Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Adrian Adonis

The Adorable One being pampered by manager Jimmy Hart

Keith Franke, better known to wrestling fans by his ringname Adrian Adonis, had successful runs in the AWA both before and after his time in WWF.  During his first stint with the American Wrestling Association, Adonis was a brawling biker who found success in a tag team alongside fellow future WWE alum Jesse “The Body” Ventura.  It wasn’t until Adonis made the jump to Vince McMahon’s Federation, however, that he found his true niche.

For his first couple of years in the WWF, Adonis was used in matches for the World and Intercontinental Titles.  Always the challenger and never the champion in singles competition, he eventually found some success in the tag division, winning the Tag Team Titles with Dickie Murdoch.  After his run as part of this team was over, it was time for Adonis to step into the spotlight and develop the character that would solidify his legacy.  He became Adorable.

Taking Jimmy Hart as his manager, Adonis bleached his hair blond and retired his tough guy gimmick in favor of new pink ring attire.  He began dressing effeminately, wearing scarves, makeup, bows, and sometimes even dresses.  It was with this gimmick that Adonis feuded with Junkyard Dog and George “The Animal” Steel.  He was even given his own talk show, The Flower Shop, while Piper’s Pit was on hiatus.  This led to Adonis’ most well-remembered bout, a hair vs hair match against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania III.  Adonis lost, had the majority of his hair shaved off by Piper and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, and shortly thereafter, left the company.

Adonis was killed in 1988 in a car accident that also took the lives of fellow wrestlers Victor “Pat Kelly” Arko and Dave “Wildman” McKigney.  The driver of the vehicle, William “Mike Kelly” Arko, swerved off the road to avoid crashing into a moose, and blinded by the setting sun, drove the car into a nearby lake.  Despite the brevity of his career, Adonis’ impact reached beyond his death.  The perfume bottle that Rick “The Model” Martel carried was an homage to Adonis, who used a similar tactic years before.  Also, the leather jacket that we’re so used to seeing “Rowdy” Roddy Piper wear was given to him by Adonis during an episode of Piper’s Pit when Adrian was transitioning into the Adorable character.  The jacket, which he’s sported ever since, has become a trademark of his character.


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6 thoughts on “Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Adrian Adonis

  1. Pingback: Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Junkyard Dog |

  2. Adonis was a great heel,he took a lot of heat over his gimmick,but that’s what he wanted.His feud with Piper was great,one of the best ever.In case anybody wonders…He was completely straight,which makes him an even greater performer for pulling it off.

  3. Adrian Adonis, was a great wrestler. Yes, he was a great actor too. One thing a lot of people dont know is that he did ride and own Harley’s and was a member of the Kingsmen motorcycle club before becoming famous. While he was a member he would regularly stop by the clubhouse in Buffalo, NY and bring some of his wrestling buddies like Andre the Giant. He will always be sadly missed.

  4. saw him many times. Fabulous wrestler, not a fake. The matches between he and Bob Backlund, another skilled athlete, were a joy to watch. Adonis would do flying head scissors from a stationery position. Just great. I miss his intelligence and wit.

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