THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.11-2001
WRESTLING GAME MOURNS RAY STEELE
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tuesday, September 13, 1949)
By John Edward Wray
Wrestler Ray Steele’s death due to a heart attack last Sunday will come as a surprise to the wrestling world . . . On the mat, all good athletes die old . . . But Steele was only 50 . . . Just a youth compared to septuagenarians like Stan Zbyszko, George Hackenschmidt and other antiques who on occasion still can put on a good show.
Steele, although a development of the showmanship type of "rassling," got his early training the hard way . . . Always in top condition, he knew all the angles and could have held his own with top men in days when an ambitious mat athlete, trapped by a scissors, hammerlock or double nelson, could suffer a broken arm, leg or even a neck . . . That happened as a matter of fact on more than one occasion.
Steele, like old John Pesek, was a streak of lightning at his best . . . Lloyd Carter brought him to St. Louis in the early twenties and finally worked him into preliminaries in the promotions of Jimmy Londos and Tom Packs . . . Before long Ray was engaging in main event roles . . . And when the Jack Curley and Jimmy Londos factions began fussing over title rights, Steele was sent east to "take" Ed (Strangler) Lewis and get him out of "Champion" Londos’s way.
It all failed, as far as Steele was concerned . . . Referee Ed Forbes disqualified Ray for striking Lewis with closed fists, elbowing and committing other fouls under the New York rules . . . The Strangler was unable to catch up with Steele to apply his favorite chancery (headlock) holds until later . . . After about 20 minutes Steele developed blisters on his feet – both men were shoeless by agreement – and Big Ed caught him.
It was then that Steele began using his fists and after 28 minutes and three official warnings, Referee Forbes declared Lewis winner . . . The commission also declared Steele suspended for 60 days, the following day.
The Strangler even at that time was no chicken . . . He was still a great wrestling star. One of the boasts Ed used to make was that he had a standing cash offer to any wrestler who could "get behind" him in a match – without any obligation to throw him.
To get behind an opponent usually meant that the contestant brought his man to the floor on his hands and knees and took a position kneeling behind him ready to apply a hold . . . It was considered a great advantage in catch-as-catch-can events. We did not see the Lewis-Steele match in New York, but Sam Muchnick vouches for the fact that Ray had Ed on the defensive in the manner described.
Steele was one of a famous family of Nebraska athletes . . . His real name was Pete Sauer . . . When he became a wrestler he took on a professional moniker which occasionally got him into trouble . . . Beaten opponents frequently charged him with being a "ringer" and pointed to his assumed name . . . But he called himself Steele to divert attention from his family and ease his parents’ minds.
His brother George was a famous athlete, playing with the National pro football league . . . He later became a college coach . . . George also could wrestle a bit . . . There is a nephew, George, who was all-America at Nebraska and who now coaches the Navy team at Annapolis.
"Steele wrestled here frequently for Packs and later performed on some of my wrestling cards," Promoter Muchnick told this writer . . . "He was such a splendidly built man that his death came as a big surprise . . . He had written me saying he had about completed training at Warm Lake, Idaho, and would be ready to wrestle when my season opened . . . Now, he’s unexpectedly dead.
"He was one of the most proficient of wrestlers at both modern and catch-as-catch-can styles . . . He won the National Wrestling Association championship in 1940 . . . But a year later he lost it back to its original owner, Bronko Nagurski . . . He’s the only athlete I know that was able to get back of Lewis when the Strangler was trying to prevent him . . . to do that, he had to be good."
BIG-NAME WRESTLERS HIT THE MAT AT UO EVENT
(The Oregonian, Sunday, May 20, 2001)
By Alice Tallmadge
EUGENE – With thumping rock ‘n’ roll pumping up a sparse crowd, the "Anarchy at Piper’s Pit" wrestling card at UO’s McArthur Court began with "Loose Cannon" Kenny Lush (Vancouver, British Columbia) taking on the Mad Bomber of Montana. To the delight of the patriotic crowd, Lush got trounced.
