WAWLI END ALL No. 001
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
THE MAIN EVENT
(Sports Talk, Johnson City TN, April 17, 2002)
By Michael (Iron Cross) Scarberry
(ED. NOTE -- Welcome to another flashback segment as we go back to Richmond VA for some great wrestling memories. Special thanks to Dave Chappell from Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Hope you enjoy it.)
The night of May 1, 1981 provided plenty of excitement and historic moments for the many Mid-Atlantic faithful that packed the Richmond Coliseum this night. An NWA world’s title changed hands, and several out-of-town stars were flown in to bolster an already strong lineup. The bouts were significant and entertaining from top to bottom, sure ingredients for a Top 15 card!
MAIN EVENT – Paul Jones & The Masked Superstar (champions) vs. Gene & Ole Anderson (challengers) for the NWA world’s tag team title.
The rather unlikely duo of Paul Jones and the Masked Superstar had held the NWA world’s tag team titles for approximately five months leading up to this match. Jones and Superstar had both done separate baby face turns in the late summer of 1980, and had started teaming soon thereafter.
In February of 1981, Ole Anderson came back to the Mid-Atlantic area to join his brother Gene, who had been a manager for the last year or so. The "Minnesota Wrecking Crew" was back together! Despite Gene looking dreadfully old, slow and overweight, the "Wrecking Crew" got an immediate hard push.
We in Richmond knew something was likely up by the way this match was promoted. A weirdly worded stipulation of "the titles can change hands only on a pin fall or submission" was later "amended" in the pre-match interviews to be a "winner take all" match. One just got the sense that a major title change was coming.
Sure enough, Gene and Ole would become champions again! Ole handled the bulk of the match for his team. In classic Anderson fashion, Gene and Ole did an impressive job of punishing the arms of both Jones and Superstar. The "good guys" had their moments as well, and the match was a fairly long one, particularly considering the poor condition of Gene.
This match marked the end of the Jones/Superstar combination, and interestingly enough would be the last reign of Gene and Ole as NWA world tag team champions. Gene would be injured within several months’ time, effectively dissolving for good the greatest team in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history.
CO-MAIN EVENT – Ivan Koloff (champion) vs. Dusty Rhodes (challenger) for the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight title.
Dusty was very close in time to winning the NWA world’s heavyweight title. Rhodes was one of a number of stars that Jim Crockett was bringing into the area during this time frame. Some would not stay around long (Rhodes, Austin Idol, Mr. Wrestling No. 2, the Russians, Angelo Mosca). Others would come in and remain fixtures in the area for years (Jimmy Valiant, Wahoo McDaniel).
Ivan Koloff was embroiled in a feud with Ric Flair at this time, where Koloff had attacked Ric from behind with the assistance of the Andersons and Roddy Piper.
Noone expected Rhodes to win the Mid-Atlantic title, and the match ended predictably with Koloff being disqualified and retaining his title. However, the action was outstanding and truly showcased two of the greatest attractions in professional wrestling. And this was just the semifinal match of the evening!
SPECIAL EVENT – Sweet Ebony Diamond (champion) vs. Greg Valentine (challenger) for the NWA television title.
This match between Diamond (Rocky Johnson) and Valentine was another chapter in a long running program between these two over the vacant television title. The two had several inconclusive matches on Mid-Atlantic television. Diamond actually defeated Valentine in the WRAL studios for the TV title on the Wednesday night before their match in Richmond on Friday night. The Mid-Atlantic fans would not see that result until they turned on their TV sets the following Saturday, the next day after their match at the Coliseum.
This bout was another strong one between these two, with Diamond’s superior athleticism really showing through. Valentine was not able to hold his composure while facing Diamond’s onslaught, and was disqualified giving the victory to Diamond. This match was not particularly long, but was a highly entertaining encounter between these two with distinctly different wrestling styles.
SPECIAL EVENT – Ric Flair vs. Angelo Mosca.
When was the last time you remember Ric Flair during this time frame having the FOURTH match from the top?!?! Ric was less than five months away from his first reign as NWA world’s heavyweight champion, but at this juncture he was embroiled in a feud with Ivan Koloff.
Mosca, now referred to as "King Kong," was not a regular in the area at this time, and ironically he and Flair were often tag team partners during Mosca’s previous stint in the Mid-Atlantic area.
This was an extremely stiff match, with Flair content to slug it out with the bigger Mosca for the victory.
PRELIMINARIES – Dewey Robertson vs. Ricky Harris. Swede Hanson vs. Cy Jernigan. Frank Monte vs. Charlie Fulton.
Dewey Robertson from Canada defeated Ricky Harris. Ironically, Harris, later referred to as "Black Bart," would ultimately become the bigger star for Jim Crockett Promotions.
Swede Hanson, very close to the end of his lengthy Mid-Atlantic career, pinned Richmond’s own Cy Jernigan.
The opening bout saw two legendary Mid-Atlantic jobbers go at it as Franke Monte defeated Charlie Fulton.
Questions & Comments: The Main Event, P.O. Box 1043, St. Paul VA 24283 or e-mail to: email@example.com
SCHENECTADY GETTING READY TO RUMBLE
(Schenectady Gazette, February 16, 2001)
By Bill Buell
The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is going to become a reality, according to Tony Vellano, and its home will be in Schenectady.
Vellano, a Schenectady native and Rotterdam resident who sits on the board of directors for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, just east of Syracuse, first proposed the idea for a professional wrestling museum in May of last year. If things go as expected, he hopes to hold the inaugural induction ceremony sometime in May of 2002 at a site in downtown Schenectady.
"It's going to happen, and I've been getting a great reaction from the wrestlers and from just about everybody," said Vellano, the owner of Vellano Bros Inc., a construction supply company. "I have enough people behind me to pull this off."
The Hall of Fame will open sometime before the inaugural induction ceremonies, probably early next year according to Vellano, and an introductory fund-raising event will be held this April 7 at Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. Among the guests on hand will be George (The Animal) Steele and Walter (Killer) Kowalski, two of the sport's biggest names.
"I've got my board of directors, I got the logo and the copyright all set, and we've already registered as a 501-C3 nonprofit group," said Vellano. "I wanted to make sure I had all of that stuff intact before I announced the introductory dinner. But now we're ready to go ahead."
Mayor Al Jurczynski said he's all for making Schenectady the home of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. "I believe it will be an attraction, and any responsible activity that draws people to downtown is good," said Jurczynski. "I will be as supportive as I can be, and I think it's wonderful news for the city and the whole region."
Though the site isn't definite yet, Vellano expects the wrestling Hall of Fame to be housed in the Center City Facility. The city will charge rent, but Vellano doesn't expect any trouble making payments.
"When they get a professional wrestling show at Pepsi Arena, they get 15,000 people," said Vellano. "If we get a third of that the first weekend we open, and I think that's a low estimate, we'll be doing fine. We'll be bringing in revenue to the city and the community, and I think that's a great thing." Vellano has the backing of World Championship Wrestling and Eastern Championship Wrestling, two of the game's current governing bodies, but the World Wrestling Federation has yet to join the fold.
"The WCW has already sent me a replica of its heavyweight championship belt, and given the OK for Jimmy Hart and Billy Silverman to come to our introductory dinner," said Vellano. "I think the WWF is taking a wait-and-see attitude right now, but I have enough of the old superstars really excited about this, so I'm hoping the WWF will join us once they see that we've got this off the ground."
Vellano began his involvement with professional
boxing and wrestling more than 20 years ago when he became an inspector for the
state Athletic Commission.
In 1988 he helped raise funds to open the International Boxing Hall of Fame in central New York, and was named to that group's Board of Directors in 1998. He still serves on the state Athletic Commission and is also an inspector for the Oneida Indian Athletic Commission.
"I've heard the wrestlers talking about this for 20 years," said Vellano, who may also get another big name, King Kong Bundy, at his April event at Glen Sanders.
"They've convinced me that they want it, and
right now I've got more guys than I can handle that want to come to our dinner.
I started all the talk, and now it was time to sink or swim. I knew the city was
looking for an attraction and I think this is it."
AN INTERVIEW WITH TONY VELLANO
(A1wrestling.com, Tuesday, March 27, 2001)
(ED. NOTE -- Recently, A1wrestling interviewed Tony Vellano, who currently sits as the head of the board of directors for the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. In this interview, Vellano discusses the Hall of Fame, the upcoming dinner, and other issues.)
A1: Welcome, Tony. Thank you for this opportunity.
TV: I want to thank you for the opportunity you
are giving the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame by putting the Hall of Fame on your
web site. I think with your help this dream of a Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame will
become a reality.
A1: Before we discuss the Hall of Fame, could you discuss your background, including your interest in professional wrestling and other sports?
TV: Sure. I am one of three children of
Antoinette and Anthony Vellano. My family has been in the contracting business
for 55 years, and starting our fourth generation of family involvement. My
brothers and I were and are still involved in sports. My younger brother was a
professional football player, and was an All American out of the University of
Maryland. My older brother is a baseball historian and he was the president of
the St. Louis Cardinal franchises that our family owned in the ‘8's. In 1989,
the Boxing Hall of Fame opened up in Canastota NY. I live 95 miles from the
hall. Being a boxing fan, I went to as many functions I could. After three times
of trying, I became a board member of the Hall of Fame. An opening on the NYS
Athletic Commission opened up and I was asked to fill it, which I did. My job
was to make sure that the boxing and wrestling shows that were held in New York
State including Long Island were run within the rules set up by the State
Athletic Commission. I left the commission in September 2000. I was then asked
to work for the Oneida Indian Athletic Commission at the Turning Stone Casino in
Verona NY and I presently sit as the head of our board of directors for the Pro
Wrestling Hall of Fame.
