WESLEY CHAPEL — Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, a former star with World Wrestling Entertainment who was known for his maniacal laugh, long goatee beard and powerhouse moves, died on Monday. He was 63.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Mr. Neidhart fell in his home after suffering a medical episode early that morning, according to a deputy's report.
His wife told the deputy that Mr. Neidhart had gotten out of bed to adjust a thermostat when he appeared to suffer a medical incident, then "fell towards the wall and ground."
His wife Elizabeth Neidhart called 911, thinking he was having a seizure, which he had experienced before and takes medication for. He also appeared to have suffered a head injury.
He was pronounced dead at 6:47 a.m. by paramedics. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters, Jennifer, Kristen and Natalie.
Mr. Neidhart was a WWE Tag Team Champion who enjoyed his heyday in the 1980s wrestling as one half of the Hart Foundation alongside his wrestling partner and brother in law, Bret "Hit Man" Hart.
Daughter Natalie Neidhart-Wilson succeeded her father in the ring, wrestling as Natalya for WWE.
"Jim and I traveled the world together," said former Hillsborough County Commissioner and fellow wrestler Brian Blair, who performed as "B. Brian Blair."
"It's very hard to lose another colleague, especially one like Jim, who I spent so much time with, and know and love his family so well.
In a statement, the WWE said Mr. Neidhart's "legacy lives on today through his daughter, Natalya, who displays her father's signature charisma and toughness every time she steps in the ring."
Natalie Neidhart-Wilson remembered her father on social media:
"He meant the world to us, and nothing will ever replace the special times we shared together as a family," she wrote. "My dad was always a fighter and an incredibly special person."
Mr. Neidhart "began his ring career after playing professional football with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys," the WWE said. He earned the wrestling moniker "The Anvil" by winning an anvil throwing contest.
He won two tag team championships. And while the outcomes may have been scripted, only the best performers could win title belts.
"If you don't love the camera, this is the wrong business," he said in a 1996 interview with the then-St. Petersburg Times.
And, he added, wrestlers must still be prepared for the real life violence of the scripted matches. Otherwise, he said, the wrestling will look fake.
As part of the Killer Bees tag team alongside Jim Brunzell, Blair often wrestled the Hart Foundation. He could attest to Mr. Neidhart's dedication.
One time in Palm Beach "I wound up hard but missed my target and accidentally hit him in the jaw," Blair said. "I could see a serious receipt coming my way ... Man did he clothesline me. After doing a complete 360 before hitting the mat, I was not sure what was going to happen."
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But after that, Blair laughed, Mr. Neidhart played nice.
"Jim was a gentle giant," Blair said. "But you did not want to make him mad, as he didn't know his own strength."
Times staff writer Justin Trombly contributed to this report. Contact Paul Guzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PGuzzoTimes