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Gene Petit (May 19 c. 1949 – September 29, 2013) was an American professional wrestler best known for his portrayal of Cousin Luke in the World Wrestling Federation. He also competed under several other gimmicks and competed for several promotions in the United States as well as Australia, Japan, and Nigeria.
Petit attended the University of Tampa, where he played for the football team. While there, he met former Olympic wrestler Dale Lewis. They became friends, and Lewis paid Petit to drive him to his bookings at professional wrestling events. Petit stated that he began wrestling after spending a couple of weeks practising in a gym. At one of Lewis' events, the company did not have enough wrestlers and Petit was asked to fill in. He teamed with Lewis and Gypsy Joe Rosario in a six-man match. After his first match, in which he wrestled under his real name, he competed with the ring name Gene Lewis. He and Dale Lewis competed as kayfabe (storyline) brothers due to their similar appearance.
World Wrestling Federation
During a conversation with George Scott, a booker from the World Wrestling Federation, Petit received 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 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."
Retirement and death
In 2000, Petit retired from wrestling due to back problems. Petit lived in Bernardsville, New Jersey and was a member of the board of directors for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He died on September 29, 2013. and was believed to be in his mid 60s when he died. He had suffered from multiple sclerosis and diabetes in his later years and was residing in a long term health facility when he died.