A1: On to the Hall of Fame. First, when and how did you come up with the idea for the Hall of Fame?
TV: I came up with the idea of the Pro Wrestling
Hall of Fame when, after talking to wrestlers, I found out a Hall of Fame didn't
exist. I thought there should be, so I wrote to the New York State Board of
Education and was granted a charter on 12/17/1999. To think that some of the
older wrestlers are being forgotten and memorabilia is being lost or stored in
attics is a shame. We should preserve their memories and their memorabilia. I
think the Hall of Fame would be great in the Capital Region.
A1: Why do you think the Hall of Fame will be successful in the Albany, NY region?
TV: For one thing it would be the sixth Hall of
Fame within a 100 miles of Schenectady. We already have baseball, basketball,
soccer, boxing and horse racing. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame seems to just
fit! Just think of a family driving to the upstate New York area being able to
travel from Hall of Fame-to- Hall of Fame. What a great weekend!
A1: Describe the community support you have received.
TV: I have had great community support. The support ranges from monetary to volunteering.
A1: Update us on the progress of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
TV: We are in the process of putting on our
inaugural dinner on April 7th in Schenectady. We are setting up our web site
(http://www.pwhf.org), setting up our gift shop online to sell articles with the
PWHF logo on them
A1: What wrestlers are going to be at the dinner on April 7th?
TV: We will be hosting Killer Kowalski, George
(The Animal) Steele, Jimmy Hart, Cousin Luke, referee Billy Silverman and Da
A1: How big will the dinner be and are there tickets still available?
TV: The 200-seat dinner is already sold out!
A1: When do you think the Hall of Fame will be open for business?
TV: I feel that the Hall of Fame is already
opened for business. We have a sold-out dinner on our hands and when the web
site is up we will be selling articles with Hall of Fame logos on them, as well
as, sponsorships and memberships. We are planning an induction ceremony for May
2002, which will include a golf outing, a 5k run, a memorabilia show, dinner and
an induction ceremony with the issuance of a Hall of Fame ring.
A1: When will tickets be available for this event?
TV: We don't have a set date but we will inform
you when tickets are available.
A1: Given the choice, who would you induct first and why?
TV: I would induct Bruno Sammartino because he is
the living legend. It would be an honor for us all if he would accept. The Hall
of Fame does not induct people. We only put on ceremonies for those chosen by an
induction committee of sportswriters and such in the business.
A1: Who in the wrestling business has supported the Hall of Fame?
TV: The WCW, ECW, various independents and
various web sites such as a1wrestling.com
A1: The Baseball Hall of Fame inducts athletes based on career statistics and are voted in by the baseball writers. What process is in place for inducting the wrestlers?
TV: We have set up a committee to call and ask
different people in the wrestling industry to sit on a board of selectors. These
people will decide who will be inducted.
A1: How will the voice of the fans be heard?
TV: We have also set up a block of 900 numbers to
call to register as a fan who you would like to see in the Hall of Fame. We as a
hall would then pass that information on to the selection committee for review
only! The poll does not mean that the person would be inducted, but would tell
the committee only of fan response. The numbers are:
Andre the Giant: (900) 950-1100
Verne Gagne: (900) 950-1101
Ed (Strangler) Lewis: (900) 950-1102
Bruno Sammartino: (900) 950-1103
Lou Thesz: (900) 950-1104.
Please call and let us know who your favorite wrestler in the group is.
A1: Who votes/decides?
TV: Every candidate is carefully scrutinized and
must receive at least 80 per cent approval of the board at the annual meeting
before he can be elected. A scale of negative votes for elimination that will
vary depending on the number of selectors in attendance is used. When the
selectors meet, they will have before them a roster of final candidates, along
with detailed biographies on each
A1: How many wrestlers will be inducted per year?
TV: There is no set number for any class of
enshrinees but, the board’s current ground rules do stipulate a maxim of new
members will be selected each year
A1: What are the criteria that will be used to judge wrestlers? Is there a process to elect old timers for membership?
TV: To assure that older performers will be
considered along with the younger breed, the seniors committee made up of
veteran members of the overall selection committee will name one nominee from
the pre-1970 era to be included on the final list. The other finalists will be
survivors from a preliminary list of some 60-70 candidates that the board will
have screened by e-mail. Any fan may nominate any qualified person who has been
connected with pro wrestling in any capacity simply by writing or via the 900
numbers. The only restriction is that the wrestler must be retired for a period
of at least five years, before he can be considered. For a non-wrestler there is
no mandatory retirement period. Every nomination received will be processed and
forwarded to the board of selectors.
A1: What role will the Hall of Fame have in selecting wrestlers? How do jobbers get evaluated and how do you account for politics in wrestling?
TV: The Hall of Fame itself has no say whatsoever
as to who is or is not elected to membership. The only function of the hall is
to process the nominations as they arrive and coordinate the annual meeting.
A1: How do you feel about Pete Rose being denied entry into the Hall of Fame?
TV: I feel he should be in the hall. If not now,
then after he dies for sure. What gets me is that Joe Jackson was slapped with a
lifetime ban. What is a lifetime ban? I think if you die -- you served your
A1: Last question. Are there any other events scheduled?
TV: A golf outing is planned for July and a 5k
race is being planned.
GEIGEL, BEYER, RASCHKE TOP LIST FOR 4TH TRAGOS/THESZ HALL
(Matside, Newsletter of International Wrestling
Institute, Spring 2002)
NEWTON, Iowa -- Five of professional wrestling’s biggest stars will enter the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2002. The inductions weekend is set for Aug. 2-3.
The hall of fame is located in the International Wrestling Institute and Museum here. An estimated 15,000 fans have visited the 8,000-square-foot building since its grand opening on Sept. 18, 1998.
This year’s class consists of Living Legends Dick Beyer (The Destroyer), Jim Raschke (Baron Von Raschke), and Bob Geigel. The oldtimers being inducted are Ed Don George and Ray Steele.
"This is our fourth class, and a great one," said Mike Chapman, executive director of the museum. "In keeping with our tradition of honoring professional stars who could also truly wrestle, this is a highly skilled group of wrestlers."
The weekend kicks off with a banquet Friday night (Aug. 2) at 7 p.m. at the Newton Country Club, with the honorees present. The official inductions will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 3) in the professional wing of the museum. A celebrity golf tournament kicks off at 11 a.m. at Westwood Golf Course. The first-ever Frank Gotch Memorial Run is set for Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Banquet tickets are $50 each and seating is limited. Admission to the inductions at the museum on Saturday is the general rate of $3 for adults and $2 for students.
"We have another great lineup for the celebrity golf tournament," said Rod Brown, associate director.
"Six Olympic champions, former NBA and NFL stars, and major league baseball players are coming. Fans can meet the stars at the golf course and get autographs and photos. It’s an event for all sports fans."
DICK BEYER – Wrestled collegiately at Syracuse University and was a conference champion and NCAA qualifier. He won many regional and state amateur titles and then turned to the pro game. As The Destroyer, wearing a white mask, he became one of the biggest attractions all around the world, particularly inJapan. He claimed numerous titles, including WWA world champion and AWA world champion. He is heavily involved today in sponsoring amateur wrestling in New York and elsewhere.
JIM RASCHKE – Wrestled at the University of Nebraska, under the guidance of Bill Smith, 1952 Olympic champion and one of amateur wrestling’s greatest figures. Jim was AAU national champion at heavyweight in 1964 in both freestyle and Graeco-Roman. He won a bronze medal at heavyweight in Graeco-Roman in the world championships of 1963. As a professional, he was a huge attraction as Baron Von Raschke, stomping into the ring and using his feared claw hold. He was a top box-office draw for two decades and won many titles, including half of the world tag-team championship.
BOB GEIGEL – Was a two-sport star at the University of Iowa in the late 1940s. He was a regular on the Hawkeye football team and in 1948 placed third in the NCAA championships at 191 pounds. He and Verne Gagne were foes in the amateur ranks, and often tangled in the professional ranks. Geigel won numerous titles during his long professional career, and was half of the world tag-team champions. He later became on of the top promoters for two decades.
RAY STEELE – His real name was Pete Sauer, and he came from a family of amateur wrestlers near Lincoln, Neb. He was known for his lightning reflexes and vast knowledge of the sport. He won the National Wrestling Association world heavyweight title in 1940 from Bronko Nagurski and was one of the most respected matmen in the early days of professional wrestling.
ED DON GEORGE – He was national AAU heavyweight champion in both 1928 and 1929, and wrestled at the University of Michigan. He placed fourth in the Olympic Games at Amsterdam in 1928. He captured the National Wrestling Association world title from Gus Sonnenberg in 1931, and held either that or another version of the world title, off and on for three years. He was one of the top box-office draws of the 1930s, and then served as a promoter in the Buffalo area for decades.
For more information, call Rod Brown at 641-791-1517.
PRO WRESTLING HALL OF FAME OPENS ON A SHOESTRING
(Albany NY Times Union, Saturday, May 4, 2002)
By Paul Grondahl
For a beleaguered city beset by cop scandals, crime-ridden neighborhoods and economic malaise, perhaps there’s nothing like a little old-school smackdown to revive its faded luster.
At least that’s the hope of the organizers of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in a downtown storefront along a stretch of abandoned buildings in derelict Canal Square. The Hall of Fame’s grand opening events are today and Sunday.
To call it a pipe dream wouldn’t be an insult to Tony (Nino) Vellano, 51, a Schenectady native who now lives in Rotterdam and is a partner in Vellano Bros. Inc., a Latham underground utilities construction firm.
