By Bill Spinks

Famed professional wrestler "Killer" Tim Brooks worked hard to keep his native Ellis County a wrestling hotbed by teaching it to scores of students while he still performed and for years after he retired.

Brooks, a Vietnam War veteran who rose to wrestling fame and continued to hold local shows for years after he retired, passed away on Tuesday after a several-years-long battle with cancer. He was 72.

His son, Clayton Brooks, made the announcement on Tuesday: "It is with a heavy heart that we the Brooks family announce that our father, loving husband, brother and friend has made his depart from this earth to the heavens. From the Brooks family we want to say thank you for all the prayers, love and support through these terrible times.

"Dad was the toughest man I have ever met. He fought cancer like I have seen no other. With all the accomplishments he has made through his 73 years on this earth from being an Army veteran of the Vietnam War to holding just about every championship belt through professional wrestling and a Hall of Famer, most of all he was a God-fearing man, a wonderful husband to his wife of 13 years Julie, and the best father and grandfather to us kids. He will be missed dearly by so many."

Funeral arrangements for Brooks were still pending as of late Wednesday.

Brooks’ wrestling career took him across North America and the world, and he crossed paths with many other famous wrestlers who, like himself, built regional followings before breaking through nationally: "Rowdy Roddy" Piper, Paul Orndorff, Ric Flair, and the Von Erich family, among many others.

Altogether, Brooks won 23 championships, either solo or as part of a tag team. His role in wrestling was often as a "heel," or villain, but in real life he was a much different man, according to those who knew him.

"His persona was always the big, mean, nasty bad guy, but all of us that were trained by him consider him our father in this business," said Nathan "Doberman" Downs, a former student of Brooks, in January.

In February, scores of wrestlers who learned from Brooks at his North American Wrestling Allegiance school came together for a fundraising wrestling event at Chautauqua Auditorium at Waxahachie’s Getzendaner Park to help with Brooks’ mounting medical bills.

"It’s really heartwarming and touching and moving for so many people to show that they care and want to help me," Brooks said at the time.

Among those who learned from Brooks was Keith Lee, the WWE NXT North American champion. Lee paid tribute to Brooks on Twitter on Wednesday.

"Acutely aware of the pain today brings. He was my birth, my knowledge, my preparation. Home when I was homeless. Had I not seen him when I did...I never would again. Thank you Killer Tim Brooks for training me. I love you. #RIPKillerBrooks This next one is dedicated to you," Lee wrote.

Brooks retired from full-time wrestling in 1997, but from about 2004 to 2014, Brooks held a monthly wrestling show in a building on his property in Waxahachie that became known as the "Killertorium." His shows were a major draw, with as many as 500 fans attending at times by his estimate.

In May, Brooks was to be inducted into the Texas Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Wichita Falls, but the induction was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Next to marrying my wife and having my kids, (the induction) is the best thing in my life next to that," Brooks said in January.

Brooks made his wrestling debut in 1969 in the National Wrestling Alliance in the Detroit and Toronto areas, and also wrestled in the Cleveland-based National Wrestling Federation.

In 1983, while wrestling for the NWA in Georgia, Brooks was involved in an angle that the then-World Wrestling Federation duplicated five years later. Brooks won the NWA heavyweight title from Orndorff and "sold" the title to Larry Zbyszko for $25,000. Zbyszko was stripped of the title and a 12-man tournament was set up, with Zbyszko winning the belt back.

In 1988, the WWF used the same storyline when Ted DiBiase attempted to buy the title from Andre the Giant, setting up the tournament for WrestleMania 4.