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.
PWMania.com reader Phil Varlese sent in the following:
My partner at Coastal Pro Wrestling, Fred Rubenstein, let me know this morning that he’d received a call from Doc Diamond of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame that Gene Petit, aka Hillbilly Cousin Luke had passed away.
Gene had been in a long term health care facility for several years, the result of complications from diabetes.
Petit’s time with the WWF started with an unenthusiastic response to his query about joining the promotion. Petit then showed Scott a picture he had taken of himself as a joke, in which he wore “cutoff jeans, overalls, and a floppy hat”. After seeing the picture, Scott offered Petit the role of Cousin Luke, a member of the Hillbilly Family led by Hillbilly Jim. As part of this gimmick, Petit was silent and expressionless and portrayed a rural Southerner who did not know how to wrestle. He joined the other hillbillies in their feud with Roddy Piper, Bob Orton Jr, and Jesse Ventura. Shortly after joining the company, however, Petit broke his ankle due to a problem with a defective wrestling ring. He was asked to compete at Wrestlemania 2, the WWF’s biggest show of the year, but had to decline due to the injury.
Petit was also a promoter, hosting successful wrestling shows throughout the northern and central New Jersey area.
On behalf of Fred Ruberstein and Coastal Pro Wrestling, I offer our condolences to the family of Gene Petit.
Everyone at PWMania.com offers our condolences to the entire family, friends and fans of Gene Petit.