|Birth name||Thomas Erwin Zenk|
|Born||November 30, 1958|
Golden Valley, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||December 9, 2017 (aged 59)|
Robbinsdale, Minnesota, U.S.
|Cause of death||Atherosclerosis and cardiomegaly|
|Alma mater||University of Minnesota|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Tom Zenk|
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||230 lb (100 kg; 16 st)|
|Billed from||Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Trained by||Brad Rheingans|
Thomas Erwin Zenk (November 30, 1958 – December 9, 2017) was an American professional wrestler and bodybuilder. He was best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation from 1986 to 1987, American Wrestling Association (AWA) 1988 to 1989 and with World Championship Wrestling from 1989 to 1994, as well for his tours of Japan with All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Zenk was born in Golden Valley, Minnesota. He attended Robbinsdale High School in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. His 1976 graduating class included fellow future professional wrestlers Brady Boone, Barry Darsow, Curt Hennig, Nikita Koloff, and Rick Rude. He attended the University of Minnesota, where he majored in speech communications.
Zenk competed as a bodybuilder. In October 1980, he competed in the "Mr. North Country" competition, placing third. In July 1981, he participated in the "Mr. Minnesota" competition, winning championships in the overall, heavyweight, and "most muscular" divisions.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1984–1986)
Zenk was introduced to professional wrestling by Road Warrior Animal, who he met at a bodybuilding contest. He was trained to wrestle by Brad Rheingans and Eddie Sharkey. He debuted in early 1984 with Mid-South Wrestling in Louisiana. In mid-1984, Zenk joined the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association, where he performed as an undercard wrestler until September 1985. He was named Rookie of the Year for 1984 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, tying with Jushin Liger.
In October 1985, Zenk joined the Portland, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Wrestling promotion, where he received a push. In December 1985, he and Scott Doring won the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship. They lost the Championship to Bobby Jaggers and Rip Oliver the following month. In the same month, Zenk defeated Jaggers for the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship. He held the Championship until March 1986, when Jaggers regained it. Between May 1985 and October 1986, Zenk also wrestled intermittently with the Quebec-based Lutte Internationale promotion in Canada, where he won the Canadian International Tag Team Championship with Dan Kroffat.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1986)
In November and December 1986, Zenk and Rick Martel toured Japan with All Japan Pro Wrestling, competing in the annual Real World Tag League. He and Martel received the World's Strongest Tag Determination League Fighting Spirit Award.
World Wrestling Federation (1986–1987)
In October 1986, Zenk and Martel were signed by the World Wrestling Federation. They teamed together as The Can-Am Connection. In the opening bout of WrestleMania III on March 29, 1987, The Can-Am Connection defeated Don Muraco and Bob Orton, Jr..
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1987, 1988, 1989)
Between 1987 and 1989, Zenk made multiple tours of Japan with All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
American Wrestling Association (1988, 1989)
Zenk returned to the American Wrestling Association to wrestle a handful of matches in early 1988. He returned again one year later. On February 7, 1988, Zenk competed in a 20-man battle royal for the vacant AWA World Heavyweight Championship in which he was the last man eliminated by the winner, Larry Zbyszko. On May 1, 1988, Zenk took part in the "Battle of Breakfast Cereal", a show recorded for the breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg's for a sales conference in which Kelloggs-themed characters faced characters themed after General Mills, Kellogg's' main competitor. In the main event, Zenk and Greg Gagne (wrestling as "The Sales And Marketing Team") defeated Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond (wrestling as "The Mills Brothers"). Zenk left the AWA once more later that month. This era of The AWA (1985 to 1990) was seen for many years onward, appearing on The ESPN Network Television, as afternoon time-slot re-runs.
World Championship Wrestling (1989–1994)
While touring with All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1989, Zenk was signed to a two year contract with World Championship Wrestling by president Jim Herd. He debuted at Clash of the Champions VIII in September 1989 under the ring name "The Z-Man", defeating The Cuban Assassin.
In 1990, Zenk formed a tag team with Brian Pillman. In February 1990, they won the vacant NWA United States Tag Team Championship, defeating The Fabulous Freebirds in the finals of a tournament. They went on to feud with The Midnight Express, who won the Championship from them in May 1990.
During this time, Zenk tore a muscle while weightlifting and took several months off to recover. He appeared more slender upon returning. Z-Man then feuded with Arn Anderson over the World Television Championship, eventually winning the title. When the promotion changed its name to World Championship Wrestling in 1991, Z-Man officially became the final NWA World Television Champion and the first WCW World Television Champion. He re-lost the title to Anderson on January 7, 1991. Later that year, Z-Man, Dustin Rhodes and Big Josh feuded with The York Foundation and The Fabulous Freebirds over the World Six-Man Tag Team Championship. Z-Man, Rhodes and Josh won the title from the Freebirds in August, and lost it to The York Foundation in October.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1994)
After Zenk's release from WCW in May 1994, he participated in All Japan Pro Wrestling's (AJPW) Summer Action tour that July, and their Giant Series tour in September.
