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Johnny Valiant (1946-2018)


Real Name

Thomas "Tom" Sullivan

Birthdate - 11/25/1946 - 4/4/2018

6’ 240 lbs. - Pittsburgh, PA

Athletic Background - n/a

Teacher(s) - Al Costello

AliasesJohnny Sullivan, John L. Sullivan, Luscious Johnny V

Peak Years`73-`75

Place in History

Johnny Valiant was a classic character of the 1970s, whose outlandish heel persona with his fast-talking promos and in-ring antics made him quite hate-able.  Tom Sullivan’s first brush with pro-wrestling was attending military school and becoming buddies with a young Vincent K. McMahon.  Sullivan later went right up to Bruno Sammartino’s front door in hopes of breaking into the sport.  As John L. Sullivan (borrowing his name from the former boxing champion), he spent years toiling in the sport, working as a referee for the Sheik and wrestling underneath all over North America.  He and Jimmy Valiant hooked up and became the bleach blond Valiant Brothers in Indianapolis with a young Bobby Heenan as their manager.  The obnoxiously arrogant blond bad guy act had been a trope in pro-wrestling for many years, but the Valiants made it their own.  “Handsome” Jimmy and “Luscious” Johnny had good size and plenty of experience, they relied on ballyhoo, braggadocio and blood to garner heat.  After establishing themselves in Dick the Bruiser’s WWA before heading to the WWWF, where they became one of the most memorable tag teams of that era.  Like the Golden Grahams, the Gallagher Brothers or the Fabulous Fargos of a generation earlier, the Valiants had a gift for drawing legit heat.  They were such effective heels that they often headlined around the Northeast loop in tag matches with combinations of Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bobo Brazil, Gorilla Monsoon and other top faces.  The run in New York meant magazine coverage that allowed the Valiants to go into promotions like San Francisco and Atlanta as an established heel act.  They later added “Gentleman” Jerry (journeyman Guy Mitchell) who would replace Jimmy.  While Jerry was a good hand, he lacked the charisma of Jimmy and the Valiant act fizzled out.  Johnny transitioned to managing during the Rock-N-Wrestling era, as a sort of used car salesman type, still delivering his trademark promos.  After a few years in the WWF and then the AWA, Johnny Valiant transitioned to doing a well-received one-man show and a few acting gigs.  The legacy of the Valiant Brothers is unlike many tag teams.  They were unquestionably a success in the WWWF as a team that could do anything as heels, their time outside the Northeast was less notable and their second run was largely running off the fumes of their first.  Jimmy reinvented himself and became an even bigger star, while Johnny’s final years were unremarkable.