Gene Petit, who appeared as Cousin Luke for the World Wrestling Federation in 1985 and 1986, has passed away.
Details surrounding Petit’s death have not been released. He had been battling with multiple sclerosis in recent years, causing him to drop a substantial amount of weight.
Though Petit competed for numerous promotions from 1973 through his retirement in 2000, he is best known for his role as a member of Hillbilly Jim’s stable of wrestling relatives from Mud Lick, Kentucky, which also included Uncle Elmer and Cousin Luke. Petit portrayed a silent and expressionless rural Southerner who did not know how to wrestle—though he did actually wrestle. He joined the other hillbillies in their feud with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Jr., and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. He stated in a 2008 interview detailing his career that he was asked to compete at WrestleMania 2, but had to decline to an ankle injury. Storyline cousin Uncle Elmer was utilized instead, as he suffered a quick loss to Adrian Adonis.
Petit explained the nature of his departure from the World Wrestling Federation in 1986 to SLAM! Wrestling: “Vince [McMahon] told me that they would keep me until the end of the year, leave me off for a few months, and then figure out another gimmick, because they were just going to keep Hillbilly.”
“There was too much back and forth with Hillbilly and he got hurt; they brought Elmer in, and he got fired; Junior left; then I came in, and Hillbilly had a little disagreement with the office, so he took off for a few weeks. We had lost the steam that we had. I finished the year with them, and then started working the independents.”
Hillbilly Jim is the last surviving member of the clan; Uncle Elmer (Stan Frazier) died in 1992 as a result of kidney failure while Cousin Junior (Larry Kean) died in 2009 due to a heart attack.
Here is footage of Petit wrestling former WWWF Champion Ivan Koloff at an independent event in 1990.