"Hey, I sell pipe, but I’m giving this my best shot," says Vellano.
"And I’m an attorney, but we’re stepping up to the plate," says Bob McCarthy, 37, of Clifton Park, who handles construction litigation for Vellano.
Neither man – both burly guys on the far side of 6 feet and 200 pounds – grew up as wrestling fans. They took on the PWHF project by default.
"I just told Bob it would be a wild ride, and I think he’s come to regret I ever got him involved," Vellano says. "But he’s still game to see it through with me."
The pair were hustling this week to put the finishing touches on the PWHF, a 2,000-square-foot space filled with campy, vintage wrestling memorabilia. There are posters, pictures, clippings, books and costumes of Walter (Killer) Kowalski, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Hillbilly Cousin Luke, George (The Animal) Steele, Superfly Jimmy Snuka and many more from the 1930s through the 1970s. The museum is located at 123 Broadway, near Proctor’s Theatre.
There’s a homemade, smalltown feel to the place. They’ve enlisted their friends to fashion plaques and create displays. Bruce Larsen painted the signs for longtime friend Vellano in exchange for a free ticket to the dinner and a PWHF hat and T-shirt. "Tony’s got a lot of drive and sees his ideas through to the end," Larsen says.
Despite their inexperience in such a venture, Vellano feels fate is on his side in the location of the nonprofit organization.
"In wrestling, 1-2-3 is a pin and the term for a draw is a ‘Broadway.’ Being here at 123 Broadway seems like someone’s looking over us," Vellano says.
They’ve created PWHF on a shoestring. Their only funding came in the form of a $15,000 state grant secured by Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna.
The museum’s grand opening is today, during weekend festivities culminating in the inaugural induction ceremonies of the "wrestling legends" at Proctor’s on Sunday.
So far, the response to the low-key, low-budget opening weekend has surprised the organizers. Fans from as far away as Texas, Florida, Missouri and Washington state have booked reservations. A Saturdaynight dinner at $50 apiece at the Ramada Inn is sold out at 300 people. More than 50 vendors have rented tables at a Saturday card show.
"People said we couldn’t pull this off, but we’ve found there are a lot of fans of wrestling out there," Vellano says.
Of the 13 initial PWHF inductees, only two are living.
And the one inductee who planned to attend, Lou (The King) Thesz, died at his home in Florida at age 86 a week before the induction. Thesz wrestled for five decades and was legendary in Japan, where his fans organized parades for him.
"Lou was very excited to be coming to the ceremony, but he had triple bypass surgery about three weeks ago, went downhill and never recovered," McCarthy says.
In order to distinguish themselves from splashy World Wrestling Federation events and a rival wrestling hall of fame in Newton, Iowa – which focuses primarily on the sport of college and Olympic wrestling – the Schenectady crew is charting a more populist course.
For instance, they are inducting a female wrestler (Mildred Burke) and a midget wrestler (Sky Low Low).
"People probably haven’t heard of some of these wrestlers, but to be legitimate we had to go back to the beginning and induct the legends first," Vellano says.
The PWHF inductees are selected by an independent committee of 20 wrestling writers, historians and others with a background in the industry.
Although no inductees will be present, about a dozen people in the wrestling industry are expected to visit Schenectady this weekend. They include wrestlers Dick (The Destroyer) Beyer, Paul (Butcher) Vachon, Billy Two Rivers (a Mohawk Indian) and Ida Mae Martinez. The 73-year-old Martinez is driving up from her home in Maryland with boots, costume and other memorabilia she’ll donate to the museum. Martinez now bills herself as "Maryland’s senior yodeling sweetheart" and is scheduled to entertain the crowd with her yodeling at the induction ceremony.
The PWHF museum and its cast of supporting characters is a world away from the highly profitable WWF juggernaut with its roster of international stars of stadium and screen, such as The Rock.
The PWHF wrestlers were in the business when the top purses were in the tens of thousands of dollars and most barnstormed the nation by car along a low-budget circuit of county fairs and shopping mall openings.
A poster near the front entrance of the museum for the 1974 movie "The Wrestler," starring Ed Asner, sums up the high hokum factor and sideshow quality of the entertainment. "Athletes? Actors? Assassins? You’ll never really know … until you see."
Says Vellano, "The way I look at it is they’re athletes entertaining us. It takes a trained professional to get in the ring and do the jumps and flips and falls and make it look real without getting hurt."
The picture behind the scenes of the brightly coloed tights, garish masks and flamboyant high-topped wrestling boots is not so flattering.
Vellano, who was an inspector for pro wrestling and boxing for the New York State Athletic Commission from 1995 to 2000, saw the dark side that the glitzy WWF ignores.
"These wrestlers didn’t make a lot of money, they had no benefits and they couldn’t retire rich in their 30s like other pro athletes," Vellano says. "That’s why a lot of them are still wrestling in their late 60s. They need to support themselves."
"I knew nothing about wrestling before I got involved and I’ve been impressed talking to these oldtimers," McCarthy says. "They’re very bright. They’re college-educated. They know how much they’ve got in their 401(k)s down to the last dollar. They’re very serious about what they do as a business."
McCarthy says wrestlers told him stories of a bygone era when a half-dozen wrestlers would pile into one car, each pay the driver 10 cents a mile for gas and stick to a tight budget.
"They spent their careers on the road living out of cheap motels," McCarthy says.
There is a local flavor to the PWHF museum. One display case highlights the career of native son Carroll (Pink) Gardner. It includes the gold championship belt from the 175-pound division from a 1927 tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Gardner got his professional start in 1913 and earned $1.50 for the match. He retired in 1936 and became Schenectady County clerk and ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.
The family owned the Gardner building on State Street across from Vale Cemetery. Pink Gardner ran a gym upstairs and the family gravestone business was downstairs. That juxtaposition gave birth to Pink’s motto: "Come visit me upstairs before you have to visit me downstairs."
Another regional wrestler included is Joe Malcewicz, known as "The Utica Panther." There are pictures of Malcewicz and a wrestling poster of his big match against Ed (Strangler) Lewis in Boston in the ‘20s. The purse for the event was $40,000.
As for the naysayers, the organizers feel vindicated by the strong response to the weekend’s events and the fact that they’ve made the PWHF museum a reality.
Says McCarthy, "A lot of people have been skeptical about this from the beginning. But I say look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why Cleveland? They’re getting tens of thousands of fans there every year. We’ve got that potential here."
Vellano is disappointed there has been no financial support or offers of any coming from officials with the city and county of Schenectady.
"We’ve created it and got it going, but we
can’t carry it for long," Vellano says. "If nobody comes forward to
give us a hand, it will be just one more thing that dies in Schenectady."
WAWLI END ALL No. 002
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving the included information for research and educational
FARMER BURNS AGAIN DEFEATS DWYER
(Associated Press, January 10, 1908)
OMAHA, Neb. – Martin Burns, better known as "Farmer" Burns, the veteran wrestler, again defeated Mike J. Dwyer of Denver in a mixed wrestling match last night.
The first bout was Cornish style, and Dwyer won this in 15 minutes and 20 seconds. Burns took the second fall, catch-as-catch-can style, with a half nelson and crotch hold, in 11 ½ minutes.
The men tossed for choice of style in the third bout and Burns won. He chose catch-as-catch-can, and won the third fall and the match with a bar and chancery hold, the time being 12 ½ minutes.
GOTCH COULDN’T THROW GUS SCHOENLEIN
(Associated Press, Jan. 10, 1908)
BALTIMORE – Frank Gotch, the American wrestling champion, had a crimp put in his title last night when he failed to throw Gus Schoenlein, a local heavyweight mat artist, twice within an hour, as he agreed to do.
With his famous "toe hold," the champion took the first fall in 41 minutes, but the time-keeper called out "time" qat the 60-minute limit of the handicap and Schoenlein was still fresh, while Gotch was wet with perspiration from his violent efforts.
Gotch announced just before the match that he had received a telegram from George Hackenschmidt, which indicated that the European had serious intentions ofmeeting him on the mat in America. The wire asked if a suitable date in April could be arranged. Gotch answered that it could and that the bout would be held at Chicago or Kansas City.
Gotch announced that he has made up his mind to retire at the end of this year. The height of his ambition has been to meet Hackenschmidt, and now that this seems likely to be realized, he says he is ready to quit.
ROLLER IS DESIROUS OF BOXING
(Tacoma Daily News, Friday, Jan. 3, 1908)
Dr. B.F. Roller has again showed his fondness for the boxing game.
Yesterday he sent word to the writer by Lee Croft, the local amateur heavyweight boxer, that he desired to make his debut in the ring and that nothing would suit him better than to have a whirl at the man he defeated in a wrestling bout in Tacoma – Vic McLaglen.
Roller, with his usual display of class, says, however, that such a meeting would depend largely on the showing McLaglen made in his coming contest with George Paris at Vancouver. Since it is possible that the affair with Paris may be canceled, the doctor may have to waive this proviso, and, another thing, what difference would McLaglen’s showing make since both he and the doctor are beginners.
For some months Dr. Roller has been planning his advent into the puglistic game, so that this announcement hardly comes as a surprise. His reason for picking out McLaglen is perhaps because, like himself, he is just starting in at the game and he feels no doubt that he would not be overmatching himself in the matter of going up against a seasoned boxer.
"Dr. Roller is sincere," said Croft yesterday when he conveyed the message from the Seattle man, "and he is anxious to box McLaglen. He said that the details could be talked over after the bout between Paris and McLaglen had been decided and that much would depend on the showing the big fellow made in this contest.