Before the night was out, Jim "Hacksaw" Duggan would parade the Stars and Stripes around the ring, and big name Curt Hennig, his yellow ringlets dripping sweat, would go up against a hometown hero: Josh Wilcox, ex-UO football player and twice All-American. And a black-leather-bustiered Miss Pittsburgh would get to plant her patent leather boots on Michelle Starr, a strutting male "queen" flaunting a pink feather boa and a nasty attitude.
The ring action wasn’t at all like the hoop duke-outs usually played at the Pit. But on a recent Friday night (May 11), collegiate sports made way for a gathering of free-agent wrestling has-beens and wannabe’s, brought together as a joint effort of "Rowdy Roddy" Piper, former World Wrestling Federation great and Portland celeb; Jeff Kafoury, the Portland co-promoter; and the UO Cultural Forum.
Hype buzzed for this pro card, which included familiar names such as Duggan, Henning, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and Dan "The Beast" Severn.
Cassandra Dawn of the Cultural Forum said the group agreed to host the event in hopes of raising money by "tapping into another part of the community we don’t always do programming for."
Piper, who has a bad hip, got some licks in at the end but didn’t wrestle – to the disappointment of some fans who’ve followed his career. Piper’s 1985 legendary match with Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania I, plus a host of lucrative pay-per-view events, catapulted pro wrestling into a multimillion-dollar entertainment industry. At Mac Court, instead of donning his famed wrestling kilt, Piper wore a dark suit and manned a busy cell phone down in the Pit’s basement.
Piper, 46, said he hoped the match would show people that the WWF, despite its nationwide following and ocean-deep pockets, doesn’t have a lock on talent.
"I wanted to provide a place to show my frat brothers just what they could do," Piper said. "We don’t need a big federation, a big promoter, a big establishment or anyone saying you have to take a dive for somebody else."
Piper, also known as Roderick Toombs, said the match would harken back to the old days – the ‘80s, that is – when good fought evil on the mat, when wrestlers were known by their talent and personas, not the depths to which they’d sink to haul in the ratings.
Piper’s varied career includes stints as a movie actor and host of a nationally cablecast wrestling show. He’s no stranger to high jinks and admits he’s no saint.
"But I’m trying very hard to bring respect back to wrestling. These guys (at the Pit) have a moral ethic. All are fathers and great fighters. They don’t need some woman in the stands taking her top off. These guys are too talented for that.
The crowd appreciated the talent that made its way to the ring and cheered loudly for any match that pitted a Canadian (always the bad guy) against an American.
But what would really get the crowd to its feet was the match between Sabu and Tony Kozina, a young, lithe guy from Portland. After performing graceful moves off the ropes, the wrestlers snaked out of the ring and made their way toward a 6-foot-long wooden table. The anticipation was electric.
"Ta-ble. Ta-ble. Ta-ble," yelled Katie Given, 10. She and her father and brother have been watching wrestling for six years. They love it, they say. The moves, the story lines, the entertainment. Even the lingo.
Sabu, his rigid stomach a thatch of scars, managed to get the whip-quick Kozina onto the table. He climbed the ropes and executed a flying leap, landing square on Kozina’s gut. The table splintered. Kozina smashed onto the floor. The crowd went wild.
"That’s what brings people to wrestling – the tables, the chairs and the ladders," said A.J. Voght, 12, who came from Aloha with his father and two brothers. "And they like the blood."
Downstairs, protected from autograph seekers, the thick-chested wrestlers wandered the halls. Some donned eyeglasses and instantly looked more grandfather than grand fighter. One limped. They talked about the old days, why they quit or why they can’t.
Rich Lindsay (the Hollywood Stud), 30, said he hasn’t been on the mat in six months. He used to wrestle every weekend and even gave up an invitation from the WWF. He lives in Tacoma and owns his own brokerage firm.
