An early star in the Puerto Rican wrestling scene who gained national attention wrestling in various National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories, from his native Puerto Rico to Canada to Japan, Hercules Ayala was a rough and tumble journeyman. But on January 22, the wrestling world lost another good brother, as Ayala passed away at the age of 69.
We heard this morning that Ruben Cruz, better known to wrestling as Hercules Ayala, passed away last night due to heart issues at the age of 69. Born in Puerto Rico, Cruz wrestled all over the world, winning dozens of titles in his career. We offer our condolances at this time pic.twitter.com/PbknUq0ekN
— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) January 23, 2020
Starting in smaller promotions in Puerto Rico in 1970, he soon moved to Boston, Massachusetts in the early 1970s, where he was trained by Angelo Savoldi. He would go on to work several NWA territories, including Mid South, as well as being a regular top star with Carlos Colon‘s Capital Sports Promotions (which would rebrand as the World Wrestling Council in 1995). In the early 1970s, he briefly worked for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), as Ruben Araya, working the undercard.
During a European excursion in 1977, Hercules Ayala ran into Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid, who talked Ayala into heading to Calgary to work for Bret’s father, Stu Hart, and Stampede Wrestling. He spent a good chunk of the 1980s as a regular with Stampede, winning Stampede tag team gold alongside Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. In 1984, thanks in part to Stampede’s relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Ayala spent several months of the year in Japan.
He continued to work in Puerto Rico and Canada until his retirement in 2004, and while he was a valued journeyman throughout Canada and the US, he was a superstar in his native Puerto Rico, retiring as a 3x WWC Universal Champion, 5x WWC Puerto Rican Champion, 2x WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Champion, and WWC Tag Team Champion (as the partner of Haku).
The Last Word on Pro Wrestling offers our sincere condolences to Ayala’s family, friends and peers.
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— Tommy Dreamer (@THETOMMYDREAMER) January 23, 2020
I am incredibly heartbroken to hear of the passing of Hercules Ayala. This man was not only a Caribean Legend…he was a truly kind and gentle soul. I cherish the time I got to spend under his learning tree. Rest easy old friend. pic.twitter.com/o7zSC0y1Td
— H A I L ⚔️ C O N T R A (@JosefSamael) January 23, 2020