"Roller told me he thought Mac would make a better boxer than a wrestler, for he is built better for such work. He also told me he thought McLaglen should confine himself to Graeco-Roman wrestling, which would bar toe and leg holds," said Croft.
It would be a strange coincidence if McLaglen
should happen to secure a match with Roller and win from him after having lost
to him in a wrestling bout. There is no question as to McLaglen’s ability as a
boxer. He is better right now than most professionals and if he and Roller do
meet the doctor will have to outclass him equally as much with the gloves as he
did on the mat in order to win from him.
BEELL AND AN AKA NAMED WAR EAGLE READY
(Associated Press, January 4, 1908)
CHICAGO – A unique wrestling match was arranged last night to take place on the night of January 10 at the Fort Dearborn Athletic Club. It will involve Fred Beell, the light heavyweight champion, and War Eagle, the Blackfoot Indian chief, who recently gave Frank Gotch such a hard tussle on the mat.
Beell will weigh in the neighborhood of 160 pounds, while the Indian wrestler will scale every ounce of 245. Beell’s manager says if his man is successful in the bout with the Indian he will again issue a challenge to meet Frank Gotch on the mat with the proviso that Gotch’s toe hold be barred.
Some months ago Beell made this proposition to the champion, but it was turned down. Later Beell posted $1,000 to bind a match with Gotch, in which the toe hold was asked to be eliminated, but again the champion ignored the proposition and now Beell says he will repeat the challenge if he succeeds in throwing the redskin next Friday night.
The match between War Eagle and Beell is attracting a lot of attention among local lovers of wrestling and the training quarters of both men are crowded each day with spectators who are anxious to see the men go through their preliminary training.
War Eagle is the Indian Joe Schildt who used to wrestle and box in the preliminary bouts held at Germania Hall, Tacoma, about two or three years ago. At that time he was looked upon as a big fat dub, but he appears to be getting the money now.
WILL HOLD MAMMOTH WRESTLING TOURNEY
(Associated Press, January 18, 1908)
CHICAGO – By terms just closed with the Florida State Mid-Winter Fair Association, Fred M. Barnes, of Chicago, will handle and promote the biggest wrestling tournament ever attempted in America. The tourney will take place at Tampa, Fla., for eight days, February 8 to 15 inclusive. At an estimated expense of not less than $20,000, mat artists from all parts of the world will be invited to participate in these events.
Associated with Barnes will be Jack Curley, Nate Lewis and Joe Coffey, all of Chicago. Barnes is a man of means and has had much experience in handling big sporting events.
Frank Gotch, champion of America; Fred Beell, lightweight champion; Dr. B.F. Roller, the famous Seattle heavyweight; Leo Pardello, Italian champion; Martin Burns, better known as "Farmer" Burns; Hjalmar Lundin, champion of Sweden; William Demetral, the Greek demon; Tom Winklehoffer, the Austrian Hercules; Jess Westergaard, the Great Dane; Wakita, the powerful Japanese; Carl Pons, champion of France; Oscar Wassem, Charles Olson and Charles Hackenschmidt will all be entered in this great tournament. Entries will close February 1.
The winners will be given the international championship titles in all the different clases. Most of the wrestlers entered so far are heavywweights. The men will be paired off and the finals reached by the usual elimination process.
ROLLER WINS STRAIGHT FALLS FROM ‘FARMER’
(Tacoma Daily News, Friday, January 24, 1908)
By Biddy Bishop
SEATTLE – Before a packed house, many in the audience being ladies, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller, physician and wrestler, last night defeated Martin "Farmer" Burns of Iowa in a catch-as-catch-can wrestling contest in the Grand Opera House by winning two straight falls, the first in 55 minutes and 15 seconds and the second in 25 minutes and 20 seconds.
Roller secured his first fall with a crotch and toe hold and a half nelson to turn his opponent on his back. The second fall was by the aid of a chancery hold, which brought forth a clever bridge from Burns which he maintained for perhaps 30 seconds or more.
The match from start to finish was a clever exhibition of strength and mat craft by both. Burns is indeed a remarkable man for his years and there are few heavyweight wrestlers at the game today who have any license to do business with him. He is strong and aggressive and holds his condition with increasing years in a most surprising manner. In every department of his make-up he appeared as young a man as Dr. Roller with the exception of the face.
Dr. Roller never wrestled better in his life than he did last night. He employed everything in his vast repertoire to down his seasoned opponent and it was necessary for him to do so. At times Roller would become irritated at his frequent unsuccessful efforts and he would put on a burst of speed that excited the audience and forced the Farmer to extend himself all the more. There was no time when the contest lagged and when referee Oscar Marbett awarded the match to Roller at the conclusion of the last fall the majority of the big crowd was pleased with the result.
Following is a detailed account of the match as it progressed during the one hour and 20 minutes and 35 seconds the men were on the mat:
At the very commencement of hostilities Roller tried for the famous Gotch toe hold, which he secured and which Burns broke. Burns got a nasty toe hold himself and Roller broke it and the same thing was repeated a moment later. Farmer then tried for a full nelson, which he secured but in his attempt to throw Roller over the doctor broke it. Burns on the roll over took a leg hold and it looked bad for Roller, but with a clever turn he disentangled himself from the Farmer’s grasp amid the shouts of the spectators.
At this point the work became heated and Roller jumped into the mix-up vigorously. He secured a nasty chancery hold on the Farmer’s body, but the veteran wiggled out of it and the men assumed their regular standing positions again. In going down on the canvas Roller worked Burns around to where he could get another toe hold. After getting it in position he started the turning over process, but the clever Burns, with great effort, straightened out his leg and with his other foot he forced Roller’s hand away and he was again free from the dangerous grip. "This trick was one of the cleverest of the match, but few of the spectators saw just how it was done.
No sooner had Burns freed himself than Roller was on top of him again. He was fighting mad and by aggressive tactics he secured a body hold on the Farmer and then took hold of his legs and raised them up. Burns did a head spin and then Roller took the toe hold again and Burns, by some unaccountable movement, raised his feet in the air and spun around on his head the second time, getting out of danger and bringing forth prolonged cheering from the crowd.
Upon resuming hostilities Roller made up his mind to dig in. Burns, too, assumed the aggressive and both men in a fast mix-up went to the mat, where Roller took a double nelson. Burns raised himself up and made a dash for his opponent and both went headlong into the crowd at the edge of the mat. Burns again broke the toe hold in a most surprising manner. This same trick was repeated four times. The fifth time Roller secured the crotch and toe hold it was impossible for Burns to get away with it. Roller then shifted his crotch hold to a half nelson when Burns was half over on his back and put both shoulders to the canvas, winning the first fall in 55 minutes and 15 seconds.
After an intermission of 12 minutes the men were at it again. Burns, anxious to even up matters, assumed the aggressive and soon had Roller underneath. Burns secured a full nelson and in the break both men tumbled into the crowd. Burns broke a bad chancery leg hold and then Roller got the toe hold again and aided by the crotch hold it looked bad for Burns, but he cleverly wiggled out of it.
After both had squared off again they went down and the doctor got his toe hold again. In a most clever manner Burns again broke it and this brought forth cheers from the audience. Both were aggressive and the work was getting to a point where the spectators were growing excited. After working up and down for several minutes, both getting in and out of bad places by fast and clever work. Roller finally got a chancery hold on Burns and when he was going over he hit the mat on his back. At this time Roller was at his waist, but he no sooner struck the mat than the doctor had nimbly jumped around to Burns’ head, where he held him from turning over. Burns bridged immediately to save himself from a fall and then came the task of getting his two shoulders to the mat.
It was almost a cinch now that Roller would get the fall for there was no way on earth for Burns to get out of his bad position. Roller had him pinned and it was only a question of how long Burns could hold up under the strain of his clever bridge.
For 28 seconds the Farmer held up, but the weight and strength of the Seattle physician was too much for him and his shoulders were gradually forced to the mat and referee Marbett slapped Roller on the shoulder in token of a fall. This fall consumed 25 minutes and 20 seconds.
Burns stated after the contest: "I have met the best man I ever wrestled, excepting Gotch. I was defeated fairly."
Roller said he had a hard bout but was pleased with his victory. He said he owed much of his success to his trainer, Joe Carroll.
GOTCH WINS BY THE TOE HOLD
(Associated Press, January 25, 1908)
UTICA, N.Y. – Frank Gotch, the American wrestling champion, won his match with Albert Solomon lastnight by taking the first two falls. Solomon made a determined fight to stay with the champion, but Gotch’s famous toe hold was too much for him.
Gotch today received a telegram from Dr. B.F. Roller of Seattle, challenging him to a catch-as-catch-can wrestling match, to take place in Seattle. Gotch stated he would consider the challenge.
WRESTLING FOR A SMALL PURSE
(Associated Press, Saturday, Feb. 15, 1908)
SAN FRANCISCO – Leopold McLaglen, who wrestled two Japanese last night at Sacramento, has been matched with Henry de Raymond, a jiu-jitsu expert, to wrestle at the Dreamland Rink next Thursday night. Raymond has just returned from Japan. He stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 350 pounds. The men are wrestling for a purse of $150. Eddie Hanlon is to referee the bout.
HEAVYWEIGHT WRESTLER SECURES MANAGER
(Tacoma Daily News, February 21, 1908)
NORTH YAKIMA, Wash. – Lou Buchholtz, heavyweight champion wrestler of Washington, has received an offer from a prominent sporting man of Tacoma to manage him in a series of matches on the mat. Buchholtz says he will accept the offer and immediately start to condition himself for a busy season.
The local wrestler has met Frank Gotch and
"Farmer" Burns on the mat, and his showing in each instance was such
that he is rated among the topliners. He is anxious to meet either Dr. Roller of
Seattle, or Victor "Sharkey" McLaglen of Tacoma.