Late career (1994–1996)
In August 1996, Zenk joined the American Wrestling Federation (AWF), where he ultimately finished his career a few months later, in October.
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Brian Pillman
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship Tournament (1990) – with Brian Pillman
- NWA/WCW World Television Championship (1 time)[Note 1]
- WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Dustin Rhodes and Big Josh
- Lutte Internationale
- Pacific Northwest Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #38 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the year in the PWI 500 in 1992
- PWI ranked him #343 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- The title's name was changed to the WCW World Television Championship due to WCW withdrawing from the NWA after Zenk won it, technically making him the last World Television Champion under the NWA banner and the first under the WCW banner.
- John Grasso (2014). Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Scarecrow Press. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-8108-7926-3.
- Kris Pope (October 4, 1989). "Z-Man Settles in with NWA". Twin Cities Wrestling Update. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- "Obituary for Thomas Erwin Zenk". Star Tribune. January 7, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- Larry Csonka (February 23, 2018). "Tom Zenk's Cause of Death Revealed". Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
- Tim Hornbaker (2017). Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers. Sports Publishing. p. 1105. ISBN 978-1-61321-875-4.
- Dave Meltzer (1986). The Wrestling Observer's Who's who in Pro Wrestling. Wrestling Observer. p. 136.
- Kari Williams. "Tom Zenk, of Can-Am Connection, dies at 59". Canoe.com. Postmedia Network.
- Philip Kreikenbohm. "Tom Zenk - Career". Cagematch.net. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- Scott Keith (2008). Dungeon of Death: Chris Benoit and the Hart Family Curse. Kensington Books. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-8065-3562-3.
- Steven Johnson; Greg Oliver (2010). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels. ECW Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-55490-284-2.
- Dave Meltzer; Bret Hart (2004). Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Professional Wrestlers. Sports Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-58261-817-3.
- Dave Meltzer (December 17, 2017). "Tom Zenk passes away at 59 years old". F4WOnline.com. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- Royal Duncan; Gary Will (2006). "(Oregon & Washington) Portland: NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. pp. 315–317. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- Royal Duncan; Gary Will (2006). "(Oregon & Washington) Portland: NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. pp. 317–320. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- "International Wrestling International Tag Team Title [Québéc]". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- "Real Word Tag League 1986". PuroLove.com. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- Dave Meltzer (July 2003). Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
- Steven Johnson; Greg Oliver; Mike Mooneyham (2013). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons. ECW Press. p. 634. ISBN 978-1-77090-269-5.
- Pat Laprade; Bertrand Hébert (2013). Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 1992. ISBN 978-1-77090-296-1.
- Brian Shields (2010). Main Event: WWE in the Raging 80s. Simon & Schuster. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-4516-0467-2.
- Gary Will; Royal Duncan (1994). "United States: 19th century & widely defended titles - NWA, WWF, AWA, IWA, ECW: AWA World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling Title Histories (3 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 23. ISBN 0-9698161-1-1.
- Art O'Donnell (March 15, 2019). "Induction: Battle of the Breakfast Cereal - a total® debacle". WrestleCrap. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
- Scott Keith (1 November 2008). Dungeon of Death:: Chris Benoit and the Hart Family Curse. Kensington Books. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-8065-3562-3.
- Scott E. Williams (2006). Hardcore History: The Extremely Unauthorized Story of ECW. Sports Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-59670-021-5.
- R. D. Reynolds; Bryan Alvarez (1 October 2014). The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition of the Bestselling Classic - Revised and Expanded. ECW Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-77090-642-6.
- Harris M. Lentz III (2015). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling, 2d ed. McFarland & Company. p. 331. ISBN 978-1-4766-0505-0.
- Gary Will; Royal Duncan (1994). "United States: 19th century & widely defended titles - NWA, WWF, AWA, IWA, ECW: NWA United States Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories (3 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 23. ISBN 0-9698161-1-1.
- Gary Will; Royal Duncan (1994). "United States: 19th century & widely defended titles - NWA, WWF, AWA, IWA, ECW: NWA Television Title". Wrestling Title Histories (3 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 23. ISBN 0-9698161-1-1.
- Gary Will; Royal Duncan (1994). "United States: 19th century & widely defended titles - NWA, WWF, AWA, IWA, ECW: WCCW Six-Man Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories (3 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 23. ISBN 0-9698161-1-1.