Tributes to “judo” Gene LeBell, who died on August 9, 2022, at age 89, poured in after news of his passing began circulating. It was also a fascinating collection of mourners, from the world of professional wrestling, mixed martial arts, theater and beyond.
Here is an attempt to share some of those posts and tweets from the cross section of his life.
Shayna Baszler, Mixed Martial Arts/Pro Wrestling (top photo with Gene LeBell):
“I won every REAL fight I’ve ever had and I was broke. I’ve LOST every REAL fight I’ve had and made millions” – Judo Gene trying to convince me to stop fighting and doing stunts in Hollywood. I always call it a double wrist lock, just so you know.
It is with great sadness that I learn of the passing of a great man and dear friend, Gene LeBell. I will always remember the special times we shared together. pic.twitter.com/IqcuVDIu7O
—Chuck Norris (@chucknorris) August 10, 2022
Rock Rims, author of several books on Southern California wrestling:
“The World’s Toughest Nerd” is how I described “Judo” Gene LeBell during an interview for the documentary “18th and Grand”.
It was a way of describing Gene’s on-screen and off-screen opposing characters, but whichever character you’ve been exposed to or enjoyed the most, there’s no denying that he played a memorable role in growing up. of millions of people.
While some of us involved in the 18th and the great documentary have known for some time that Gene had health issues and his passing comes as no surprise to us, we are no different from others in that he is hard to say goodbye.
It’s been a few days and I’m going to get some sleep, but tomorrow I’ll post a more fitting tribute and profile on Gene and his involvement in the Southern California wrestling scene.
For now, I will say that Gene has lived a long and successful life, and done it on his own terms. That’s all anyone can ask for, and more than most ever get. TO TEAR APART
Paul Lazenby, stunt actor:
My infallible reminder that I’m ugly and no one loves me.
RIP to the toughest man in the world, Judo Gene Lebell.
I will miss you terribly.
Jay Tan, MMA Promoter:
I knew ‘Judo’ Gene LeBell was a legend long before I moved to the West Coast, let alone met him. So when he started working on our U of MMA shows as a ringside judge, and he actually knew my name, that was one of those times that me, at 17, wouldn’t believe . Level unlocked.
Gene was a champion, a legend and a pioneer in every sense of the word. Not just a guy known and loved in the SoCal fight and entertainment industry, but a name in global martial arts. First televised mixed fight on TV (vs Milo Savage, 1963). World champion in professional wrestling and grappling. Certainly one of the most famous stunt performers in film and television, and an everlasting presence in combat sports history. There are names to remember, and then there are names you can’t forget. Put Judo Gene in this last category.
But he also knew how to disarm with charm. The man was well over 80 when I met him, and by then he was enjoying the surf of his life along the way. He’d come to our shows with a big bag of candy to share, maybe a few iron-on patches or cauliflower earpins to hand out, and his dear wife Midge by his side. He was always pretending to be about to tell a joke or looking for a way to prank (even if he wasn’t). His reputation preceded him, and if you knew his name, you knew this octogenarian could still break your bones or involuntarily put you to sleep at will. But he also liked to play clown, and it was this sweet but mischievous character that lightened the mood.
I’d say they broke the mold with Judo Gene, but chances are he did it himself. They don’t make them like him anymore. TO TEAR APART.
Jack Gill, stunt coordinator:
Gene LeBell has passed away. Gene had the biggest heart for all people and our company and gave back at every opportunity he could. It was imprinted on everyone who had the chance to meet and know him. God speed gene. I know you’re doing wheelies on a dirt bike in heaven right now.
Joseph Lee Michael, fighter:
Hello ladies and gentlemen, we just learned tonight that we have lost another Icon, Mentor, Dad! Uncle Judo Gene Lebell very Sad News my condolences to his Family and to all the Warriors that this Beautiful Talented Loving Soul Mentor has touched and breathed something positive into your Life??. May he continue to watch over us all Amen. as he always has, I know you have touched the lives of so many! It was a real honor to meet you, thank you for the patches and those Monday night workouts with Gokor and always so nice in fights while you judge.
RIP Gene LeBell. I wrote about Gene in my book SHOOTERS, a man so tough he wore a pink judogi just hoping someone would give him shit.
Also, his teaching taught the truly deadly holds like the nose tear.
What a character he was. pic.twitter.com/sJT3mFn3Mt
— TheRealSnowden (@JESnowden) August 10, 2022
George Fitzgerald, mixed martial arts:
I woke up this morning to the very sad news of the passing of Gene LeBell. Judo Gene LeBell, or simply Uncle Gene for those who knew him, was a giant in the martial arts world for many years and was widely acclaimed as the toughest man alive!! A teacher of the greatest, including Bruce Lee, he appeared as a stuntman or actor in hundreds of films and television shows.
Ever since my late teacher and friend Larry Hartsell introduced him to me in 2005 at the Black Belt Festival of Martial Arts in Los Angeles, Uncle Gene was the very first to send me a Christmas card and one of his famous patches. every year, until the last few years when his health deteriorated.
Uncle Gene, may you rest in peace
Cris Cyborg Justino, Mixed Martial Arts:
Judo Gene Lebell has impacted so many lives with his caring, caring and loving soul. It is through these memories that his legacy will become legendary and will forever be remembered. RIP and prayers to all who loved him #rip #ripgenelebell #ripjudogene #judogene
Teal Piper, wrestler, daughter of Roddy Piper:
Uncle Gene, there wasn’t a man Dad respected more. U trained him and others who became the best of the best. We will always remember your contributions to the world of judo, wrestling and stunts. I hope you’re laughing with dad right now. It was an honor to know you. #RIPGeneLebell
Triple H, wrestling:
Gene LeBell has remained a dominant figure in the history and expansion of mixed martial arts and sports entertainment. A teacher to many big names in the sport, his influence is felt across @WWE to this day. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this time.
AEW joins the wrestling world in mourning the passing of “Judo” Gene Lebell. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans. pic.twitter.com/epDTGpY16q
– All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 10, 2022