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Lance Russell, Longtime Pro Wrestling Commentator, Dies at 91

Russell called the matches of WWE legend Jerry Lawler during his days in Memphis Wrestling

Lance Russell, longtime professional wrestling commentator, died on Tuesday at age 91. His passing was announced on Twitter by WWE legend Jerry Lawler, whose matches Russell called on “Championship Wrestling” in Memphis.

Though he was a broadcaster, Russell became as much of a star among Memphis wrestling fans as the wrestlers themselves thanks to his interviews with stars like Lawler, Bill Dundee, and Jimmy Hart. Russell called out heels with a disgusted tone when they attempted to cheat in a match, but doing so with acidic wit rather than yelling. This led to confrontations between him and the show’s villains, who often called him “Banana Nose” after Lawler popularized the term during one of his heel runs.

Along with other legends like Gordon Solie, Russell was one of the iconic voices of pro wrestling’s territorial era, but soon faded out of the spotlight as the territories gave way to Vince McMahon’s WWF in the 80s. One of his final broadcasting jobs in the industry was as commentator for “NWA World Wide Wrestling,” which was a part of World Championship Wrestling (WCW). There, he called matches alongside Jim Ross, who would become WWE’s signature announcer in the late 90s.

Russell left WCW in 1992 and returned to Memphis Wrestling, but by then, WWF and WCW had taken hold as the two dominant national forces in the industry. Outside of wrestling, Russell enjoyed a successful career as a programming executive in Tennessee, helping others get into broadcasting.

Lawler and other wrestling personalities and fans paid tribute to Russell on Tuesday morning. Read some of their thoughts below.