“Earthquake” John Tenta terrorized young Hulkamaniacs in 1990, crushing Hulk Hogan’s ribs in a heinous attack and leading to a memorable letter-writing campaign that saw thousands wish the Hulkster a speedy recovery.

But a completely different kind of letter was written by Tenta’s friends and family during the Dark Side of the Ring season five debut episode – one that portrayed a sweet, thoughtful and caring man who simply wanted to provide for his family.

As is often the case with DSOTR, family members steal the show and the Tenta episode followed that trend.

His wife Josephine and children Jeff, Joanna and John F. painted a picture of a man who faced challenges juggling the demanding schedule of the World Wrestling Federation with home life.

If Tenta was having success in the ring, it frequently came at the expense of his family life. And if his time in the squared circle was unsatisfying, it was likely that his home life was more positive.

But it all began for Tenta in Surrey, British Columbia. One point that the producers chose not to highlight was the fact that Tenta is easily the most successful wrestler to come out of B.C.

Despite coming from a less than fortunate family, Tenta pursued the sport of wrestling and was a dominant athlete in that sport as a junior competitor.

He was so impressive that he earned an athletic scholarship to Louisiana State University – a task that probably was not easy considering he lived in a different country on the other side of the continent. It would have been interesting to hear from a college or even high school opponent of Tenta to see what it was like to square off with the super-heavyweight.

Another fact that DSOTR failed to mention was that Tenta also was a walk-on with the LSU Tigers football team. Again, hearing from someone involved in that portion of his life would have been revealing.

LSU subsequently dropped wrestling in 1985 and Tenta headed to Japan to pursue the sport of sumo. He had quick success in the sport as a 22-year-old rookie, but wrestling was his true passion and he signed with All-Japan Pro Wrestling the following year.

Tenta did make some occasional stops in Vancouver for All Star Wrestling during this time, but after about 18 months with AJPW he decided to make the jump to the WWF.

But before that decision was made he met the love of his life Josephine. Fate intervened and she had moved to Japan from the Philippines to pursue a job as a singer. They met at the karaoke bar she was working at and the rest is history. Tenta was a large man at 6-foot-7, while Josephine was just 4-foot-11 but they were a match and she brought her son Jeff to Canada when Tenta joined the WWF.

A significant portion of the show was spent on the Hulk Hogan feud and the debut of the “Canadian Earthquake” as he was first known. Tenta was immediately pushed as a big deal when he arrived in 1989 and was essentially an unbeaten monster for much of his early run in. The Hogan feud established Tenta and kept him in the main event mix for several years.

DSOTR also focused a lot of time on Tenta’s return to Japan with the WWF on a joint show with the Super World of Sports promotion. He was matched up with former sumo star Koji Kitao and went over him on the first show in Tokyo. The following show in Kobe saw Kitao refuse to sell Tenta’s attacks and shoot on him, even threatening to gouge his eyes. Tenta replied with a stiff kick and the match was eventually stopped when Kitao was disqualified for attacking the referee.

Kitao then went on the microphone and stated that wrestling is fake and Tenta could not beat him. Kitao was fired from SWS following that incident.

Japanese journalist Fumi Saito, who was interviewed for the show, said that this incident cemented Tenta as a true professional and he received praise from other wrestlers for taking care of himself when he returned to North America.

I do feel there was a missed opportunity to contact Kitao for his side of the story. He went on to compete in the UFC against Mark Hall and even fought former WWE star Nathan Jones in PRIDE.

The feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts followed and Roberts revealed when his snake Damian was crushed by Tenta it was actually pantyhose and hamburger meat in a bag.

The Natural Disasters were also remembered fondly and the show introduced Fred Ottman – aka: Typhoon. The pair dominated for 1992 and Ottman shared how seamlessly they fit together both in and out of the ring.

The show then went into the Shockmaster story and Ottman’s debut in WCW after the Natural Disasters went their own way. This inclusion did create the viral moment of Haku laughing uncontrollably, but I don’t think it was needed for this show.

Tenta’s family shared that his time in the WWF was hard on everyone, with Jeff noting that he would be gone a month at a time and only be home for a few days. Combine that with Josephine adjusting to life in a new country and there were major hurdles for the family, which also welcomed Joanna and John F.

Tenta made a brief return to Japan and said in an interview shared in the show that his big problem was that he was too impatient in wrestling.

He joined WCW in 1994 and also moved his family down to Florida. An easier schedule allowed him to be home more often and spend more time involved in family activities.

Unfortunately, his career in the ring took a bit of a nosedive. He debuted as Avalanche, but then took on the character of Shark. Thankfully the show did not focus much on the Dungeon of Doom, which was generally pretty bad television.

Tenta eventually dropped all of his gimmicks and made his much-remembered speech where he stated he’s not an avalanche or a fish – he’s a man. Not surprisingly, Tenta’s family said he didn’t enjoy playing the Shark character.

Roberts said that Tenta wasn’t used properly in WCW and was never given any storylines.

I do wish that the show had featured a small portion on the angle where Tenta had half of his head shaved and it seemed as though he kept that up for months. Another bizarre WCW angle was when he fought Roddy Piper and appeared to have joined Team Piper ahead of WCW Uncensored 1997. That angle was dropped shortly thereafter and never referenced again.

Not a lot of time was spent on his WWF return as Golga with The Oddities in 1998. But all who were interviewed agreed it was a poor use of Tenta and seemed to be humiliating as he was forced to wear a mask.

Faced with no other options in wrestling following the end of Gogla, Tenta worked in retail and then became a trucker. Sadly, he developed symptoms of cancer and did not get it treated until far too late. He died from bladder cancer on June 7, 2006. He was just 42 years old.

There was no representation from the wrestling world at his funeral and the family believes he deserved more recognition for all the hard work he provided.

His children all praised him as a father and his wife considers him the one true love of her life. The three Tenta children have all turned out well and they said they have John to thank.

Overall, I thought it was an effective show and highlighted someone who has unfortunately not been remembered as fondly as he deserved. Tenta had all the tools as a big man and was extremely talented in so many aspects of professional wrestling.

He was also unique and so few big men could move and speak like he could. The most impressive aspect of Tenta’s career is how much he accomplished in such a short amount of time. His career in North America was just over a decade, but he made such a lasting impact.

Another major takeaway was the lack of acknowledgment and respect he received when he passed away. I do feel someone like him should absolutely be considered for the WWE Hall of Fame. He should also be recognized as the most successful wrestler from B.C. and one of the most notable Canadian wrestlers ever.

TOP PHOTO: John Tenta in a Dark Side of the Ring image