Dave Meltzer at F4WOnline.com has picked up the reports circulating in the Tennessee wrestling scene that former world class powerlifter and international wrestling star Doug Furnas passed away Friday night in his sleep. He was 50 years old.
After playing college football, he went into powerlifting, where he set numerous records before breaking into pro wrestling territory around his hometown of Knoxville, TN. He soon ended up in All Japan Pro Wrestling as the tag-team partner of Danny Kroffat (Phillip LaFond), replacing Tom Zenk, who had signed with WCW.
With Kroffat (a brilliant but incredibly underrated worker) at his side, he improved rapidly. While Kroffat was the anchor of the team, Furnas developed into an excellent performer himself. Combining standard power wrestler offense with an array of moves that showcased his impressive leaping ability, agility and flexibility, he was a very exciting wrestler who never missed a beat while working with the best in the world.
As the Can-Am Express, Furnas and Kroffat had a series of classic matches with the Footloose (future AJPW main-eventer Toshiaki Kawada and the late Samson Fuyuki) over the All Asia Tag Team Titles. The consensus best match of the feud took place on one of the greatest cards in wrestling history: AJPW's June 5, 1989 Budokan Hall show (which was main-evented by the consensus best match in another famous rivalry, Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Genichiro Tenryu).
Over the next few years, they were the anchors of the upper mid-card tag team division that fought over the All Asia Titles. Furnas would have a brief run in WCW in 1990 as well as a run with Kroffat in Mexico's UWA in 1992, but was largely exclusive to AJPW until he and Kroffat started working for ECW to feud with Sabu and Rob Van Dam between Japanese tours in 1996. While in ECW, they caught WWF's attention.
With injuries piling up from the more dangerous AJPW style, Furnas and Kroffat (now wrestling as Phil LaFon) signed with WWF and quickly started a feud with tag team champions Owen Hart and "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith. The two teams had good chemistry, highlighted by their match at In Your House: Final Four in February 1997.
When the feud ended, though, Furnas and LaFon got lost in the shuffle, especially with the Road Warriors having returned to the company. At one point, Jim Cornette was shown to be scouting them so he could have a new team to manage after Hart and Smith dumped him, but it never went anywhere.
A car accident that summer caused their bodies to start breaking down faster, though they recovered and were sent to ECW as part of the heel "Team WWF." After a couple months, they returned to WWF TV as allies of the Hart Foundation and were set to become full members of an Owen Hart-led version of the group when Bret Hart left the company. But that fell through when Smith and Jim Neidhart quit the company. From there, Furnas went back to ECW for a few months before retiring.
He largely fell off the radar at that point and didn't return to All Japan when Kroffat/LaFon did for a tour in late 2001. A few years later, he revealed in an an emotional letter to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease and detailed his strong resolve to fight it.
While most of the world didn't realize it, since he worked outside of the country during his prime, he was one of the very best wrestlers in the world in the early 90s, and everyone reading this should make sure to check out some of his best matches online.