Tacoma WA: November ??, 1907
(Savoy) … Dr. B.F. Roller beat Victor McLaglen (2-0)
HACKENSCHMIDT QUIT TO GOTCH
(Associated Press, April 4, 1908)
CHICAGO – George Hackenschmidt, the famous "Russian Lion," generally regarded as the greatest wrestler of his time, and heralded as the world’s champion, quit cold-blooded in his match with Frank Gotch last night at Dexter Pavilion before 8,000 spectators after wrestling tugging with the sturdy Iowa man for two solid hours.
Hackenschmidt saw that he had no chance to win and concluded that he had had enough and with the announcement: "I’ll give you the match," he withdrew from the struggle and the spectators were dumbfounded. It was some time after referee Ed Smith announced to the crowd that Hackenschmidt had surrendered his laurels to the American before they realized what had happened.
In a moment the stage was crowded with eager admirers to greet the new champion and Gotch was almost mobbed by a friendly and joyous throng. It required the efforts of a big squad of police to drive the crowd back and when Gotch was finally rescued he was found to be more badly used up than he had been in the affair with Hackenschmidt.
The match showed conclusively that Frank Gotch is one of the greatest defensive wrestlers in the business. He discouraged the foreigner in trying to put him on his back and when Hack had lost heart he turned and assumed the aggressive and by severe rough tactics took the very heart out of the "Russian Lion," after which it was an easy matter to bring about the surrender of Hackenschmidt, who gave up his title in a manner that will always be referred to as the most disgraceful way an athlete can lose.
For one hour and forty-five minutes the wrestlers were at it, with Gotch on the defensive. All during this time Hackenschmidt did not appear to have the least chance to throw his gritty opponent. At times Gotch would get a hustle on himself and this would throw the visitor off his guard and quiet his efforts to some degree, giving a short respite during which he took the full advantage of the opportunity to rest. While all this was tiresome to the audience, it was the course gotch believed would be to his final advantage, and in this his plans proved the proper thing.
After the slow defensive work of Gotch, which lasted 106 minutes, the American took the aggressive and by vicious work of the roughest kind, which included butting, heeling and other stunts, commonly referred to as "dirty" but which are permitted in wrestling bouts, he worried his opponent badly and Hackenschmidt was up in the air and did not know how to attack his opponent. Soon the men came close together and with apparent ease Gotch picked Hackenschmidt up and threw him bodily to the canvas. He was on top of Hack in a moment and came within an ace of turning him over. Gotch again slammed the visitor to the floor with terrific force, and the fall took all the heart out of the Lion. It could be seen that he was ready to quit by those who sat close to the mat.
When the wrestlers were on the mat a moment later Hackenschmidt withdrew from the struggle and stated to Gotch that he would tender himt he match. When asked for an explanation, Hackenschmidt refused to talk. It was suggested to him that he could have forfeited the first fall to Gotch and come back for the second, but to this he gave no answer. It was plain he had enough and was satisified to let the matter drop.
After the men had shaken hands, time was called, at 10:28 p.m.
Hackenschmidt crouched and they sparred with Gotch circling around. This jockeying continued three minutes, then Hackenschmidt clinched, but they broke again. Gotch seemed nervous, but the champion was cool. After ten minutes of tugging Gotch started to rough it and Hackenschmidt kept his temper with difficulty.
Hackenschmidt finally tried for a body grip, but could not reach Gotch. The Russian complained to referee Smith of Gotch’s butting. He missed a leg hold next. Half an hour of sparring failed to satisfy the crowd.
Gotch’s defense work puzzled Hackenschmidt completley. After an hour and three-quarters of fruitless attempts to get a hold he straightened up and looked at his opponent with disgust written in every feature.
"Come on, wrestle," said Gotch.
The crowd cheered the American. At 12:15 o’clock Hackenschmidt asked the referee to call it a draw, but referee Smith told the men to continue. They wrestled all over the ring and then went down, Gotch on top. Hackenschmidt slipped from a toe hold.
Fifteen minutes more of the tiresome work followed. Then Hackenschmidt suddenly attacked with fury. But Gotch wriggled away and the shoulder-to-shoulder tactics began again.
Then Gotch became aggressive again and, after throwing the Russian Lion to the mat, secured a toe hold, which Hackenschmidt broke with difficulty. Gotch came right back and again slammed his opponent to the mat. It was then that Hackenschmidt got up and deliberately forfeited the match.
Wild enthusiasm reigned in the big pavilion when
Gotch was acclaimed the world’s champion.
COMMENTS OF LATE SPORTING EVENTS
(Tacoma Daily News, Saturday, Apr. 4, 1908)
By Biddy Bishop
The result of the big wrestling match last night
came as a gentle surprise to nine-tenths of the sporting public. There were few
who thought Frank Gotch had a chance to throw Hackenschmidt and the betting in
the East showed plainly that the people in that section, where the men had
prepared, were of the same frame of mind. Odds of 1 to 2 went begging on the
foreigner and there was a lot of money wagered that Gotch would not get even the
semblance of a fall. That the "Russian Lion" is not invincible was
clearly proven last night and the American is entitled to all the glroy and coin
he earned from his splendid victory. The contest showed more than one thing. It
brought out the fact that George Hackenschmidt is not a thoroughly game
wrestler. Gotch’s rough tactics and continued aggressiveness took the ginger
out of the visitor and he lost heart. Frank Gotch will earn a good-sized fortune
as the result of his victory. It is reported that 8,000 persons saw the match
last night and as the prices ranged from $3 to $25 it is estimated the gate
receipts amounted to something like $60,000.
ROLLER THROWS THE GIANT SWEDE
(Tacoma Daily News, Tuesday, Apr. 7, 1908)
SEATTLE – Dr. B.F. Roller of this city last night defeated Ole Donnelson, the giant Swede, in two straight falls, before a large crowd at the Seattle Theater. Roller took the first fall with a chancery hold in 23 minutes and 15 seconds, and the second in 20 minutes and 50 seconds. The last fall was secured with a chancery and bar hold, which was effected by the toe hold, which Roller appears to have mastered to the queen’s taste.
The match was not productive of a great deal of science because of the Swede’s aggressive tactics. Roller was required to keep on the hop continually, but it was only necessary for him to watch the attempts of his opponent and guard against him securing anything that might later develop into a dangerous hold. Donnelson displayed wonderful strength and at times he made Roller extend himself.
Once when the wrestlers were mixing it up in lively fashion the Swede almost flopped Roller on his shoulders, but the physician-wrestler was too quick for the big fellow and he wiggled out of danger in a surprisingly fast manner.
Donnelson’s strength made him a dangerous
opponent at all times and there was much necessity for the local man to keep his
wits with him. The result proved conclusively that it will require a champion of
the Frank Gotch type to throw Dr. Roller.
HACKENSCHMIDT SAILS FOR DEAR OLD LONDON
(Associated Press, April 8, 1908)
NEW YORK – Sore in mind and body, George Hackenschmidt, the "Russian Lion" and former world’s champion wrestler, is on the ocean bound for England. Hackenschmidt did not wish to discuss his recent match in Chicago with Frank Gotch, but before he sailed he said:
"I believe I have not had a square deal. The referee when I met Frank Gotch in Chicago did not seem to see the way in which Gotch was wrestling. I had no one behind me to look after my interests.
"You can see for yourself," said the Lion, turning the left side of his face and eye badly disfigured.
"That comes from scratching and should not
be allowed in a wrestling match. Gotch kept digging his thumb into my eyes.
Gotch was washed down with oil before the bout and I could not get a hold on
him. If everything had been fair I am sure I would have won."
WOULD WRESTLE LOCAL BALL TEAMS
(Tacoma Daily News, Monday, Apr. 13, 1908)
Before he left for Portland last night Victor McLaglen issued what is probably the most unique challenge ever made public in this city.
The big wrestler-boxer authorizes the News to say for him that he challenges the Whitworth football team to a wrestling match. In short, McLaglen wants to arrange a handicap wrestling match with the football eleven which played such a clever game under Coach Rueber last season, and Vic says he will take on the entire team, agreeing to throw the eleven within one hour of actual wrestling time.
Nor does McLaglen confine his challenge to the Whitworth team. He also challenges the Tacoma Tigers baseball squad to a similar match, and says he will agree to flop the entire number of men on Mike Lynch’s payroll within an hour.
The conditions of the challenge are that should any member of whichever team he is to wrestle secure a fall McLaglen will lose. Should it take him more than one hour to throw the lot, one after another, McLaglen will lose. The challenge calls for catch-as-catch-can wrestling.
"I mean every word of what I have said," remarked Vic, "and to show you that I am in earnest I will say that I have communicated with the Whitworth boys, and have also sent word to Mike Lynch, and if they will accept my proposition I will arrange the details with them as soon as I return from Portland."
McLaglen arrived in Portland this morning to meet Dr. Roller on the mat at the Heilig Theater Wednesday night. The Tacoma man made a good impression with the local sports and showed that he was in fine shape when he stripped at Tommy Tracey’s gymnasium for his afternoon’s work-out.
He had a friendly spar with Tracey and did other exercise that will keep him on edge until he steps on the padded mat with the Seattle physician. Roller is expected to arrive tonight. He will be accompanied by a party of sports from Seattle.
Betting on the match favors Roller at odds of 10 to 8. Several bets of even money have been made that McLaglen will secure at least one fall. It is generally believed that Roller’s chances for winning are the better, but McLaglen can be depended upon to give him a hard tussle of it while they are on the match.
