Tommy "Tiny" Lister (Thomas Lister, Jr.; June 24, 1958–December 10, 2020) was an American character actor and former professional wrestler known for his role as the neighborhood bully Deebo in the Friday trilogy series of movies. He also had a short-lived professional wrestling career, wrestling Hulk Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) after appearing as Zeus in Hogan's movie No Holds Barred.
Lister has had numerous guest appearances in TV series, including playing Klaang (the first Klingon ever to make contact with humans) in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. He also co-starred in a two-part episode of the courtroom series Matlock as Mr. Matlock's in-prison bodyguard.
Lister performed a cameo as a prisoner in The Dark Knight as well as Austin Powers in Goldmember in the "Hard Knock Life" spoof. He also appeared as Sancho in the music video for Sublime's song "Santeria", and in the video for Michael Jackson's song "Remember the Time".
Professional wrestling career
World Wrestling Federation (1989)
No Holds Barred inspired a feud in the WWF ring during the latter half of 1989. Lister was billed as "Zeus: The Human Wrecking Machine", and used the same "unfazable monster heel" gimmick in his matches – by no selling his opponent's more lethal moves. Zeus also had the notion to yell "Aw Aw" and pound on his chest several times during his interviews and in-ring action.
Eventually, Zeus demanded Hogan face him in the ring. Citing jealousy for being billed under Hogan and anger over losing to Hogan in the movie, Zeus now wanted to beat him in "real life". Zeus formed an alliance with fellow Hogan rival "Macho Man" Randy Savage to feud with Hogan and his friend, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. The two teams faced off at the 1989 SummerSlam event in a tag team match which saw Hogan and Beefcake prevail as the victors.
Following SummerSlam, Zeus formed an alliance with "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase leading into the Survivor Series. At the event, the team of The Hulkamaniacs (Hulk Hogan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and Demolition) faced The Million Dollar Team (Ted DiBiase, Zeus, and the Powers of Pain). Zeus was eliminated from the match via disqualification after refusing to break a chokehold on Hogan and shoving the referee away. The Hulkamaniacs went on to win the match.
After the Survivor Series, the feud between Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake versus Randy Savage and Zeus ended with a Steel Cage match on December 27, 1989. Hogan and Beefcake were once again victorious in what would be Zeus's last match in the WWF, and shortly afterwards he made a brief promotional appearance prior to the Royal Rumble, his last appearance with the WWF.
World Championship Wrestling (1996)
Lister also spent a short time in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as "Ze Gangsta" (or Z-Gangsta) as part of The Alliance to End Hulkamania during 1996. Lister's WCW career was equally as short-lived as his WWF run.
Pro Wrestling Diary
In a 2009 shoot interview DVD released by Pro Wrestling Diary LLC, Lister discusses the character Zeus in great detail, including the "invincible" wrecking machine gimmick where he had to no-sell the offense moves of opponents in the ring.
Lister is best known as Deebo from Friday. Deebo was the neighborhood bully and antagonist for Ice Cube's character, Craig Jones. He reprised the role in the film's sequel, Next Friday, but did not appear in the third film of the series, Friday After Next.
Lister was also featured in The Fifth Element as the cool-headed Galactic President, a departure from his usual thug characters. The Fifth Element also featured Lister's Friday co-star Chris Tucker, although their characters never interact in the film. He appeared in the Adam Sandler film Little Nicky as Nicky's older brother Cassius.
Lister was the main police officer in Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" video, and also appeared in the Ice Cube videos for "Friday" (from the Friday soundtrack) and "You Can Do It" (from the Next Friday soundtrack). Lister appeared via both original footage and film clips from the movie. He was also in the videos for Young Bleed's "How You Do Dat" and 50 Cent's "Many Men".
Lister also portrayed Sancho in the Sublime music video "Santeria". In the Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown, he played bail agent Winston, who "finds people who don't want to be found". He briefly appears in The Dark Knight as an honorable convict caught in one of the Joker's schemes.
Lister appeared in a Coors Light commercial with his Friday co-star Ice Cube, as part of Ice Cube's continued role of challenging a can or bottle of beer to be "colder" than him. The commercial saw Lister try to intimidate a bottle by cracking his knuckles at it while glaring menacingly, then get "snowed on" by an aluminum pint bottle after Ice Cube ducked out of the way.
Lister was 6 feet 5 inches (196 cm) tall and weighs 299 lbs (136 kg). Lister has appeared on The Trinity Broadcasting Network. He was an evangelical born-again Christian. In 1999, he and Darryl Strawberry appeared on evangelist Benny Hinn's T.V. program giving their testimonies. Afterward, Hinn laid hands on Lister and prophesied over him. Hinn said, "God is calling you to reach out to young people and will bless your acting career to do it." Since then, he's made numerous appearances on faith-based networks and speaks to urban youth and at church functions across the country. Lister has recently become a member of the Christian church, The Light of the World. Lister also attended California State University, Los Angeles where he was the 1982 NCAA Division II National Shot Put Champion.
Tommy Lister was charged on August 31, 2012, in California Central District federal court with conspiring to commit mortgage fraud in a scheme that led to $3.8 million in losses. He was charged with one count of conspiracy. In a plea agreement Lister agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy charges.
The court documents outline a scheme that ran from November 2005 through June 2007. The documents state that Lister conspired with several other individuals to fraudulently acquire title to four residential properties he could not afford. With the help of these individuals and others, Lister obtained mortgages for the four properties through fraudulent means, including submitting mortgage applications that included inflated income and asset amounts, fabricating bank statements and falsifying other documents to substantiate the fraudulent statements in the loan applications, and falsifying escrow records to deceive lenders into believing Lister had made required down payments.
In addition to fraudulently obtaining the mortgages, Lister and his co-conspirators concealed from lenders the fact that he would receive kickbacks from sellers after the real estate deals closed.
Relying on the fraudulent applications and documents, lenders issued mortgages totaling $5.7 million. Lister subsequently defaulted on the four mortgages, causing those lenders and their successors to lose approximately $2.6 million.
After acquiring title to the four residential properties, Lister obtained fraudulent home equity lines of credit on each of the four properties. Lister drew down a total of $1,146,000 in cash from the four HELOCs, but did not pay back any of the principal.
Lister also admitted in his plea agreement that a certified tax preparer and co-conspirator Arcelia Chavez, 48, of Northridge, California aided and abetted him in obtaining one of the fraudulent mortgages and a fraudulent HELOC by preparing a false CPA letter, as well as fabricating W-2s and a pay stub. The false CPA letter stated that Chavez had prepared Lister's tax returns. Chavez separately admitted in her plea agreement that she prepared the false and fictitious documents, actions that caused lenders to lose approximately $1.1 million.
By age 55, Lister was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. During August 2020, Lister was diagnosed with COVID-19. Although he overcame the severe illness, Lister experienced COVID-like symptoms four months later, including difficulty breathing and sudden weakness. Before his illness, Lister was involved in a film project and later missed a day's shooting. His manager and family members expressed concern by his sudden disappearance and police were sent to Lister's home where he was found dead on December 10, 2020 at age 62. Lister is the third known professional wrestler to have died as a result of the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak after Black Demon and Kamala both passed between April and August 2020 respectively.