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The beloved Superman actor has died

By Nathan Kamal | 12 seconds ago

Legendary professional wrestler and prolific actor Howard “Pepper” Martin has passed away. Martin is now certainly known to many viewers from his role in Superman II as “Rocky,” a belligerent townsman who attacks the deposed Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) at a diner and is later beaten up by the revived Superman for his troubles. But Martin had a long career in the entertainment industry and an even longer, colorful life. In recent years, Martin had been suffering from various types of cancer, including a successful battle with eye cancer. As of February 2022, it was reported that he was in hospice care after years of battling lung cancer and was at peace with his remaining time. He was 85.

Pepper Martin

Pepper Martin was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1936 and lost his mother to a tragic arson attack at the age of seven. He reportedly lied about his age at 16 and joined the Navy (already tall for his age, in his words); The deception was not discovered until he suffered a knee injury. This knee injury took a job with the electrical company Westinghouse and led him to explore different forms of physical fitness, which led him straight to a gym that trained wrestlers. By the late 1940s, professional wrestling was developing rapidly in the United States and Martin had found his calling.

After his first professional match in 1957, Pepper Martin quickly became a mainstay of the fast-growing professional wrestling industry. He remained active as a professional wrestler into the 1970s, eventually joining the National Wrestling Alliance, one of the first and now influential organizations that brought together and codified the diverse local wrestling scenes and groups across the country. Martin was present at some of the first televised wrestling appearances in history and had a longtime partnership with Don Owens, a wrestling promoter known for both his forward thinking and unusual fairness in dealing with wrestlers. Finally, Martin was a five-time NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Champion and an eight-time NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Champion with various partners.

In the 1960s, a serious back injury caused Pepper Martin to move to Hollywood. He eventually befriended legendary figures like director John Ford and Western actor and NFL player Woody Strode. Martin never became a star like his industry descendants like Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and John “John Cena” Price, but his work in the film and television industry has undoubtedly set a clear precedent. Martin ended up starring in many episodes of television shows such as the landmark Police Proceedings trawlthe William Shatner lead TJ hookerand the detective show The Rockford files. He also had supporting roles in many films including go high (which was eventually remade by Dringne Johnson), mutiny on the Bounty, and of course Richard Donners Superman II

A notable figure across many industries, Pepper Martin had at least one scene that will remain in cinema history for generations. He was a community leader, a longtime color commentator, and a respected giant in the professional wrestling world. RIP Howard “Pepper” Martin.

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