promotions that was promoted as the World Wrestling Council. He began as a babyface on the island.

Ayala won numerous titles including five reigns as the Puerto Rico heavyweight champion beginning in February 1976 and would win the title one last time in March 2002. With Victor Jovica, the pair won the North American tag titles on December 4, 1976, from Higo Hamaguchi & Gordon Nelson but dropped them on Christmas night 1976 to Jim Starr & Tom Andrews.

Ayala defeated Randy Savage for the WWC North American title on March 2, 1985, just months before Savage joined the World Wrestling Federation. Ayala held that title for ten months until losing it to Jos LeDuc in San Juan on January 6, 1986. In 1986, he was also brought into Montreal to feud with Leduc as talent from Puerto Rico was regularly heading into Lutte Internationale.

On September 21, 1985, Ayala headlined the WWC’s Anniversary card in San Juan challenging NWA champion Ric Flair on a show that also featured Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah the Butcher, The Sheepherders vs. Invaders I & II, and The Road Warriors vs. The Fabulous Ones among the talent they had for their big show.

His big run came when he turned heel in 1987 against legendary star Carlos Colon with Ayala linked with manager Chicky Starr. This occurred as Ayala defeated Colon on July 18th to become the WWC Universal title and would be the belt they feuded over for the next two years.

They traded the belt numerous times throughout 1987 and 1988. The two had a huge match on September 20, 1987, at the anniversary card with Colon winning the title back from Ayala in a Barbed Wire match. The following year at the anniversary show, Colon defeated Ayala in a “Fire Match”.

Ayala won the title back on July 23, 1988, which was one week after the murder of Frank Goodish in Bayamon, and would be Ayala’s final reign as champion.

During the summer of 1988, they shot a major angle where Ayala attacked Colon’s wife Nancy at a WWC banquet and was stripped of the title.

The two had one last blowoff match on January 6, 1989, where Colon defeated Ayala in a “Loser Leaves Town” match.

Ayala would return to WWC in later years, including against Abdullah the Butcher in August 1993 where they fought to a double disqualification on the annual anniversary card. In August 1995, he headlined the show against his rival Colon. In 2011, the company dedicated the anniversary shows to Ayala with shows in Bayamon and Ponce that summer.

According to Cagematch, his last match as in January 2004 for WWC where he defeated El Bronco I at Juan Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon.

Ayala had been living in St. Albert, Alberta at the time of his passing.