Popular KSWA Alumnus "Snakeman" Deven Michaels Suddenly Passes Away; Friends Remember Hard-Working Wrestler
September 7, 2020
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
When William Frantz, Jr. walked into a wrestling locker room, he made an impression. Always a commanding soul, Frantz, known throughout many promotions as Deven “Snakeman” Michaels, carried a burgeoning burlap sack over his shoulder. Like his mentor and inspiration, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Frantz carried a boa constrictor in that omnipresent satchel.
A native of Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, “The Snakeman” wrestled throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania for many years. It was in West Virginia that the Michaels made an impression on some Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) wrestlers. On July 22, 2006, Michaels made his debut in Pittsburgh at the KSWA Arena to kick off “Wrestle/Rock.” There he kicked off the unique event by defeating “The Drunken Luchadore” Joey Quervo.
On August 26, 2006, Michaels competed in a match to unify the KSWA Golden Triangle Championship and the then-vacant Tri-State Title. The match included “Big” Mike Malachi, “Mr. 8x10” Michael Cruz, Michaels and ultimate winner Anthony Alexander. In a Facebook post, current KSWA Heavyweight Champion Alexander noted, “So sad. I worked him a few times. Was a real good guy. Prayers to his family.”
Michaels returned in October, 2006 and in his biggest KSWA win to date, defeated International Thugs leader “Big” Mike Malachi. Michaels would soon find himself a target of the Gentleman Joe Perri-led crew. In January, 2007, Michaels and tag-team partner Shane Starr lost a tag team title opportunity against champions the International Thugs. It was around this time that the crew tricked Michaels into believing that they had cooked his beloved snake in a barbecue pit.
In March, 2007 Michaels and Michael Cruz wrestled to a double count-out. On May 7, he defeated Zero, who was a part of “IT.” On June 17, 2007, nearly one year after his KSWA debut, Michaels would wrestle for the last time in the KSWA. He and Justin Sane wrestled to a “no contest.”
Michaels moved on to other ventures in the tri-state area where he found success and championships. He also became a magician.
“The KSWA is saddened to hear of the passing of Deven Michaels. Although he wasn’t in the organization very long, his eccentric personality and his reptilian friends quickly made him a fan favorite. The KSWA wishes to send thoughts and condolences to his family. May the Snakeman rest peacefully,” KSWA Owner Bobby O wrote in an email.
Reaction to Michael’s untimely passing was quick and heartfelt from throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.
“RIP my wrestling brother William Frantz Jr, aka “The Snakeman” Deven Michaels. Condolences, thoughts and prayers to his family. Love always brother,” wrote Rob Kellum, a.k.a. “The Stro” on Facebook.
“RIP Snakeman! Gone way to soon. I was grateful I was never choked out by the snake,” commented KSWA veteran Terry Hackett, a.k.a. “Sniper” on Facebook.
Luke Hixon, who worked throughout Western Pennsylvania for various organizations including the KSWA, said, "Deven was always super friendly with me from the first day I met him. He was a straight shooter who loved the business." Similar sentiments were made on social media by manager and foe Matt Bish, and announcers Jim Emler and Bert LeGrange.
“The Deven you saw in the ring was the same Deven out of the ring. He gave everything a 110%. I laughed and cried traveling with him. I laughed in the ring and locker room with him. And now I cry, not for him because he is in Heaven, but for his family and friends here on earth, because he touched all our lives and made each of us that much better. I love you Snakeman. God bless your family,” wrote wrestler Tommy Gibson in an email.
Bubba Brewer, a Western Pennsylvania promoter for APWF Wrestling and friend who more recently featured “The Snakeman” on shows, called Michaels “a good guy and a positive person in my locker room.”
In recent years, Frantz returned to his family roots in farming, and ran a successful produce business in Punxsutawney. He, his wife, Danielle, and family lived in Timblin, Pennsylvania.
It has been reported that Frantz had been battling health issues and recent years and he passed quietly in his sleep. William Frantz, Jr. was 39. Funeral arrangements and other details have not been formalized.