McLaglen has issued a challenge to
"Strangler" Smith, the local wrestler. He says he will permit Smith to
use his famous strangle hold. Smith is the wrestler who Dr. Roller has
persistently refused to meet.
ROLLER AGAIN WINS FROM WESTERGAARD
(Tacoma Daily News, April 28, 1908)
SEATTLE – Dr. B.F. Roller defeated Jess Westergaard for the second time last night, winning two straight falls from him at the Dreamland skating rink.
Roller took the first fall with a crotch and half Nelson in 36 minutes and 20 seconds, and the second in exactly 20 minutes, with a chancery and bar hold and a leg scissors hold. Both falls were secured after a most stubborn battle, which excited the crowd and brought forth repeated applause.
Harry Bloraham refereed the contest, while Will H. Morris, the well-known attorney, acted as master of ceremonies, his portion of the work being to introduce the principals to the audience.
Roller says he is now prepared for the contest with Fred Beell, the Wisconsin wonder, after which, if he is successful, he will ask for a match with Frank Gotch for the wrestling championship of the world.
Roller declares that Beell is the best man in the
business with the exception of Gotch. Since Beell has thrown Gotch, it would
seem that Roller has a stiff job cut out for him in meeting the Wisconsin
QUITS THE MAT FOR THE RING
(Tacoma Daily News, Friday, Apr. 17, 1908)
By Biddy Bishop
Victor McLaglen returned to Tacoma yesterday afternoon looking none the worse for his wrestling match with Dr. Roller in Portland Wednesday night. The big fellow was discouraged at not winning, but he was satisfied that he had been thrown by a man who is not far from the championship, and there was some consolation in this.
"I will wrestle no more," said Vic last night to the writer. "When I made the match with Roller I was sincere in thinking that I had acquired a sufficient knowledge of the catch-as-catch-can game to wipe out the defeat from him in this city, but in this I was mistaken. From now on I will devote all of my attention to boxing. The impression that I believe I think myself a great fighter is wrong. I know I have lots to learn at the fighting game. No man can become a champion in a few short months, but I am only 21 years old and am willing to learn."
Will MacRae, the sporting critic on the Portland Oregonian, said the match between Roller and McLaglen was fast and well worth looking at, but that a little over ten minutes of action was hardly enough to satisfy the crowd.
McLaglen stated this morning that since he had
challenged the Whitworth college football team to a handicap wrestling match he
would fulfill this agreement, providing Coach Reuber decided to accept the
match, but that this would positively be his last encounter on the padded floor.
HACKENSCHMIDT WRESTLES TONIGHT
(Associated Press, April 20, 1908)
LONDON, Eng. – The wrestling match between
George Hackenschmidt, the Russian Lion, and Zovsco, is scheduled to take place
tonight. Hackenschmidt is as popular as ever in England and his defeat by Frank
Gotch in America has in no way lessened him in the opinion of Englishmen. They
still maintain he is the American’s master.
JENKINS CHALLENGES GOTCH
(Associated Press, April 22, 1908)
NEW YORK – Tom Jenkins, at one time wrestling
champion of America, has issued a challenge to wrestle Frank Gotch again for the
title. Jenkins was at one time wrestling instructor at the military academy at
AUSTRALIAN WRESTLER CHALLENGES ROLLER
(Associated Press, May 2, 1908)
WICHITA, Kan. – Charles Delivuk, the Australian wrestler, has deposited in the American State Savings Bank of this city $1,000 as a forfeit and has issued a challenge to wrestle Dr. B.F. Roller of Seattle.
Delivuk is thought to be one of the best wrestlers of his weight in America today, although he has not been given full credit for what he has done, this, because he has not the necessary weight to class him with the big fellows.
Delivuk will scale in the neighborhood of 175 pounds. He has wrestled all over the Puget Sound country, and is well known in the state of Washington. Delivuk has a brother in Quincy, Wash., who has bacfked him in all of his matches in the west.
He claims the wrestling championship of Canada
WAWLI END ALL No. 003
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving the included information for research and educational
THIS WRESTLER WEIGHS OVER 400 POUNDS
(Associated Press, May 6, 1908)
SAN FRANCISCO – John Middlesky, an Indian athlete who was born in Mexico, but who for the past nine years has made Arizona his home, has arrived in this city, accompanied by his manager, H.F. Taylor.
Middlesky is 31 years of age and weighs now 430 pounds, but his proper wrestling weight is 400 flat. He stands six feet nine inches high and the following measurements give an idea of the size of the big fellow: chest, 62; neck, 25; biceps, 22; waist, 53; thigh, 33; calf, 26.
The Indian is something of a newcomer in the
wrestling field, but he may be able to go some if size counts for anything. He
has issued a challenge to wrestle any man in the world.
GOTCH TO WRESTLE ZYBSZKO
(Associated Press, May 11, 1908)
NEW YORK – Frank Gotch has signed articles to
wrestle Zbyszko, the Polish champion, at Olympic Hall, London, on June 10. Gotch
will sail for England next week.
JENKINS TO WRESTLE CAZEAUX
(Associated Press, Monday, May 11, 1908)
NEW YORK – Tom Jenkins and Cazeaux, the French
wrestler, will meet in a mixed match at Madison Square Garden Monday night. The
men will wrestle Graeco-Roman and catch-as-catch-can in the first two bouts and
the one winning the fall in the fastest time will have the choice of naming the
style for the third.
Seattle WA: May 21, 1908
(Dreamland Rink, att. 2,000) … Dr. B.F. Roller beat Fred Beell (2-0)
Olympia WA: May 29, 1908
(Mallory Hall) … Lew Buchholtz beat H.E. Rickers (2-0)
ROLLER WILL WRESTLE A SAILOR
(Tacoma Daily News, Friday, June 12, 1908)
SEATTLE – Dr. B.F. Roller, the local wrestler,
will appear at the athletic entertainment to be given by the Press Club at the
Dreamland Rink Monday night. Roller’s opponent will probably be Ben
Charlesworth, of the battleship Georgia, now at Bremerton. Roller will agree to
throw the sailor in 15 minutes or forfeit $100.
CURLEY’S PLANS UPSET
(Associated Press, June 15, 1908)
Jack Curley, of Chicago, recently offered Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns a purse of $35,000 to box for at Goldfield, Nev. Burns’ American representative, Billy Neail, cabled Tommy and the heavyweight champion sent the following reply to Neail at Oakland:
"Have signed to fight in Australia on August 18. Leave here on July 3 on steamer Mongolia. Get Johnson for November or later if price is right. First come first served."
It was the intention of Curley to hold the
contest at Goldfield on Labor Day, September 7. Burns’ match in Australia will
upset Curley’s plans. Tommy stated in a recent letter to Neail that he had
signed to box Bill Squires at Paris June 13. Burns left London for the gay city
BOOK ON WRESTLING
(Tacoma Daily News, June 19, 1908)
There has just been issued from the press of
Richard K. Fox one of the most valuable and comprehensive treatises on wrestling
ever published. World’s champion wrestler Frank Gotch has written a book about
the art, which contains everything that is of interest to enthusiasts. A special
chapter is devoted to training and another to the career of the conqueror of
Hackenschmidt. It contains 50 illustrations, showing all his principal holds,
including the famous toe hold.
GOTCH ARRIVES AT SEATTLE
(Tacoma Daily News, June 19, 1908)
SEATTLE – Frank Gotch, champion wrestler of the world, arrived in this city yesterday to prepare for his match with Dr. B.F. Roller. The contest will take place July 1. Gotch said he would be glad to arrange a wrestling match to take place in Tacoma after he had finished with Roller.
Tacoma WA: June 19, 1908
(Savoy) … Frank Riley beat Fred Smith (2-0) … Referee: N.D. Moser
MANY WILL BET ON DR. ROLLER
(Tacoma Daily News, Wednesday, June 24, 1908)
SEATTLE – The championship wrestling match between Frank Gotch, champion of the world, and Dr. B.F. Roller, the western champion, is exciting an unusual amount of interest among lovers of professional sports, and it is doubted that the Dreamland Rink will be large enough to accommodate the large crowd that will be clamoring for tickets.
The match takes place on week from tonight and will be a straight contest without handicaps, as in the last meeting between the two in which Gotch attempted to throw Roller in one hour and failed. The coming match will be according to catch-as-catch-can style, and the best two in three falls will determine the winner.
There has been a good deal of betting so far on the result, in most instances Gotch being held a slight favorite, but there is so much Roller money in sight that it is thought the price will be even money, and take your pick when the men are ready to go on the mat.
By way of diversion from the usual routine of training, Roller went up to Everett the other evening to referee a wrestling match. He was given a great ovation when he was introduced to the audience.
Joe Carroll, who is preparing Roller for the big match, is confident his protégé will win. Gotch is saying little as to the probably outcome, but he is leaving no stone unturned to get himself in the proper fix, which is evident that he anticipates a hard tussle.
The men are to wrestle for a side bet of $500 and the gate receipts, which will be divided 60 per cent to the winner and 40 to the loser.
Both men will weight in the neighborhood of 200 pounds when they shake hands on the pad at 8:30 o’clock Wednesday, July 1. Besides being almost equal in the matter of weight, the men compare evenly in measurements, scarcely a fraction of an inch in each department of their physical makeup being shown by the tape line. Both are 31 years of age, Gotch being eight months the younger. Roller will be 32 years of age on the day he is to tackle Gotch for the championship.
Both are of German parentage and both hail from
the central states, Gotch from Iowa and Roller from Illinois. They were born
about 200 miles apart and both were farmer boys. Neither uses tobacco nor drink
in any form, and each has an extreme fondness for his mother, which has done a
lot toward making both unusually popular. Gotch immediately went home to his
mother at Humboldt, Ia., after having thrown George Hackenschmidt, and Dr.
