Friday morning, police were called to a home in Chester County, Penn., for an apparent murder-suicide. Word began circulating early in the day throughout the wrestling community that it was “Rockin’ Rebel” Chuck Williams and his wife.
According to a statement made by The West Goshen Township Police Department, officers were dispatched to the address after reports of a shooting. They were met at the scene by family members and found two bodies inside. The male and female residents were found deceased inside their home.
“The preliminary investigation has determined the event to be a murder followed by a suicide,” says the statement.
Williams, as Rockin’ Rebel, was well known throughout the northeastern United States, a familiar face on indy shows for years. At 6-foot, and 245 pounds, he was not a small man, debuting as a wrestler in late 1988, after training with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson).
His most notable time came in the early days of ECW; in fact, the story goes that it was Williams that suggested that Eastern Championship Wrestling owner Tod Gordon hire Paul Heyman to run the promotion after Eddie Gilbert had been fired.
As Rockin’ Rebel, there’s an angle where he clocks the pre-beer drinking Sandman (James Fullington) with a surfboard, cracking it in two over his foe’s head.
In 1990, Rockin’ Rebel was the first champion for Joel Goodheart’s Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, feuding with The Sandman, D.C. Drake, and C.N. Redd. He also teamed with Jimmy Jannetty to form The Confederacy.
He promoted wrestling under the Pro Outlaw Wrestling title, and worked for just about every promotion in the northeast in some capacity: 3PW, CZW, PWWorld-1, ECW, ROH, Pro Wrestling Unplugged, Jersey All Pro Wrestling, MCW. He also trained wrestlers for a time at Top Gun Wrestling Academy, Inc. in Denver, PA.
The 52-year-old Williams was still relatively active on the wrestling scene.
Promoter Rob Feinstein talked about Williams on Facebook: “I have known him for over 30 years and I am in total shock. I have not talked to him in a long time but he was legit one of the funniest guys I have ever been around. When you hear about carny 101 I always think of him but in a good way. I never had any issues with him ever as he was always a barrel of laughs. God I have so many stories and memories and I just want to remember him for who he was not for the past 24 hours. Who could forget the battle royal in Wildwood for ECW when they told him he was going over but all the boys threw him out first as a rib. The times at Steve Corino shows where he would heckle the boys from the crowd acting as a fan. The countless shows I hung with him at Dennis shows or early ECW shows. We live in a crazy society and this is just tragic as I feel bad for their kids.”
Details are still emerging on his spouse Stephanie Burtnett, and their twin children.
“Learned of some horrible news. Tragic news. I’m speechless honestly,” wrote “Blue Meanie” Brian Heffron on his Facebook page Friday afternoon. “Rest in peace Stephanie Burtnett. My heart breaks for her children. My thoughts go out to her family. Godspeed…..”
Many are having trouble processing the news. “LuFisto” Gen Goulet posted on her Facebook account that Williams offered to her out financially when she was battling cancer. “Chuck and Stephanie… I don’t know what happened or why or who did what… No matter what demons or pain you were fighting, I don’t want to judge. I’m nobody to judge what you were going through. I’m angry, I’m confused, I’m sad… I can’t pretend to understand what just happened but it hurts. It hurts to know that I will never see you again…” she wrote.
On his Rockin’ Rebel Facebook page, Williams wrote on May 29, 2018: “Days of spending time with the ones who love you and you love them are far and few, make them count…”