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Franke trained under Fred Atkins and debuted in 1974, wrestling under his own name. In the late 1970s, Franke adopted the ring name Adrian Adonis and the character of a brawling, leather jacket-clad biker.
American Wrestling Association
In the late 1970s, Adonis joined the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association. In 1979, he formed a tag team with Jesse Ventura. The team was known as the East-West Connection on the basis that Adonis was from New York (in the East), while Ventura was billed as being from California (in the West). Adonis and Ventura were awarded the AWA World Tag Team Championship on July 20, 1980, when Verne Gagne, one half of the tag champions with Mad Dog Vachon, was unable to defend the title because he was vacationing in Europe. Adonis and Ventura held the belts until June 14, 1981, when they were defeated by Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell.
World Wrestling Federation
Adonis and Ventura appeared in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) later that year as a team and in singles competition. Adonis was a frequent challenger to WWF champion Bob Backlund and Intercontinental champion Pedro Morales throughout the first half of 1982.
Adonis later formed a tag team with the Texan Dick Murdoch known as the North-South Connection, with their first appearance together in the WWF in late 1983. On April 17, 1984, Adonis and Murdoch defeated Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson to win the WWF World Tag Team Championship. They held the titles until January 21, 1985, when they were defeated by Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. The team split shortly after the loss.
"Adorable" Adrian Adonis
In late 1985, after an uneventful summer in which he was briefly managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and took to using the DDT as a finisher months before the WWF debut of Jake Roberts, Adonis began altering his gimmick, firstly adopting Jimmy Hart as his manager. Paired with Hart, he defeated Corporal Kirchner to advance in the Wrestling Classic pay-per-view tournament in November, though he lost to the Dynamite Kid in the quarterfinals. In early 1986 Adonis started carrying a briefcase which said "Relax with Trudy" on the outside of it and carried a spray called "Fragrance", 3 years later, Rick Martel would lift the gimmick, calling his perfume "Arrogance", an apparent ode to Adonis. During an edition of Piper's Pit, Adonis gave his signature leather jacket to host Roddy Piper. Adonis' new character was the effeminate "Adorable" Adrian Adonis. The gimmick change saw him bleach his hair blond and begin wearing pink ring attire, as well as scarves, legwarmers, dresses, women's hats and clownish amounts of eyeshadow and rouge. In the same time period, Adonis' weight ballooned, peaking at well over 300 lb (140 kg/21 st). Adonis defeated Uncle Elmer in quick fashion at WrestleMania II and feuded extensively with the Junkyard Dog and George "The Animal" Steele while also unsuccessfully challenging Hulk Hogan for the WWF championship on multiple occasions.
In May 1986, Adonis (with Hart) debuted his own talk segment, The Flower Shop, during Piper's five-month hiatus from the WWF. These segments were the primary backdrop for Paul Orndorff's slow-building heel turn against his friend Hogan, with Adonis relentlessly needling Orndorff about living in Hogan's shadow. In August, shortly before Piper's return, Adonis obtained the services of Piper's bodyguard, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, who took to wearing a pink cowboy hat. The feud with Piper came to a head when Adonis, Orton and Don Muraco attacked Piper during a "duel" between the two talk segments, injuring Piper's leg, covering him in lipstick and damaging the Pit set. A week later, Piper destroyed the set of The Flower Shop with a baseball bat. On the Oct. 4 Saturday Night's Main Event show, Piper struck Adonis with a crutch, leading to Adonis not appearing on TV for two months with what was described as a separated shoulder. After Adonis returned in November to attack Piper on the Pit, the two eventually agreed to face one another in a hair vs. hair match at WrestleMania III. Piper won the bout with assistance from Brutus Beefcake, who cut off the majority of Adonis' hair afterward.
Return to the AWA
Adonis (now with a shaved head) had a ready-made feud with Beefcake but left the WWF shortly after WrestleMania III, returning to the AWA, where he was managed by Paul E. Dangerously during 1987. During this stint, Adonis feuded with Tommy Rich and lost the final match of the AWA International Television Championship tournament to Greg Gagne in December 1987. Early in 1988, Adonis was scheduled to tour New Japan Pro Wrestling along with other AWA talent, but an ankle injury kept him from participating. In addition to losing the money he would have earned from the NJPW tour, Verne Gagne stopped paying Adonis's weekly pay. When Gagne turned down Adonis's plea for financial help, Adonis unsuccessfully tried to get a job with WWF.
Adonis was killed on July 4, 1988 in Lewisporte, Newfoundland and Labrador while riding in a minivan with fellow wrestlers William "Mike Kelly" Arko, Victor "Pat Kelly" Arko, and Dave "Wildman" McKigney. Adonis, McKigney and Pat Kelly were killed when the driver, Mike Kelly, allegedly swerved in order to avoid hitting a moose and, blinded by the setting sun, inadvertedly drove into a lake. Mike Kelly survived, albeit with severe leg injuries.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Goodnight, Irene (sleeper hold)
- Diving shoulder block
- Knee drop
- "Adorable" Adrian Adonis
- Tag teams and stables
Championships and accomplishments
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Most Improved Wrestler (1981)
- Most Underrated Wrestler (1982)
- Worst Gimmick (1986, 1987)
- Most Embarrassing Wrestler (1986)