“Judo” Gene LeBell, best known for his grappling technique that later became an influence in both pro wrestling and mixed martial arts, has passed away at 89 years old. The cause of death is not yet confirmed.
LeBell was an actor, stunt performer, mixed martial artist, and pro wrestler. The sports icon is more popularly known for his classic submission maneuver, the LeBell Lock. Wrestlers like William Regal, Bryan Danielson, and the Submission Machine Shayna Baszler all had the LeBell Lock as part of their arsenal.
In more recent years, he became known for being in the corner of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion and current WWE superstar Ronda Rousey. However, the list of people he has trained reads like a who’s who of certified tough guys. Names like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Roddy Piper, just to name a few.
Lebell also had an illustrious career in Hollywood. He appeared in more than 1000 movies either as a stuntman or actor. He also served as the inspiration behind Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Wrestling World Reacts to Lebell’s Passing
The wrestling world woke up this morning to the tragic news of Lebell’s passing. Memorials have flooded in from many personalities in the world of pro wrestling to pay their tributes to the fallen fighting icon.
Gene LeBell had many claims to fame. One was becoming a regular stuntman for Bruce Lee since meeting on the set of The Green Hornet.— Catch Wrestling U (@CatchWrestling) August 10, 2022
LeBell helped Lee choreograph the finish to his on-screen fight with Sammo Hung in ‘Enter the Dragon’ with a crucifix pin armlock. pic.twitter.com/8BAx6ULNXB
Shayna Baszler is one of many wrestlers to add the Lebell Lock to her arsenal. She offered her own kind words to her mentor.
“I won every R-E-A-L fight I ever had & was penniless. I LOST every R-E-E-L fight I ever had and made millions” — Judo Gene trying to convince me to quit fighting and go into Hollywood stunt work.— Shayna Baszler (@QoSBaszler) August 10, 2022
I’m still calling it a double wrist lock, just so you know. 💔💔 pic.twitter.com/VEwNpAxJb8
Frankie Kazarian is a modern veteran who still gets on the mat in AEW. He offered his own tribute to his former teacher tweeting, “RIP Gene Lebell. I’m not sure his contributions to combat sports can be overstated enough. A man’s man, a gentleman and an absolute legend. I enjoyed the times I got to chat and laugh with him over the years. Godspeed sir.”
In December 1963, perhaps the first televised MMA fight took place as Gene LeBell representing the Japanese martial arts (Judo) took on Milo Savage representing modern Western Boxing.— Catch Wrestling U (@CatchWrestling) August 10, 2022
LeBell won after a throw and submission. pic.twitter.com/mnAuMuAOqb