Kenny 'Jay' Benkowski dies at 85

 February 3, 2023

Professional wrestler Kenny "Sodbuster Jay" Benkowski has died, according to Ringside News

Benkowski was 85 at the time of his passing.

"One of the most difficult announcements"

The news of Benkowski's passing was provided this week by announcer Mick Karch, a friend of Benkowski.

Karch stated:

My friends, this is one of the most difficult announcements I have ever had to make. Our dear friend Kenny Jay passed away this morning. I am crushed and devastated. The world has lost a beautiful soul. Rest in peace, Kenny, and I cherish the years of friendship.

No further information, including the cause, has been provided about Benkowski's passing.

Remembering Kenny Jay

From Minneapolis, Minnesota, Benkowski would get his professional wrestling career going after serving time as an officer in the United States military. Before that, in high school, he excelled in multiple sports, including football and shot put.

After his time in the military, Benkowski joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and was trained by Verne Gagne and Bob Hawkins.

Benkowski would be a regular on the AWA's weekly television broadcasts.

Benkowski's role within the professional wrestling industry was, more or less, to make other wrestlers - particularly new wrestlers - look good.

Harley Race once explained:

Kenny Jay was THE BEST overall talent in wrestling. He was what we called a "job guy," but he could work with any human being and get a good match out of them.  He would go in the ring with a big name who really couldn't do much and make him look good, and he could get in there with a Danny Hodge or Verne Gagne and make them look even better than they were. He was just an incredibly talented guy.

Kenny Jay v. Ali

One of the highlights of his career - at least in Benkowski's view - was a boxer versus wrestler match that he had with the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in 1976.

Benkowski continued his professional wrestling career until 1985 when he retired. He, however, would come out of retirement, in 1990, and he would go on to continue wrestling throughout the 1990s and even the 2000s.

His final matchup took place in 2012. He was 75 years old at the time.

In case you were wondering how Benkowski got the nickname "sodbuster:" Benkowski, needing to make some more money in order to pay the bills, at one point started his own landscaping business, which he ran with his family.

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