Hello! Today, I bring you the fourth edition of a series looking at the TV show Dark Side of the Ring. This time I’ll be reviewing the fifth episode of the first season, which is labelled the fourth episode on Vice in the UK. If you have yet to watch “The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino” (AKA Gino Hernandez), you can see it in the 44-minute video below. And in case you missed previous entries in the series, here are some quick links to those:
“The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino”
Unlike other episodes, I did not know much about Gino Hernandez going in. All I knew was that WCCW had used his death as a selling point, much like with the exploitation of the Von Erichs. I also knew he was a charismatic figure, but I’m not about to claim to have seen much of WCCW as I was born in ’87 and didn’t start watching wrestling til the late 90’s. It is my hope that some of our older fans can chime in on how talented Gino Hernandez was.
In the episode, they compare his mic work to that of Ric Flair and Randy Savage, and I can understand why. The typical cliche in wrestling is you either have it or you don’t, and Gorgeous Gino certainly did. However, he also had his issues with drugs, which ultimately led to his downfall. I appreciate the choice of speakers for this episode, especially Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Gino’s mother, Patrice Aguirre. Bruce Prichard seemed more relevant in this story than some others. It was more of a family affair, and no one seemed out of place.
Patrice Aguirre shows us some documents she was able to acquire. From the autopsy, it noted that Gino Hernandez was classed as Mexican, despite clearly being American. Although Charles Wolfe Jr had a Mexican sounding ring name, he wrestled primarily in Texas and never in Mexico. He chose this name as a tribute to his stepfather, a wrestler called “Romeo” Luis Hernandez (who may have had Mexican heritage) who wrestled in America & Japan; who died of a heart attack in ’72. While his family says he was circumcised, the autopsy claims he wasn’t. Also, there’s very little information regarding his religion, and apparently his Mother isn’t Jewish? So there’s a question mark over that.
There’s the huge fact that the cause of death is marked as unspecified. To this day, the cause is not set in stone and could either be because of cocaine intoxication, murder, or something else entirely. The lack of evidence, Gino’s deadbolt not being locked from the inside, a gun being close to his corpse, the state of his car, his body language in the weeks prior, and friends/relatives testimonials, all contribute to the mystery surrounding his death. The fact it took so long for anyone to find him (4-5 days) despite being such a popular figure, is also questionable. Someone had to have known where he was to tip others off, making co-workers/friends/family assume he’s active so an autopsy would prove more difficult for authorities to determine the cause.
John Royal & Anonymous Man
Unlike other episodes, this one almost has a resolution. There’s a deal of closure, at least where Patrice is concerned, with the fact that John Royal claims Gino did not owe him any money. There’s also the anonymous man who claims Gino had simply done too many drugs. No one was after him or his family, going as far to say he’d meet up with Patrice in person to provide closure. As a member of the drug trafficking circle, he admits Gino had got involved with trying to make money from it, but they weren’t a bunch of gangsters.
What is most suspicious about this though, is Patrice claims John Royal threatened her by saying Gino owed him money, but Royal himself claims that wasn’t the case. Why would Patrice lie or misconstrue a comment like that? But also, why would John Royal pay for the funeral service if Gino owed him and others money? If someone owes you a ton of money, surely you don’t pay for the funeral and pay respects? You’d get as far away from it as possible.
Why put yourself in the spotlight for others to question who you are? Drug dealers wouldn’t usually put themselves in the public eye like that, especially when a celebrity is involved. They would go to the clubs and meet up with others privately, but wouldn’t go as far to pay for a funeral and deliver a eulogy. Maybe someone was after Gino, but it wasn’t his drug dealing buddies? What if it was a gangster or another dealer who didn’t like what they were doing? Perhaps they had cut in to someone else’s territory? This would explain Gino’s paranoia. It didn’t have to be the guys he was running with.
What We Weren’t Told
There are some testimonials we did not hear. Jake Roberts claimed on Hannibal TV that Gino was attached to the gay community. He was very much in to women, so there’s a big chance he was bisexual; yet it has never been stated elsewhere. Unluckily, Gino’s on-screen manager Gary Hart passed away in 2008 and could not comment on the incident. He asked Gino several times to get cleaned up, to no avail. Hart stated he did not have any pictures of Gino because it was too upsetting.
Michael Hayes gave his account on an episode of “Legends With JBL” on the WWE Network. Credit to PWTorch for the transcript:
Hayes got emotional thinking about Gino, calling him special. “He had some talent that superseded his personality,” Hayes said. “I don’t think the person and the character were that far off.” Hayes said he has a real hard time believing that Gino over-dosed. “I don’t think he od’ed,” Hayes said. JBL asked if Hayes thinks someone killed him. Hayes said he can’t say what happened, but he had been around Gino enough to know that Hernandez knew when enough was enough.
JBL tried to get deeper into whether Hayes had a name in mind if someone killed Gino or laced Gino’s drugs of choice. “I do not think it’s someone in the wrestling business,” Hayes said. He said his theory is he was hanging with the wrong crowd, ran his mouth too much, or all of the above. JBL asked if he’s saying he was murdered. “Your words, not mine,” Hayes said.
In another Hannibal TV interview, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake gave an unsavory account of Gino. Beefcake says he was an intense, crazy partier, and his death was “karma”. In other words, he thinks Gino overdosed and got what was coming to him.
Gino’s valet Baby Doll stated in a recent interview that he was the utmost professional and they never kissed or did anything sexual. She didn’t know about his personal life as he kept his family and work lives separate. Also, being told Jake Roberts claimed he had connections to the gay community came as a surprise. She reiterates what others say, that it’s far more likely he was taken out by someone who didn’t appreciate what he was doing.
Tom Prichard shares his memories on Gorgeous Gino. He confirms there were always rumors and whispers about Gino’s sexual preference, but had his fair share of ladies too. Tom says the mystery surrounding his life helped to sell his character really well.
When there’s not much to say about an episode, it means they did an amazing job. I cannot fault this show at all for their telling. It was delivered in such a way that there’s not much else I could research. They nailed all the key points, and left out anything which wasn’t relevant to his death. I’m more inclined to believe something fishy happened here, and John/Anon were covering their tracks. But it’s impossible to say for sure, and there’s also a chance Gino messed up somehow.
For anyone who wants to learn more about Gorgerous Gino Hernandez and the mystery surrounding his death, this is absolutely the first place to look. It has been one of the best episodes so far and am thoroughly looking forward to reviewing more. Hopefully, there’s a bit more meat to future editions of my Dark Side of the Ring reviews. I think I got everything… but please let me know if there’s anything I overlooked. Thank you very much for reading! See you next time.