As a writer, I often enjoy the work I do, but, unfortunately, it can feel like a job sometimes. Researching, plotting out the article, writing it, trimming it down to a word count, making the edits, getting it approved, and posting it. This whole process can take someone like me several months, as I really want things to be perfect. Very rarely do I come across a nugget of information that spawns an extremely fun article.
Not always do my passions of pro-wrestling, true crime, and cults collide, but when they do, it makes this “job” feel so much much more rewarding.
While doing research for a Hulk Hogan themed article, I tried making a connection between Andy Kaufman and Dusty Rhodes, both of which portrayed fictional characters to confuse the fans. Andy Kaufman, a personal hero of mine, is famous for being an actor on Taxi, but his real masterpiece of work was convincing people that he was going to fake his death. While doing research, and possibly due to my ADHD, I wanted to know who else attempted to fake their deaths. In fact, pop culture loves this concept, attributing pseudocide to people like Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur, Jeffrey Epstein, and Adolf Hitler, with varying degrees of believability. But then I stumbled upon Jerry Balisok, and what a story that is.
Currently, Zac Efron is filming the biopic The Iron Claw, where he portrays the wrestling prodigy Kevin Von Erich. People often talk about who else in wrestling could have a movie based on their lives, none of them have the rollercoaster of events that one Mr. X had.
Jerry Bibb Balisok was born in Mississippi with the worst middle name ever. As a young boy, Balisok and his family would move to Alabama, where he would begin practicing amateur wrestling, eventually earning the gaze of Buddy Fuller. Fuller, a professional wrestler and promoter saw the uncanny talent that Balisok portrayed, and knew that he had a future, not in amateur wrestling, but professional wrestling, which are somehow two totally separate things.
While training in Florida, Balisok would discover the University of Tampa, and set his sights on returning to education and continuing his amateur wrestling career.
Coaches at the University of Tampa would inform him that professional wrestling could make him ineligible for NCAA competition. In the weird world of wrestling, people at this time thought that professional wrestling was a legitimate sport, because masked men doing flips around the ring seemed like exactly the same thing that the Greco-Romans practiced. At the time of agreeing to become a wrestler, Balisok wasn’t aware that being a wrestler could potentially stop him from being a wrestler. See why it doesn’t make sense?
But, Buddy “Not Rogers” Fuller came up with a million dollar idea that’s never been done before; put a mask on, and do everything under a different name. Balisok would become Mr. X, a widely used gimmick similar to Lord Humongous, and El Gran Luchador, which was portrayed by many people. While wrestling for Southeastern Championship Wrestling (SCW) and Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mr. X would compete against Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Wrestling II, and the Masked Superstar. Despite Balisok’s towering size, Mr. X remained a jobber, to allow other talent to receive an exceptional push when they defeated an opponent of his size. Not content with his position in the wrestling world, he asked to change gimmicks, but Buddy “Not Holly” Fuller, and other promoters, encouraged him to remain as Mr. X, which effectively guaranteed them a jobber to feed to the bigger stars.
Having earned enough money to follow his dream, Balisok would apply to UT. Eventually, the wrestling coaches at the college would inform Balisok that they were aware of his extracurricular activities, making him ineligible for competition. It is widely believed that Buddy “Not Murphy” Fuller actually informed the coaches of Mr. X, in an effort to keep him as a jobber, to push more credible talent.
Unable to pursue his dream, he would use the funds he saved for college to purchase a motorcycle shop. While overseas doing Caribbean tours with the NWA, he would pass time by purchasing motorcycle parts for his shop. In an uncanny bit of misfortune, Balisok would end up getting in a motorcycle accident that would ultimately end his career.