"All those guys I grew up watchin’, now tonight I’m working the card with them," he said. "It’s kinda cool."
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was with the WWF for 16 years. He won a slew of titles. His dad, Johnny Valentine, was a wrestler, too. He died in April.
The Hammer’s still got a thick torso, but it’s slack. His eyes are slits in his tired, leathery face. His blond hair hangs limp. He walks slowly, like an aging cowpoke.
Wrestling’s a passion, he said. "I really enjoy doing it. It’s my whole life. It was my dad’s whole life."
A group of retire wrestlers and boxers have formed the Cauliflower Alley Club to raise money to build a care center for retired wrestlers (sic). Piper, who is known as a maverick with a big heart and is donating five percent of the profits to the effort, said the club raised almost $6,000 to help defray Johnny Valentine’s medical bills. They gave it to his widow.
"You turn the TV off, these guys still have a life," he said.
Wrestlers have a high rate of suicide, Piper said. Many die too young. Since promoters don’t take care of their wrestlers, he wants wrestlers to do it for each other.
"They’re my frat brothers," he said. "Together, we laugh, we cry, we die."
(ED. NOTE – The Cauliflower Alley Club, of course, was not formed "to raise money to build a care center for retired wrestlers." The CAC was formed in Hollywood over 35 years ago by ex-wrestlers Mike Mazurki and Al Baffert as a social outlet for wrestlers, boxers, film stars and their friends who shared what became known as "the ring of friendship." There IS a move afoot, with Piper playing a prominent role, to create a retirement home for old wrestlers. And the CAC is assisting in the process, which is likely to be involved and quite complicated before it all shakes out. To keep track of this effort, and the many other aspects of camaraderie and the CAC’s continuing involvement with the wrestlers and martial artists of today, visit the Cauliflower Alley Club web site at http://www.caulifloweralleyclub.org)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 12-2001
STECHER TAKES TWO FALLS FROM STRANGLER
(Associated Press, July 4, 1919)
OMAHA -- Joe Stecher of Dodge, Neb., today defeated Ed "Strangler" Lewis, of San Jose, Cal., in two striaght falls in a wrestling match. Stecher won the first fall in one hour and forty-seven minutes and the second fall in fourteen minutes. He took each fall with a body scissors and wrist lock.
RELIEF FOR PACHYDERMS
(New York American, circa January, 1924)
Mr. Jacques Curley, chief mahmout of the pachyderms, who engaged in the sport of wrestling, has been granted a license to give performances in this vicinity again. During the reign of the Duke of Muldoon, Mr. Curley was prohibited absolutely from exhibiting his charges in public. This worked a great hardship on the pachyderms and it looked as though the whole herd of wrestlers might become public charges.
It is not apparent what motive the Box Commishes had in restoring the chief mahout to citizenship in Manhattan. Probabity it was done in self defense. Mr. Curley had most of the pachyderms pastured near his estate at Great Neck waiting for the Commishes to soften their hearts toward the wrestling game. The wrestlers were eating him out of house and home and toward the end had to be put on half rations. Naturally this made the pachyderms restless and their hoarse cries at night disturbed Long Island. In the daytime they would tug restlessly at the elephant chains which attached them to the huge steel stakes. It became apparent that they might escape at any time.
The prospect of a huge herd of Ponderous Poles, Russian Lions, Lithuanian Tigers, Cruel Cossacks, Gory Germanys and other pachyderms used on the mat in season rushing over Long Island was not a pleasant one. All overtures made by Mr. Jack Curley to turn the whole herd over to the Bronx Zoo were turned aside on the ground that the municipality could not undertake to foot such a feed bill as would be entailed.
These facts were laid before the Boxing Commission and it was pointed out that if Mr. Curley was permitted to exhibit his pachyderms once more the menace would be removed. Give a wrestler three or four meals a day and he remains calm and placid. But deprive the pachyderm of his nutriment and he goes wild. Mr. Curley declared that if he were given a permit to operate once more he could make the entire herd self-supporting. Other persons from humane motives backed Mr. Curley and the permit was granted. The wind has been tempered to the shorn pachyderms who were driven into darkest Long Island by the Duke of Muldoon.
