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Ole Anderson, Wrestling Legend and Member of the Four Horsemen, Dead at 81

Anderson is remembered as one of the most “prolific and decorated" tag team pro wrestlers in the history of the business

<p>Ric Flair/Instagram</p> From left: Ole Anderson, Ric Flair, and Arn Anderson

Ric Flair/Instagram

From left: Ole Anderson, Ric Flair, and Arn Anderson

Ole Anderson, a pro wrestler whose legacy includes dozens of tag team championships and having helped found the legendary Four Horsemen group, has died. He was 81 years old.

WWE announced Ole's death on Monday, paying tribute to the performer they called a “prolific and decorated tag team wrestler” online before airing an on-screen remembrance later that night live on Monday Night Raw. The organization added, "WWE extends its condolences to Anderson's family, friends, and fans."


“Rest in Paradise, Ole Anderson,” former National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) wrestler Ricky Morton wrote on Instagram. “You taught me so much in professional wrestling. You were tough as nails. You will be missed, my friend.”

Ole, a Minneapolis native and U.S. Army veteran, was first trained by WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Verne Gagne. He made his pro wrestling debut in 1967 with the local American Wrestling Association in Minnesota, where he’d rise to regional fame alongside his fictional family members Gene, Lars, and Arn Anderson as “The Minnesota Wrecking Crew” throughout the '70s and early-'80s.

Related: Bushwhacker Butch, WWE Hall of Famer and Pro Wrestler, Dead at 78 

Sometimes billed as “brothers” and other times as “cousins,” the Anderson name became a staple across the wrestling business, which was formerly split into different regional territories across the country under the umbrella of the NWA. Over the years, the Andersons became a dominant force in the Midwest region, akin to the Southern territories’ Von Erich family, whose story was told in the 2023 film The Iron Claw.

The Andersons would later recruit Ric Flair to be a family “cousin” in storyline, before Ole, Arn and Flair split off to join forces with another rising star, Tully Blanchard. The four men would adopt the name “The Four Horsemen,” a reference to their promise to bring “apocalyptic” levels of chaos to the pro wrestling business, and go on to become arguably the most iconic groups in its history.

“The group set a standard of style, attitude and success that has inspired every stable that followed,” WWE said in its tribute Monday.

Related: Darren Drozdov, Former WWE Wrestler Who Was Paralyzed in 1999 Ring Accident, Dead at 54

The Four Horsemen characters played “heels,” or bad guys, and maintained a lavish lifestyle in the ring and on local television programs across the country. With Beatles-like fame within the niche pro wrestling community, the four men would run amok across local promotions, trash talking each region's top “baby-face,” or good-guy tag teams before dominating them in the ring.

The Four Horsemen feuded with the top tag teams in the country, from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express to the Road Warriors, on their way to capturing the NWA’s most coveted titles. At various points, Ole and Arn would go on to hold the NWA National Tag Team Championship, while Blanchard won the NWA National Heavyweight Championship and Flair held the prestigious NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

“I am forever thankful to Ole and Gene for bringing me in to Crockett Promotions as a cousin,” Flair wrote on social media while paying tribute to Anderson. “It launched my career. I will be grateful forever for you giving me the opportunity to become who I am today. We didn’t always agree with each other, but the honest to God truth is you & Gene started me. Rest in peace my friend!”

Ole ultimately stepped away from the iconic wrestling group in 1990, later transitioning into the role of match booking for World Championship Wrestling, one of the most prominent wrestling television shows of the 1990s alongside WWE.

Related: WWE Wrestler Bray Wyatt Died of a Heart Attack: Source

Ole retired from the business in 1996 while continuing to speak out against its changing landscape. Later in life, Ole would write a book, Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling, expressing disdain for the likes of Vince McMahon and his WWE company, which he claimed monopolized the business during the '90s and 2000s and swallowed up nearly every regional promotion in the country.

He would be inducted into both the NWA and WCW hall of fames for his career, in which he wore many hats as a performer, announcer and booker.

“Ole Anderson was one of the greatest minds of the business,” longtime wrestling announcer Tony Schiavone said during a 2017 interview about The Four Horseman on the What Happened When podcast. “Ole had such a talent for doing things.”

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