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By Lou Thesz
Six-time World heavyweight champion


Note:
Lou Thesz has a Message Board on his Web site, the Lou Thesz Message Board Forum. You can ask Thesz questions directly. You can see photos and listen to an interview with Thesz on the official Lou Thesz Web site. You can also get information about Thesz' biography Hooker, one of the definitive histories of professional wrestling. He also has a Collector's Edition Photo Biography available. 

Many have contributed to Wrestling Museum

Writing this column is really pretty easy when I finally figure out what to talk about. I am much better with an interview.

As to what is happening in my life now, it is pretty dull on the wrestling end. I am pretty happy with the garden, but I wish Mother Nature would help with the watering. Mexico has followed the lead of Korea and asked me to come and serve as "wrestling commissioner" in July. I would serve as dogcatcher for a free trip to Mexico. Charlie truly believes there is an unwritten code about a wrestler losing face if he buys a plane tickets with his own money - even for his woman. Where do women get these wild ideas?

I do know we had some wonderful times in Mexico. The people, as a whole, are the most hospitable in the world. "Mi casa es su casa" is not just something they weave into the doormats for export. It is the way they live. Charlie and I spent summers in Mexico for a couple of years, and swore we were going to move there each time Bill Clinton was elected. I guess we are getting closer by moving to Florida.

The trip to the International Wrestling Institute and Museum was incredible...the best ever. Some of my dearest friends were there and the support for the Museum is growing. Mostly, the appreciation for the preservation of wrestling history is being expressed.

The Earl Caddock and Joe Stecher families were there to accept the plaques awarded when a wrestler is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Danny Hodge and Dick Hutton were there to accept their awards. Bobby Managoff was presented the Frank Gotch Award for his contribution to the tradition of professional wrestling. The irony of Bobby's father, The Terrible Turk, once breaking Frank Gotch's leg was not lost on the group.

Dean Rockwell is a prominent businessman and former professional wrestler who very generously donated the funds needed to remodel the part of the Museum designated for the library, so we not only dedicated the Dean Rockwell Library we had the incredibly realistic painting of Ted Lewin on exhibit. Ted, brother to Mark and Don, wrestled for a short time to pay his way through art school. The paintings he did during those years are so realistic you can smell the sweat in the dressing room scenes. He has captured the triumph and defeat of some of the most memorable characters in professional wrestling. The exhibit will be there through January of 2001, when it goes to the CAC meeting in Las Vegas. Ted and his wife, Betsy, live in NY and are illustrators of children's books. This collection has been in their home all these years.

The group was smaller than last year, but those who attended came to absorb the history of amateur and professional wrestling. The simply curious had fallen away and those in attendance had a vested interest in what happens to the Museum. Tom and Christine Drake come to mind. Tom was a promising amateur who lost out on a chance at the Olympics because Dan Hodge beat him.

After an incredible career as an attorney and statesman in Alabama politics, Tom has not forgotten the years he spent as a professional wrestler and the friendships he formed in those years. He and his wife Christine, also an attorney, serve as legal counsel for the Cauliflower Alley Club and have been very generous with their time and money to the Museum, too.

Fritz Von Goering has been a terrific supporter in funds and time. He, too, recognizes the value of preserving our traditions and history. To both of us, professional wrestling has been our lives, and is the world which has given us our best times, our worst times, our closest friends and taught us how low a man could go to earn a buck as a promoter. (Inside joke!) It is so rewarding to see him at these functions. He comes there, like myself, to honor the past and relive a little bit of it. We were never close when we were active wrestlers, probably due to geography, so it is great to have the time to get to know him.

Jeff Dunn is a collector of memorabilia who has donated countless items and funds to support the Museum. It is always a great pleasure to see him. It is also personally rewarding to have people of Jeff's caliber who are so very interested in the history of wrestling and not only preserving it, but also sharing it with others. He donated an old framed program, or small poster, with my picture on it, and Charlie went nuts. It is one of the very few pictures of me smiling. As a young upstart, it was not the image I wanted to put forth. She will probably borrow it from the Museum, since she constantly tells Mike we are "Lou Thesz heavy" at the Museum. Of course, she wants the pieces relegated to a closet at the Museum and not in our house. She might be a tad upset if Mike put the copy of the NWA belt in a closet. She researched jewelers, spent hours going over details and materials with the artist she discovered. I have to say it was worth it. The belt looks so much like the original I don't think even I could tell the difference if it had the same leather strap backing it.

The original is in Japan. My attorney, not a wrestling fan, commented on what a shame it was a piece of American history was in Japan, to which I replied, "I think it is a shame the Japanese have more interest in it."

The International Wrestling Institute and Museum is the only organization with the courage to honor professional wrestling as a sport and give the "wrestlers" who learned their craft the respect they deserve. I don't say we have earned a place next to Dan Gable, but it is a distinct honor to be in the same building with him.

Needless to say, it needs all the support we feel it is worth to preserve the history of men like Frank Gotch, Ed Lewis, Joe Stecher, Earl Caddock, Danny Hodge, Verne Gagne and the men who shaped professional wrestling from the gyms, like George Tragos. If any of you feel like pitching in a few dollars, it is greatly welcome. I assure you it does not go to big salaries or non-essentials. The Not-for-Profit status of the Museum is for real. I have chosen to donate more time to the Museum and even resigned as president of CAC to do so. I hope all of you get an opportunity to see it. It is worth a detour to Iowa.

You can send your correspondence and contributions to:

IWIM (International Wrestling Institute and Museum)
Attn: WC (The attn: WC just lets us know where you heard about this.)
P.O. Box 794
Newton, IA 50208You can visit the Museum's Web site at  www.wrestlingmuseum.org.

Lou Thesz is arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He held the World heavyweight championship six times in four different decades. He is the only wrestler to ever compete in seven different decades. His book, Hooker details the history of professional wrestling through his perspective as the top wrestler in the business. He has just released a Collector's Edition Photo Biography. You can also visit the Lou Thesz Web site.

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