John L. Sullivan (born Thomas Sullivan on November 25, 1946 – April 4, 2018) was an American professional wrestler better known as Johnny Valiant. He competed in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) where he won the WWWF Tag Team Championship two times. The first run (which lasted over a year) was with his first and most famous storyline brother Jimmy Valiant over Tony Garea & Dean Ho on May 8, 1974; his second title run was with his second storyline brother Jerry Valiant over Tony Garea & Larry Zbyszko on March 6, 1979.
After he retired from active competition, Valiant went on to a successful career as a manager; most notably leading the "Dream Team" Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake to the WWF Tag Team championship in 1985. He managed Hulk Hogan in the AWA in the early 80s and soon moved on back to the WWF to his Dream Team who famously defeated Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda for the titles by rubbing Johnny V's lit cigar in their eyes. After his Dream Team lost the Tag Titles to the British Bulldogs at WrestleMania 2, Johnny V added Canadian strongman Dino Bravo to his stable. At WrestleMania III, Valiant, Valentine and Bravo abandoned Beefcake in the ring after a battle with the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers and the New Dream Team of Valentine and Bravo was born. Not as successful as the first incarnation, this Dream Team had a lengthy feud with the scorned Beefcake, now known as Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, in which Beefcake famously cut and ruined Johnny V's hair. Also in this stint in the WWF, Johnny V was known to do commentary on matches from time to time and introduced the team of Demolition before they were paired off with Mr. Fuji. After leaving the WWF, Valiant returned to the AWA and led the Destruction Crew: Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos to the AWA World Tag Team Championship in 1989 (defeating Greg Gagne and Paul Diamond in a tournament final).
Sullivan grew up in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburb, not far from wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino. After asking for advice on how to become a pro wrestler, Sullivan became close friends with Sammartino and began his career in the Detroit territory wrestling, refereeing and working the ring crew for the notorious wrestling villain The Sheik. Kangaroo Al Costello trained Sullivan in the mat wars and soon he began traveling the twenty-five regional territories throughout the U.S, Puerto Rico and Canada. On one of his visits to Ontario working for the "Bearman" Dave McKigney, Sullivan met "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant who had worked as "Jimmy Valen," "Big John Valen," and "Jimmy the Body Valentine." Jimmy took a shine to the young, enthusiastic Sullivan and shortly thereafter, brought him to the WWA (World Wrestling Association) where Dick The Bruiser teamed up Sullivan with Jimmy Valiant as the Valiant Brothers. A victory for the WWA tag team titles over Dick the Bruiser and Bruno Sammartino put the name of the Valiant Brothers on the marquee and the Valiants proceeded to have a five-year run which fans still talk about to this day.
Sullivan went by the moniker of Johnny Valiant as an actor and comedian. He had appeared on multiple episodes of The Sopranos and Law and Order. He also had several feature films on his resume. His one-man show "An Evening with Johnny Valiant" has garnered critical praise from "Time Out New York," "The Village Voice" and WBAI Pacifica Radio. He was remarried in 2004 and lives in Queens, New York City.
A documentary featuring Johnny Valiant, Jimmy Valiant, and Indy wrestlers Sky Hosoya and Larry Brisco called "The Absolute Truth About Pro Wrestling" released in 2008.
Sullivan was struck and killed by a pickup truck in Ross Township, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh, on April 4, 2018. Valiant was 71 years old. Police are treating it as an accident. Police told local news Sullivan was not in a crosswalk, and the driver of the vehicle remained on the scene.
- Wrestlers managed
Championships and accomplishments
- NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Jimmy Valiant
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (San Francisco version) (1 time) - with Jimmy Valiant
- PWI Tag Team of the Year award in 1974 - with Jimmy Valiant