Former WWE jobber and Canadian independent wrestler/strongman Ion (John) Croitoru — Johnny K-9 — was one of seven men charged last week in B.C. for murders committed during a violent gang war in 2008 and 2009 that turned Vancouver’s streets into a war zone. Croitoru, 44, is charged with the first-degree murder of Jonathan Barber and the attempted murder of Vicky King.
This is not Croitoru’s first foray into crime. His association with the rival United Nations gang is only the tip of the iceberg: he was once charged with a double murder in Ontario, was alleged to be the head of a biker gang, was charged with trafficking cocaine and was a suspect in a police station bombing.
And, in 2009, he was charged in a plot to assassinate the infamous Bacon brothers. That arrest was part of one of B.C.’s biggest murder conspiracy cases that saw four other men charged as well. And while Croitoru sat in jail on that charge, the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team were able to finger him for the deaths of Barber and King.
Jonathan Barber was 24 when he was killed as he drove a car that is thought to have belonged to a local gang leader and Vicky King was only 17 when she was gunned down. Also charged in relation to these deaths are Dan Russell, Dilun Hung, Karwan Saed, Yong Lee and Cory Valle. But none of these men had the opportunity to succeed like John Croitoru, who once stood in a wrestling ring and wrestled Hulk Hogan.
In the WWF, Croitoru wrestled as Johnny K-9, a heel wrestler who lost many more matches than he won. Still, he was a staple of the WWF Maple Leaf Wrestling telecasts and worked for the WWE for four years. Later, he would work for Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling as well as other independent promotions as Bruiser Bedlam. He also trained as a strongman and benched an impressive 625 pounds.
Asked once in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling what his favourite memory was of these days as a pro wrestler, Croitoru replied, “The money. I made good money. I met some good guys.”
He has constantly been tied to crime. In another interview with SLAM! Wrestling about his arrest for the double-murder in Ontario — of which he was later acquitted — he was asked why his name was constantly mentioned in Ontario crime circles. “I know a few guys,” he said. “I never was a biker. That’s alleged bulls—.”
The arrests in 2009 came after a long investigation conducted by the B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. The unit’s superintendent, Doug Kiloh, said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun that arresting Croitoru and his associates was a big step towards safer streets but was not the end of the province’s gang violence.
“This is a group of significant players, probably the most prominent group with respect to the violence,” Kiloh said. “But do we anticipate the violence on the streets is going to stop? Absolutely not.”
The more recent arrests have made headlines across the country as it is a notable case. Not much is being made of his association with pro wrestling and there is no evidence to suggest his life of crime had anything to do with his love of wrestling. But there is a suggestion that Croitoru longed to be taken seriously and not just a jobber in the ranks of the WWE.
“[Fans] all remember me as K-9, getting killed,” Croitoru said in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling. “I don’t want that image no more. I win now. I kick ass. I’ve paid my dues.”
- Oct 8, 2021: ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ explores the two lives of Johnny K-9
- Feb. 23, 2017: Mat Matters: The two Johnny K-9s
- Feb. 22, 2017: Johnny K-9 found dead
- May 16, 2009: Johnny K-9 arrest for conspiracy to murder
- Feb. 8, 2007: Johnny K-9 starts a new life
- Dec. 19, 1998: Bruiser Bedlam has put Johnny K-9 behind him