The injury would force Balisok to refocus his energy on the business side of things for his shop, until the FBI came knockin. Shit, meet fan. While overseas, Balisok purchased parts with checks that couldn’t be cashed, and fled before anyone noticed. This would result in the FBI investigating him, and ultimately charging him with 13 counts of writing bad checks over international lines. Obviously dreading the massive predicament he has placed himself in, Balisok decided to flee. He and Deborah Kindred (Balisok’s girlfriend) broke into her cousin’s house, where they would steal his birth certificate, drivers license, and social security card. From here on out, Jerry Awful-Middle-Name Balisok would now become Ricky Allen Wetta, which is somehow an even worse name.
Before the first day of the trial, the newly married couple would flee to Puerto Rico, officially becoming Fugitives of Justice. Not content with having no sort of income, Balisok/Wetta would be offered a job with King Wrestling through promoter Campeon Escalara, who was unaware of Balisok/Wetta’s criminal background. Following his stint at King Wrestling, the couple would move to the Bahamas where he could compete in Nassau for the National Wrestling Alliance. His vacation would be cut short, as Bahamian officials informed Balisok/Wetta that his visa was expiring and would not be renewed. Not actually being Ricky Allen Wetta prevented him from renewing Ricky Allen Wetta’s visa.
The fugitive family would move back to the mainland, settling in Seattle, Washington. After a warrant was issued for Balisok/Wetta’s arrest, the FBI would track his location to the Caribbean, but couldn’t actually find him. Around this time, leads would dry up.
This is where the story “gases the fuck up” according to a teen slang book that I have for some reason.
On November 18th, 1978, Jim Jones would encourage his cult of former U.S. citizens (The People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ) to drink poisoned Kool-Aid, resulting in the death of 909 people in Jonestown, Guyana. This would go down as the single greatest loss of American civilians in a deliberate act, prior to 9/11.
The following month, Time Magazine would release their monthly issue, showcasing the carnage that befell the victims of Jim Jones’ self-centered cult. Marjorie Balisok was gutted when she saw the cover of the magazine, with hundreds of bodies splain out across the field. Front and center, was her son Jerry.
For the next several months, Marjorie worked diligently to confirm that her son was the victim she believed him to be. In a request to prove that her son was in Jonestown or not, Marjorie asked the FBI to look for bodies with a pin in their hips, remnants from surgery after Jerry’s motorcycle accident.
Due to the bodies having been in the Guyana heat for days, and it taking even longer to round up the victims, the bodies had decomposed to nearly unidentifiable points, making them impossible to identify. Wanting to cash in on pending insurance policies, Marjorie needed either a certificate of death, or a certificate of presumed death, neither of which she could get from the FBI who believed she was confused.
The bodies of 248 victims would be flown from Guyana to California, where they would be buried in a mass grave in Oakland. Marjorie knew of this, and waited at the airport, to get some sort of proof that her son was there. Failing in her attempts to give her son a proper burial, she would instead opt to place a headstone at the family plot that read “Damn the State Dept”. In 1983, Marjorie Balisok would pass, fully believing her son to have perished in the Jonestown Massacre.
But could she have been hiding a bigger secret? In 1977, Marjorie received an American Express bill, with $10,000 worth of charges from someone in The Bahamas. Who was in the Bahamas in 1977? Jerry Balisok/Ricky Allen Wetta. We know that shortly before the Jonestown Massacre, Balisok/Wetta was there, living on his mom’s dime, until his visa expired. Fearing political persecution, The People’s Temple would move from California to Guyana in June of 1977. Mr. X competed in his last match on April 26th of 1977. There simply wouldn’t have been enough time for Balisok/Wetta to get into a career threatening injury, get treated, flee to Puerto Rico, and then the Bahamas, only to come back to California and move to Jonestown.
Marjorie, at the very least, knew Balisok/Wetta didn’t join a cult, because she was receiving bills from him in the Bahamas at the height of the brainwashing that was taking place in the People’s Temple. Theoretically, Marjorie could have signed up for various life insurance policies, and used the Jonestown Massacre for the perfect scapegoat to try and get the payouts. But, without a body, or a death certificate, that plan was foiled.
Following the death of Marjorie in 1983, and leads drying up shortly after, the FBI would drop the charges for check forgery, believing Jerry Balisok to have died, unrelated to Jonestown.
