Former ECW and WCW tag team champion Johnny Grunge has passed away, according to a report on Grunge, real name Mike Durham, was pronounced dead on arrival at an Atlanta area hospital this morning.

Johnny Grunge, front, and Rocco Rock as The Public Enemy

Grunge formed the team “The Public Enemy” with “Flyboy” Rocco Rock (Ted Petty) in 1993 and was soon part of Eastern Championship Wrestling, which later became Extreme Championship Wrestling. The two were extremely popular and revolutionized a hardcore tag team style, including ample use of tables.

“Bloodbaths were the order of the day during Public Enemy’s ECW reign, with the pair helping put ECW Arena on the map as a result of their wild brawls with the likes of The Eliminators, The Bruise Brothers, The Funks, The Gangstas, Sabu and Taz, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko, Ian and Axl Rotten, Raven and Stevie Richards, and Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck,” wrote Mike Mooneyham following Rocco Rock’s death in 2001. “Public Enemy’s ‘house party,’ where the two would invite the crowd into the ring to dance and celebrate after a match, became an ECW staple. Petty and Durham also popularized table matches in ECW, laying the foundation for future teams such as The Dudleys.”

During an appearance the Monday Night Mayhem radio show, Dory Funk Jr. recalled the time he and his brother Terry hung Rocco Rock by his feet from the balcony during an ECW book, and another time when fans threw chairs in the ring and practically smothered the Public Enemy underneath. According to the former NWA world champ, the moment defined the “spirit of ECW.”

To Paul Heyman, the team was innovative. “I was a huge fan of Public Enemy. They were going into the stands at a time when no one else was doing that,” he said in a 2005 IGN Sports interview.

The pair had a tryout before the Survivor Series in 1995 against The Smoking Gunns, but instead moved to WCW in 1996, feuding with Harlem Heat, The Nasty Boys and The American Males.

“Public Enemy are two guys that are supposed to be from the streets, that wanna come down and dance…..y’all have no rhythm!!!” Booker T said during an in-character interview in 1996 for the Extreme Sports Network.

They won the WCW Tag Team Titles as well, but left the company to try their luck in WWF. Their WWF run was less than memorable as the locker room didn’t take to them and they quickly left.

“They knew how to streetfight. They gave us some good battles. Grunge and Rocco, they weren’t the biggest,” Brian Knobbs of the Nasty Boys said. “Hell, they could take a chair and a table, that’s for sure. We had some hellacious streetfights with them guys.”

The tandem faded from the wrestling scene and Rocco Rock died on September 21, 2002. Friends of Grunge have said that he hadn’t been the same since Rock’s death. Grunge made an appearance at Hardcore Homecoming on June 10, 2005 where he paid tribute to ECW wrestlers who had passed on. He and Pitbull Gary Wolfe were attacked by Danny Doring and Roadkill, and Grunge splashed Doring through a table.

— with files from Greg Oliver


Mat Matters: Johnny Grunge, good guy