In Jan. 17 IssueBy Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
A Jamestown native who achieved much success on the professional wrestling circuit in the 1980’s and 90s’ as Cousin Junior and Moondog Cujo, among other ring names, died early Tuesday of natural causes at a Franklin, Ind. Hospital.
Lanny Kean, 48, made his professional wrestling debut in Kentucky in the early 1980s and traveled the world for more than two decades helping to put smiles on fans’ faces.
“He started out as ‘Luscious’ Lanny, just wrestling in schools and stuff like that,” said Kean’s sister, Sandra Campbell of Russell Springs. Kean wrestled under Russell Countian Dale Mann’s promotion early in his career.
“You could probably write a book with all the stuff Lanny’s done over his 48 years,” said his brother, Jerry Kean. “I don’t know if he ever put anything down in writing or not but from the time he was 18 until he died some form of wrestling was his passion.”
In 1985, Kean was noticed by World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly the World Wrestling Federation, and was immediately thrust into the limelight as a member of the Hillbilly family stable as Cousin Junior alongside legendary superstar Hillbilly Jim, according to Campbell. As Cousin Junior his signature move became the “mule kick” and he often carried a horseshoe inside a sack he brought to the ring.
“It was just amazing, you know,” Campbell said. “He just loved that and he loved what he was doing and that was just him. That’s what he lived for.”
His fiancée, Sandra Deel, said that Kean achieved just about everything he wanted to in life.
“He loved to entertain and he always wanted to be the center of attention,” Deel said. “I’ve had I don’t know how many phones calls.”
Deel, who had known Lanny for 26 years, said she had gotten some calls from people who never met him, but did see him perform. He obviously had a positive impact on their lives.
“He would’ve given anybody the shirt off his back,” she said.
As part of his WWF hillbilly gimmick, Kean became a part of wrestling lore as he feuded with popular wrestlers Jesse “The Body” Ventura, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, among others.
According to published reports, Kean’s “Cousin Junior” character was based on Jethro Bodine from the television show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” as suggested by successful wrestling manager Jimmy Hart, who held a high position in the WWF.
Campbell, his sister, said that Kean was dedicated to fully putting himself into his in-ring persona each time he stepped into the squared-circle.
After his stint in the WWE was over, Kean went on to wrestle in the Continental Wrestling Association as “Hillbilly Junior,” teaming with Stan Frazier as “Giant Hillbilly” to win the American Wrestling Association’s Southern Tag Team Championship in the summer of 1986, one of the highlights of his career.
His next stop on the professional wrestling circuit was the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association in the early 90s’ where he performed as a member of the Moondogs tag team as Moondog Cujo, a more violent, villainous character.
But people still cheered for him, Deel said. She said it didn’t matter if he played the good guy or the bad guy, people always rooted for him.
Kean participated in many “hardcore” matches during his stint in the USWA, often using chairs, chains and other weapons in high excitement matches.
Kean also wrestled under the names Big Daddy Cyrus and “Bloody” Ox Brody in the USWA amidst a feuding storyline with WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler, a wrestler/commentator for the popular WWE Monday night Raw wrestling show and former WWE Champion Sid Vicious.
After taking a few years off from in-ring competition, Kean returned to his Moondog Cujo and Cousin Junior gimmicks just recently and competed in several more matches and, at the time of his death, was planning on performing at a wrestling legends event in the coming months.
“He made a lot of friends over the years,” Campbell said. Some of which the family met were Hillbilly Jim, Cory Macklin, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jerry “the King” Lawler, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, among others.
“He had a zest for life,” said his brother, Jerry. “He had a big impact on kids at his wrestling shows.”
Deel said many people may not realize it, but those in the wrestling business are like a band of brothers, so to speak.
“They had each other’s back,” she said. “Just like a family ... and that was nice.”
Kean is survived by his daughter, Krystal Hopper, fiancée Sandra Deel, his mother, Grace Kean, his brother Jerry Kean of Edinburg, Ind. and his sister, Sandra Campbell of Russell Springs. Other survivors include four nieces, three great-nieces and two great-nephews. His father, Paul Kean, preceded him in death.
“He done what he wanted to do,” said Grace Kean, Lanny’s mother. “He really did love it.”
Funeral services were held Friday at the H.E. Pruitt Memory Chapel with burial in the Rexroat Cemetery.
The family requests that expressions of sympathy be made in the form of a donation toward the funeral expenses.
These can be left at the funeral home or mailed to H.E. Pruitt Memory Chapel, P.O. Box 320, Jamestown.