Published on May 27th, 2017 | by Bobby Mathews0
Deviants: Wrestlers Jailed for Sex Crimes
Heather Zumhofe didn’t meet her father until she was 14 years old. He was a professional wrestler–Buck “Rock & Roll” Zumhofe–and children all over the midwest enjoyed his antics as he strutted to the ring with a boom box over one shoulder. He was never a star, working underneath for Verne Gagne and occasionally rising to the mid-card when called upon. Buck was a good enough hand that Gagne put the AWA world light heavyweight title on him and featured him in feuds with people like Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan and ‘Mr. Electricity’ Steve Regal.*
But when the show was over, Buck Zumhofe was something else entirely: a sexual deviant who preyed on young girls. And Heather was easy pickings–she was right there, living with him. The assaults started soon after she moved in, and continued for years.
In March of 2013, Heather filed a criminal complaint against her father for the abuse she suffered as a teenager.
“The abuse began when she moved into Zumhofe’s home in June 1999 in New London. The abuse began with his touching her breasts and then oral sex. Zumhofe also made her dance in front of him in bra and panties and watch pornography with him,” according to a report in the West Central Tribune. “After about two weeks, the abuse progressed to intercourse two to three times a day. In later years, intercourse took place two to three times a week until the woman left in June 2011.”
Heather’s criminal complaint alleged that approximately 1,800 separate acts of sexual abuse occurred during that time frame. In May of that same year, prosecutors in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, had found enough evidence to charge Eugene Otto “Buck” Zumhofe with 12 counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Less than a year later, on March 5, 2014, Buck was convicted, found guilty of six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and six counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The jury deliberated for four hours before returning its verdict. The next day, the 62-year-old Zumhofe was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
After the trial concluded, Zumhofe asked to go to the restroom. Once he was out of sight of court officers, he attempted to flee. A 25-year sentence must have looked like a lifetime in prison to the aging wrestler. But he didn’t get far. He was tackled by bailiffs and immediately dragged back before a judge, where he was charged with escape from custody.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer (subscription required) says Kandiyohi County prosecutor Jennifer Fischer was disgusted by the defendant.
“Fischer was appalled at the story, noting that one of the worst aspects of it was that so many people in the wrestling community were aware of it and did nothing for more than a decade …” Meltzer wrote. “During the period, he regularly brought his daughter on the road with him and she was part of the shows. Fischer noted that she was astounded that so many people within wrestling could see what was happening and nobody ever came forward to say anything. His daughter said she was afraid to say anything for fear of reprisals from those in wrestling.”
The worst thing is that Fischer was completely correct. The 2014 conviction wasn’t Zumhofe’s first.
In 1986, while holding the AWA world light heavyweight title, Zumhofe was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct involving a female minor in Texas. He was eventually convicted of fourth-degree sexual conduct with a minor and served 36 months in prison. Once he got out, however, he returned to the AWA, even reclaiming the light heavyweight title during a match televised on ESPN.
Zumhofe was released in 1989–a full 10 years before his assaults on his daughter began. The most disturbing thing about Buck’s penchant for violating underage girls was that people in the wrestling business knew.
As Gary Hart detailed in his autobiography:
“… I don’t know if he [Ken Mantell, the World Class booker at the time] didn’t know any better about Buck or if he just didn’t check people out before he brought them in, but Buck had a predilection for underage girls,” Hart wrote. “After Ken brought Buck in from the AWA, Buck was found with a young girl living in an abandoned farmhouse, which had no electricity, close to Ken’s place in Decatur, and he [Zumhofe] was eventually sent to jail.”
But even though Zumhofe might be one of the worst offenders when it comes to sexual assault, he’s certainly not the only one.