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Ole Anderson, Original Member of Four Horsemen Wrestling Team, Dies at 81

Ole Anderson, a professional wrestler who starred as an original member of the Four Horsemen team in the 1980s and was later critical of the sport’s corporate greed, died on Monday. He was 81.

The Carter Funeral Home in Winder, Ga., said that Mr. Anderson had died at his home in Monroe, Ga., and that he had “passed away peacefully.” The funeral home did not share a cause of death.

World Wrestling Entertainment, known as the World Wrestling Federation when Mr. Anderson wrestled, said in a statement on Monday that he was known for his “hard-nosed style and gruff demeanor.”

Mr. Anderson wrestled professionally from the late 1960s through the 1980s, after training under Verne Gagne, a member of the W.W.E. Hall of Fame.

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, he was a member of the tag team known as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, which over the years included Gene, Lars and Arn Anderson, who called themselves brothers and were popular around the Midwest. They were part of regional circuits like Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Georgia Championship Wrestling that were united under the National Wrestling Alliance, which regularly crowned them tag-team champions.

In the 1980s, Mr. Anderson teamed up with Arn Anderson, Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard to become the Four Horsemen, who went on to dominate the N.W.A. and later World Championship Wrestling, which competed with the W.W.F.

“The group set a standard of style, attitude and success that has inspired every stable that followed,” W.W.E. said in its statement, calling it “one of the greatest stables in sports-entertainment history.”

After retiring from wrestling, Mr. Anderson booked matches for W.C.W. in the 1990s, when its popularity rivaled that of the W.W.F., which later bought out the W.C.W.

As professional wrestling became more popular and commercialized, Mr. Anderson grew increasingly disparaging of it. In a 2003 book, “Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling,” written with Scott Teal, Mr. Anderson wrote about his disdain for the corporate transformation of the sport and his clashes with executives, including Vince McMahon, the longtime head of W.W.E.

Mr. Anderson continued criticizing the W.W.E. for years. In an interview in 2021, he said that Mr. McMahon had made professional wrestling more about entertainment than sport.

“The stuff that’s on the television today, I have a hard time watching,” he said.

Mr. Anderson was left out when other members the Four Horsemen were inducted into the W.W.E. Hall of Fame, but he is a member of the N.W.E. and W.C.W. halls of fame.

Mr. Anderson was born Alan Robert Rogowski on Sept. 22, 1942, in St. Paul, Minn., to Robert Joseph Rogowski and Georgiana Bryant. He became interested in professional wrestling as a career after serving in the U.S. Army. Growing up in Minnesota, Mr. Anderson said in 2021, he had been exposed to professional wrestling by watching Mr. Gagne, who also grew up in the state.

According to an excerpt from his book, Mr. Anderson said he had tried out as a wrestler in front of Mr. Gagne, who was impressed with Mr. Anderson’s physical ability. After performing several exercises, Mr. Anderson said, Mr. Gagne asked him if he was tired. Mr. Anderson said he refused to signal any fatigue.

“I was smart enough to know that you never admit that there’s anything wrong,” Mr. Anderson wrote. “Even if there was, you don’t admit it. I learned that lesson as an amateur wrestler. You never let anybody know that you were tired. You just keep on going until you drop.”

According to the Carter Funeral Home, Mr. Anderson is survived by his children: Bryant Rogowski, Christian Rogowski, Fortune Evans, Aaron Rogowski, Ethan Rogowski, Galen Rogowski and Dana Armstrong. He is also survived by Marsha Cain, his longtime companion.

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