Roller hurried to Newman, Ind., to see his mother, who was sick, soon after he
threw Beell at Seattle last month.
COWBOY BOB ELLIS, JOHNNY VALENTINE WIN MAINS
(St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 22, 1961)
Bob Ellis pinned Wladek (Killer) Kowalski and Johnny Valentine pinned Sonny Myers in a pair of main event matches on the St. Louis Wrestling Clubs program at Kiel Auditorium Friday night. There were 6275 fans present.
Ellis booted Kowalski out of the ring five successive times with his kangaroo kick. On the "Killers" fifth trip through the ropes his legs became entangled in the ropes and he hung there as referee Babe Martin counted him out. The Time was four minutes 34 seconds.
Valentine was able to work out of Myers sleeper hold on three straight occasions. When Myers jumped on Valentine back for a fourth try at the hold, Johnny raced for the ring corner bent over and sent Myers sailing head first into the ring buckle. Myers fell to the mat and Valentine pinned him in 24 minutes 29 seconds.
Other matches - John Paul Henning defeated Buddy Austin with a bow and arrow hold in 7:41.
Guy LaRose & Ray Gordon won on a disqualification from Nikita & Ivan Kalmikoff for throwing their opponents out of the ring after winning the match (referee Babe Martin reversed the decision).
Rip Hawk pinned Bobby Graham in 13:21.
Roy McClarity and Taro Myaki went to a draw in
Toronto ON: August 5, 1965
(Maple Leaf Stadium) … Whipper Billy Watson beat Gene Kiniski (11:24, dq) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … (Midgets) Pancho Lopez and Sonny Boy Cassidy beat Fuzzy Cupid and Irish jackie … Johnny Powers beat Andy Robin … Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins and The Beast beat Paul DeMarco and Jerry London … Bob Leipler beat Apache Pete Mingo
Toronto ON: August 12, 1965
(MLG) … Whipper Billy Watson and Sweet Daddy Siki beat Johnny Powers and The Beast (14:48) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins beat Jerry London … Sailor Art Thomas beat Bob Leipler … Tony Marino beat Joe Christie … Andy Robin beat Mike Valentino
Toronto ON: August 19, 1965
(MLG, att. 3,001) … Whipper Billy Watson and Johnny Valentine beat Gene Kiniski and Waldo Von Erich (14:14) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins beat Andy Robin … Sailor Art Thomas beat Stamford Murphy … The Beast beat Jerry London … Tony Marino beat Joe Christie … Bob Leipler drew Tony Manous
Toronto ON: August 26, 1965
(MLG, att. 2,751) … Gene Kiniski and Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins beat Whipper Billy Watson and Johnny Valentine (15:49) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … The Beast beat George Ringo … Andy Robin beat Mike Valentino … Sailor Art Thomas beat Alexander the Great … Tony Marino beat Apache Pete Mingo … Tony Manous drew Stamford Murphy
Toronto ON: September 2, 1965
(MLG, att. 2,965) … Whipper Billy Watson beat Gene Kiniski (15:21, dq) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins beat Sailor Art Thomas … Tony Marino beat Apache Pete Mingo … Andy Robin beat Stamford Murphy … Paul DeMarco drew Bob Leipler … Pat Flanagan beat Alexander the Great (dec)
Toronto ON: September 9, 1965
(MLG, att. 2,501) … Whipper Billy Watson beat Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins (18:41, dq) … Referee: Tiger Tasker …Johnny Powers beat Andy Robin … Tony Marino beat Stamford Murphy … Jerry London drew Bob Leipler … Paul DeMarco beat Joe Christie … Fred Atkins beat John Foti
Toronto ON: September 16, 1965
(MLG, att. 3,500) … (WTM) Lou Thesz* beat Johnny Valentine 21:35 … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Johnny Powers beat Paul DeMarco … Sweet Daddy Siki beat Bob Leipler … The Beast and Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins drew Andy Robin and Jerry London … Tiger Jeet Singh beat Stamford Murphy … Hans Schmidt drew Tony Marino
Toronto ON: September 23, 1965
(MLG, att. 4,004) … Whipper Billy Watson drew Gene Kiniski (30:22, curfew) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Bobo Brazil beat Mike Valentino … Tiger Jeet Singh w/Fred Atkins beat Andy Robin … Hans Schmidt drew Sweet Daddy Siki … George Kanelis beat Firpo Zbyszko … Tony Marino beat Bob Leipler (dec)
Toronto ON: September 26, 1965
(MLG, att. 4,999) … (WHC) Bruno Sammartino* beat Johnny Powers (dq, 16:18) … Referee: Tiger Tasker … Sailor Art Thomas and Sweet Daddy Siki beat Hans Schmidt and Bob Leipler … Professor Hiro w/Fred Atkins beat Paul DeMarco … The Beast beat Jerry London … Tiger Jeet Singh beat Pat Flanagan … George Kanelis beat Alexander the Great
KINISKI, HIRO WIN OVER JOHNNY, WHIP
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, Friday, August 27, 1965)
By Steve York
Gene Kiniski and Professor Mye Hiro defeated Whipper Watson and Johnny Valentine in the tag-team wrestling feature last night at Maple Leaf Gardens. Kiniski pinned Watson at 15:49 of the one-fall match after he and Hiro had highly agitated the crowd of 2,751.
Given those facts, what kind of snappy opening should you start with?
Should you begin by remarking that the old saying cheaters never prosper was disproved? Because it was.
Watson had his unconscious hold on Hiro near the bad guys’ corner but not close enough for Kiniski to tag the Professor, who appeared to be sinking rapidly.
Since something had to be done in a hurry, the unorthodox Kiniski did it. He climbed to the top rope and jumped on Watson, an illegal move as the partner outside the ring is not supposed to aid the partner inside.
Kiniski’s jump knocked whipper off Hiro and to the mat. Hiro had fallen also and rolled to the ropes, one hand coming up high enough for Kiniski, who had immediately left the ring after his leap, to tag it. Gene fell on top of Watson who was on his back unmoving and referee Tiger Tasker’s victory count was a formality.
Where was Valentine? Held out of the ring by Takser’s officiating associated, Joe Gollub.
Or should you get under way by saying Kiniski obeyed the square-dance injunction to change partners with successful results? Because he did.
Last Thursday, Kiniski was teamed with Johnny Powers and lost to Watson and Valentine.
Both sides in last night’s clash had one member much the worse for wear. Fred Atkins, Hiro’s interpreter and confidant, helped Kiniski to get Hiro to the dressing room. They dumped him over the bottom rope as if he were a side of beef before yanking him to his feet.
Watson lay on the mat motionless after the decision, oblivious to Valentine’s protests to the officials and his attempts to get at Kiniski. He also didn’t notice the fans, including three girls, who entered the ring to gaze at their stricken hero. Finally Andy Robin and Valentine revived the Whip, who spurned a lift to the dressing room on a stretcher. When he got to his feet the lingering customers gave a big cheer and another as he started to the runway supported by Robin and Valentine.
THESZ RETAINS CROWN, SUBJECTING VALENTINE TO BIG DROP
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, September 17, 1965)
By Steve York
Crafty and snarly as ever, Lou Thesz defeated Johnny Valentine in the main wrestling match last night at Maple Leaf Gardens. By winning, evergreen Lou retained the National Wrestling Alliance world heavyweight championship.
Thesz beat Valentine with his recently acquired Greco-Roman backdrop at 21:35 of the one-fall title match. By winning, Thesz grievously disappointed the crowd of 3,500 and Valentine’s No. 1 fan who has lately taken to recording his moves by camera.
Valentine is everybody’s friend these days and every fan wants him to win every time out.
Thesz may be old but, when he wants to be, he can be as fast as any young challenger. That’s the way Lou won against Valentine.
Johnny had applied an abdominal stretch. While undergoing considerable discomfort, Thesz worked his way to the ropes so that referee Tigeer Tasker would order Valentine to release his hold.
As Valentine began to untangle himself from Thesz he relaxed slightly. That was all Thesz needed. Before you could say Lou Thesz he had an armlock on Valentine and had flopped him on his back in an eyeblinking move. Valentine landed so heavily he couldn’t regain his senses before Tasker had banged out the victory count on the mat.
As usual Thesz tried to tell Tasker how the match should be runa nd at the beginning shooed off Valentine as if he considered him not worthy to be in the ring with him.
Fred Atkins is becoming a linguist. Whenever he appears with Professor Mye Hiro, announcer Gerry Hiff introduces Atkins as his interpreter and confidant. Last night Atkins appeared with a newcomer, Jeet Singh of India, and Hiff told the fans he was Singh’s interpreter. You might call Atkins polyglot except that if you did he might pop you on the nose, Fierce Fred taking umbrage easily.
Oh, yes, Singh won, beating monocled Stamford Murphy with a cobra hold in 4:12.
Tasker continued his trend to color in referees’ costumes. This time Tiger wore a white T-shirt and aquamarine slacks that showed very bright under the ring lights.
WHIPPER RETAINS EMPIRE TITLE AS CURFEW ENDS KINISKI BOUT
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, Friday, September 24, 1965)
By Steve York
They call it all-in wrestling in Britain and a look at the ending of the main bout at Maple Leaf Gardens last night showed why. There was Gene Kiniski …
What? The result? Oh, that was a draw between Whipper Watson and Kiniski. The 11 o’clock curfew halted the one-fall match for the British Empire heavyweight championship at 30:32 and referee Tiger Tasker ruled the outcome a draw. That meant Watson retained the title.
