John Tenta ‘Earthquake’ memorabilia now on display at Museum of Surrey

April 30, 2021
Museum of Surrey

Surrey, BC – The legacy of WWF wrestler John Tenta, known worldwide as ‘Earthquake’ is being celebrated with a display of memorabilia in the Museum of Surrey’s latest feature exhibition ‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value.’

Visitors will have the opportunity to see the former Surrey resident’s iconic 1991 action figure, “The Wrestler” Magazine, featuring Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan from 1990, a deck of trading cards and more in the exhibit’s pop culture section.

“Earthquakes are some of nature’s most powerful forces, and John Tenta certainly evokes that energy with the persona he created, which makes his legacy a perfect fit for the exhibit,” said Curator of Exhibits, Colleen Sharpe.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ was originally developed by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Using cultural objects, art, and multimedia displays, the exhibit tells the story of earthquakes—and other natural disasters—through Indigenous knowledge passed down through oral histories.

To complement the multi-media installations, MOS added Surrey-specific content from the Heritage Surrey Collection, including the recent acquisition of Tenta’s memorabilia.

Kristin Hardie, Curator of Collections, says the memorabilia acquired for the Surrey Artifact Collection is one example of how objects can serve as a connection point with our community’s memory.

“We are thrilled to be able to preserve the amazing story of a ‘Surreyite’ who rose to the highest levels of his sport and who became famous on a global scale. We hope that these items both preserve John Tenta’s legacy in his hometown and encourage his neighbours and fans to share their memories and stories about him.”

Hardie recently reached out to Tenta’s son, Jeff Tenta, who resides in Florida with his wife and two children. When asked how he felt about his father being included in the exhibit and his story being preserved and shared at the museum, he responded that it was a proud moment for the family.

“We’re happy that his community appreciates it – it’s good to know people care,” he said.  Preserving and Sharing Surrey's Stories. Heritage Services administers a large civic artifact collection, which consists of over 20,000 objects.

Already a world junior wrestling champion by age 20, Tenta first rose to fame in Japan, where he spent eight months as a sumo wrestler. He and his family returned to his hometown of Surrey from approximately 1989 to 1996, where he was affectionally known as ‘Big John’ to local media. By 1989, Tenta was a full-time member in the WWF with the name, Earthquake. In 1993, Tenta headlined a West Coast wrestling competition at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

In 2006, Tenta passed away from bladder cancer at the age of 42. His sister, Brenda, currently resides in Langley.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ runs until June. Visitors must pre-register for one hour long self-guided visits, which are available from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday. Visitors can register by visiting emailing museum@surrey.ca or by calling 604-592-6956. The museum follows all citywide COVID-19 safety protocols as per Health BC, City of Surrey and Worksafe BC. Masks are mandatory. Registration required for every person in your family group, including infants. For more information, visit surrey.ca/museum. For more information about the Surrey Artifact Collections, visit surrey.ca. The City’s artifact collection can also be viewed virtually using the Surrey Archives & Museums free Online Access (SAMOA).

Photos are submitted by Jeff Tenta and include images of Jeff with his dad 'Earthquake' and mom.

Contact Info

Kristyl Clark
Communications Coordinator
Heritage Services
604-502-6463
Kristyl.clark@surrey.ca