But was Jerry Balisok/Ricky Allen Wetta/Mr. X dead?
In the civil law exists a system called statute of limitations. This system sets a maximum time following an event, in which the legal proceedings must be initiated. When the maximum time runs out, courts no longer have the jurisdiction to prosecute the accused. If Balisok/Wetta had been alive at this time, all of the charges against him would vanish, and he would have been a free man. Of course, he wouldn’t know this information, and certainly wouldn’t ask a court for verification, because he’s dead, right?
In 1988, a hotel would burn to the ground, kicking off the main event of this story. The $135,000 hotel would go up in flames, but the 4.3 million dollar insurance policy would be paid out.
This is when Emmett Thompson Jr confessed to the FBI, under legal immunity, that he was instructed by his friend’s stepdad to burn the hotel down, so that the owner could cash in on the insurance policy, of which Emmett would receive payment. When the owner realized that Thompson would be a loose end, he was shot four times. In 1989, the hotel owner would be arrested for the attempted murder of Emmett Thompson Jr, and would be fingerprinted revealing the owner to be…
Vince McMahon. “It’s me Austin, It was me all along!”
Sorry, I got my reveals confused.
The fingerprinting revealed that it was none other than Jerry Balisok, who had been parading around as Ricky Allen Wetta to escape conviction. But, he refused to give in, going through the entire trial as John Doe. In 1990, Jerry Balisok/Ricky Allen Wetta/ Mr. X/John Doe would be charged with attempted murder, receiving 20 years in Washington State Prison. Two years later, he would be found not guilty for arson, and in 1993, his attempted murder charge would be overturned, due to the Washington Court of Appeals ruling that the Prosecution lacked evidence for motive, due to Balisok being innocent in the arson ruling. I’m sure the running theory was “Well, if he didn’t commit arson, why would he kill someone to cover up the arson?” Sometimes I think the 2012 Raw writing team wrote Jerry Balisok’s life story.
In 1994, his conviction would be reinstated and he would serve 13 ½ years in Washington State Penitentiary, alongside the “Werewolf Butcher” Jack Owen Spillman, “The Hillside Strangler” Kenneth Bianchi, and the “Spokane Serial Killer” Robert Lee Yates. What a crowd.
By 2003, he was released, under a different name, legally changing his name to Harrison Rains Hanover. Up until 2009, he would work a steady job as a funds manager at JPierce Investments, until he was implicated for a scheme to embezzle $4.6 million from two of JPierce Investments’ vendors.
Realizing the heat was on, Jerry Balisok/Ricky Allen Wetta/Mr. X/John Doe/Harrison Rains Hanover would be on the run, making out with nearly half a million dollars worth of embezzled money. To continue out maneuvering the FBI, he would begin using the variation Hansover as a last name.
After fleeing the states, he would wind up in Costa Rica, where in October of 2012, Balisok/Wetta/Doe/X/Hanover/Hansover was arrested and charged with the sexual exploitation of minors. His lawyer, an accomplice in the crimes, would receive six years in the Granada prison, while the star of the story received 24 years. Less than a year after his incarceration, Jerry Balisok would meet his end, dying from a heart attack, brought on by the unruly Granada heat. Typically running makes your heart healthy, but maybe not when you are running from the law.
Here’s where the story should end. The hero/villain of our story has perished, and there isn’t much more to say. But, unfortunately, no one can confirm if Jerry Balisok actually died in prison, as no death certificate, or body were ever produced. Given his history, and him only being 57 years old at the time of his “passing”, it is entirely conceivable that Balisok escaped prison, and is now living back in Seattle, Wasington, because his visa is definitely no longer getting renewed.
Every so often, the totally alive Jerry Balisok will look up to the sky and curse Buddy “Not Landel” Fuller for convincing him to become a wrestler, irrevocably changing his life, when all he wanted to do was become a wrestler. See, it’s still not making sense.