Many in the crowd of 4,004 would have liked the match to continue. They had an idea Whipper could have won. And from the look of challenger Kiniski they may have had the right thought.
There he was flat on his back, chest heaving as if he were fighting for breath. His arms lay limply on the canvas. Every once in a while he would shudder like a fish does sometimes when it has finished flopping around after being landed. Kiniski was all in for sure.
Watson had been near the same condition minutes before. Kiniski had caught him with a judo chop as he came off the ropes and made Whip wilt with a series of judo chops and karate blows to the throat.
Did the Whip give in? Never. He caught Kiniski with a hip throw, flinging him to the mat. When Kiniski started to rise Watson applied his commando hold and had him in increasing trouble with variations of the hold. And the situation from two minutes before the curfew bell was Watson slowly but surely wearing down Kiniski with the hold but not being able to beat the time limit.
Promoter Frank Tunney is going to try holding shows on Sundays again with the first one this Sunday. Main attraction will be Bruno Sammartino against Johnny Powers.
Bobo Brazil returned after several years’ absence and won the semi-final from Mike Valentino at 25:45 of the scheduled 30-minute bout. Brazil, who introduced the koko bonk to Toronto fans, used only one and that clinched matters. Valentino dropped abruptly to the mat and offered no resistance to Bobo’s top spread.
The best bout, actually, was the 20-minute draw between Hans Schmidt and Sweet Daddy Siki. It was a thing of beauty with every movement, every expression counting. Nothing was wasted. It was as if they were under the guidance of a skilled movie director. Siki provided the cleverness, agility and hero elements and Schmidt the brutishness and heavyhandedness. His depicting of distress, outrage and futility was delightful.
TESTY TASKER AWARDS BOUT TO SAMMARTINO
(Globe & Mail, Toronto ON, Monday, September 27, 1965)
Wrestler Johnny Powers caught referee Tiger Tasker in one of his no-trifling moods last night at Maple Leaf Gardens. The result was Powers was disqualified in the main bout with Bruno Sammartino at 16:18. Tasker awarded the one-fall match to Sammartino, a mighty pleasing decision to the crowd of 4,999.
Powers aimed an elbow smash at Sammartino but he ducked and Tasker took the blow in the face. Instead of warning Powers as he usually does an offender in such a circumstance, Tasker stopped the bout pronto and ruled in Bruno’s favor.
Powers tried his favorite finishing hold, the Powerlock, four times shortly before being disqualified, but Sammartino broke it each time by ramming a big fist into Johnny’s face.
Sammartino limited himself to one bearhug, his usual finishing move. It came early and Powers got out of it with an elbow smash that hit Sammartino that time and not Tasker.
Tasker might have been a bit touchy because of another Tiger on the card. This was Tiger Jeet singh who took 50 seconds to dispose of Pat Flanagan with a cobra hold in the second match.
There will be another show next Sunday with the first match at 7:30. Promoter Frank Tunney hopes to have Gene Kiniski and Whipper Watson among the personalities on the card.
WRESTLING LEGEND LOU THESZ DIES AFTER HEART OPERATION
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 29, 2002)
By Keith Schildroth
Lou Thesz, considered by many professional
wrestling experts as the last true pure wrestler and perhaps the greatest
wrestler ever, died at his home in Winter Garden, Fla., on Sunday (April 29,
2002) from complications of open-heart surgery.
Thesz, a native St. Louisan, was 86. Funeral services are pending.
Born Aloysius Martin Lou Thesz on April 24, 1916, he was raised in St. Louis near Cleveland High. His father, Martin Thesz, was a middleweight amateur wrestling champion in Hungary.
Martin Thesz trained his son early in life, and Lou Thesz took up the sport seriously at 14. Despite his youth, Thesz was an immediate success. Working with trainers George Tragos and Ad Santel, Thesz increased his knowledge and skill and turned pro at 16, working his first match in East St. Louis.
Thesz took his career to the top when he started a long relationship with former champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis near the end of Lewis' career. With an impressive background, Thesz became the top "hooker" in wrestling. Hooks are painful, potentially crippling moves that date back to the origins of pro wrestling, and only a few wrestlers have the skill and knowledge to use them.
He won his first title, at 21, in 1937 when he defeated Everett Marshall here for the Midwest Wrestling Association world crown. Thesz later captured the American Wrestling Association world title in 1938 and the National Wrestling Association world title in 1938.
"He had it all," said eight-time world champion Harley Race. "He was one of the greatest if not the greatest in professional wrestling. He could do so many things inside the ring and he always was in perfect condition."
Thesz often wrestled four or five nights a week during the early years and always stayed in shape. Almost until his death, Thesz worked out with weights. He moved around the ring with speed and quickness.
"I think he was a genetic freak," Race said. "He did a lot to keep himself in shape. Lou reminded me a lot of a big cat or panther in the ring, the way he would move around with considerable ease."
Race said Thesz had several favorite moves to use on opponents. Usually, Thesz would begin his attack with a wrist lock.
"He could move you around or throw you in any direction with that wrist lock," Race said. "You knew Lou was in control during the match. He had so much talent and he was a true wrestler."
Thesz held the NWA title a record six times and numerous titles during his career. From 1937 until he lost the NWA title in 1966 to Gene Kiniski at Kiel Auditorium, Thesz dominated the sport.
One of his more memorable bouts here was against Pat O'Connor in 1963 at Kiel.
"They went for an hour without kicking and punching," said former St. Louis Wrestling Club promoter and TV commentator Larry Matysik. "Thesz won and could have gone another hour. It was a true wrestling match. When Thesz grabbed you, it was over."
Thesz, who wrestled in more than 6,000 matches, worked for various promoters all over the world after he lost the title, but his interests turned to training potential wrestlers and refereeing here and in Japan.
"In Japan he was God and here he was the Babe Ruth of wrestling," Matysik said. "He had an aura about him when he walked into the ring. He was the real deal."
Thesz had a long relationship with several groups in Japan. He was in Japan recently, consulting wrestlers and promoters.
His final match was in 1990 in Japan at 74 against champion Masa Chono.
Thesz was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in February and into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999.
He was also the former president of the Cauliflower Alley Club and was involved in several charity organizations. Thesz helped develop a scholarship for amateur wrestlers with the club.
SAMMARTINO TO SKIP HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, May 3, 2002)
By Ed Bouchette
What if a Hall of Fame inductee refused to attend his induction?
That didn't happen last year after the Steelers' Lynn Swann was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame or after the Pirates' Bill Mazeroski was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
But this weekend, when another famous athlete from Pittsburgh is inducted into a pro Hall of Fame, he will boycott the ceremony.
Bruno Sammartino, the greatest star from the golden age of pro wrestling, will be among 13 inducted as the first class of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame this weekend in Schenectady, N.Y. They will have to have the ceremony without him.
"Wrestling is how I made my living and supported my family, but it's over," Sammartino said yesterday from his Pittsburgh-area home. "I don't want anything to do with it anymore."
That, said George "The Animal" Steele, is a shame. Steele serves on the PWHF board and had many epic matches against Sammartino through the years. They are at odds on this one.
Steele said the Hall of Fame was started specifically with Bruno in mind.
"It hurts me, to be honest with you," Steele, 65, said from his retirement home in Cocoa Beach, Fla. "I consider him the greatest professional wrestler and one of the greatest human beings I've known. When he was champion, if somebody got a bad payoff or wasn't treated correctly, he spoke up for the boys, where most people would have just looked out for themselves. I respect him for that. He's god in our business."
Speaking up on another matter is what ultimately led to Sammartino's estrangement from the sport he loved and why he refuses to be recognized by any kind of wrestling hall of fame. This induction has the fingerprints of Vince McMahon Jr. on it, Sammartino said, and he wanted no part of that.
In the 1980s, Sammartino worked for McMahon's World Wrestling Federation as a commentator. Sammartino, however, said he saw too many things going on he did not like in the organization and began speaking out against them.
"It was unbearable," said Sammartino, 66. "Drugs, steroids, all the sexual stuff, bizarre things. I became very, very upset and angry about everything I saw going on."
Sammartino, saying young wrestlers were pressured into using steroids, went on national television shows and testified before government commissions to spread the word, to little avail.
"After I did everything I felt I could do, nothing happened. It went from bad to worse."
Not only that, Sammartino said McMahon blackballed him. He said McMahon was instrumental in keeping him out of the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame and from getting any kind of mention in an A&E network documentary on pro wrestling. He did so, Sammartino said, by threatening to refuse to cooperate and hold back any video or interviews with WWF wrestlers.
Sammartino said he learned of the new Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame a long time ago and its plans to be the true shrine for the sport. But he was told by a representative that they were seeking the help of the WWF and the rival World Championship Wrestling. After the WCW collapsed, Sammartino believes McMahon refused to help the fledgling Hall. That, Sammartino said, is when the Hall of Fame became more interested in him.
"It's a joke, it really is," Sammartino said. "They can tell you McMahon has nothing to do with it, that's true, but at one time he was involved. Now that it's falling apart, they came back to me. I didn't hear from these people for over a year."
Sammartino said the new owners of Madison Square Garden are filming a documentary about him because he sold out more than 200 shows there, more than any individual in history. They asked why he wasn't in the MSG Hall of Fame, and he told them McMahon had blocked it. They promised to induct him next year.
Among the 13 who will be inducted Sunday in Schenectady are Andre the Giant, Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers and Mildred Burke (under the category of "Lady Wrestler").
Steele said if Sammartino changes his mind, "We have a plane ticket waiting for him." There's also a Hall of Fame ring, but they won't deliver that to him. He'd have to pick that up in Schenectady.
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