A RETURN TO RASSLIN’ . . . AT AGE 74
(The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, Monday, Dec. 10, 1990)
Had someone told Lou Thesz when he began his wrestling career in 1935 (sic) that he would still be active FIFTY-FIVE YEARS later, he would have thought they had been placed in the sleeper hold too long.
But Thesz, 74, who makes his home in Norfolk, is about to become the first pro wrestler to grapple in SEVEN decades.
Thesz (pronounced THEZ) today confirmed a Miami Herald report that he is scheduled to team with legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, 47, in a tag-team match against Takayuki Iizuka and an undetermined partner Dec. 26 in Tokyo.
Asked if he’s worried about getting hurt, Thesz said: "It’s no problem, really. Many of my friends are apprehensive, but I am not. If I’d been afraid of that, I’d never have become a wrestler."
Thesz, considered by some to be among the top five pro wrestlers of all time, became the youngest National Wrestling Alliance (sic) champion in 1937, at age 20 (sic). Thesz held the title five more times in a 29-year span.
"When I was in my early 20s, I saw some guys wrestling in their 40s and promised myself that when I was that age, I’d be long gone," Thesz said. "But when I reached 40, I had already come out of retirement two or three times. This is my last hurrah in Japan. I don’t see it going any farther."
Why Japan, if indeed at all?
That’s where you can still find the book, "The Greatest Wrestler of ALL Time." It’s about Thesz, of course. When he wrestled there in 1957, 60,000 fans turned out to see him.
Said Thesz: "I got a couple of moves in my hip pocket that they haven’t seen . . . because I haven’t showed it to them yet."
Still active in wrestling as a trainer for the New Japan Wrestling Alliance, Thesz, who had his hip replaced four years ago, said he has trained intensely to improve his cardiovascular conditioning.
"It’s going to be the old-timers vs. the young boys," Thesz said. "It will compare our wrestling styles and the different moves we make."
Other old-timers appearing on the show are former American Wrestling Alliance champion Nick Bockwinkel (56) and former NWA junior heavyweight champion Hiro Matsuda (53).
And what does Thesz think of pro wrestling today? Well, in a 1986 interview, he this about that:
"I see Hulk Hogan work, and I don’t see one wrestling hold. A guy said to me . . . that Hogan has two moves: getting into the ring and getting out. He’s right. Hogan’s best move, though, is getting out of the ring."
GET REAL: WRASSLIN’ NOT WHAT IT ONCE WAS
(The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk VA, Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990)
By Robin Brinkley
Lou Thesz, bless his heart, wants us to believe that he can defeat a man one-third his age when he takes on rising Oriental star Chono on Dec. 26 in Japan in the greatest professional wrestling comeback of all time.
Thesz, 74, might indeed pin the 25-year-old Chono. But if he does, it will be because of the fine print in his contract and not because Thesz has defied the ravages of time.
Don’t get me wrong. Thesz, who lives in Ocean View, is in marvelous shape. His pectorals would put a young longshoreman’s to shame.
Thesz, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, has forgotten more about wrestling than Hulk Hogan ever knew.
But this isn’t about wrestling, or even sports for that matter.
74 vs. 25?
Can Joe DiMaggio hit Doc Gooden? Can Sam Snead outdrive Curtis Strange? Can Don Budge match groundstrokes with Ivan Lendl?
DiMaggio, Snead and Budge are all in their 70s and not about to come out of retirement to face the top stars of today.
Heck, DiMaggio couldn’t hit Mr. Coffee with a four-foot spoon.
So why is Thesz taking the plunge?
Because, my friends, professional wrestling is fake. There, I’ve said the "F" word.
Choke on that, you Hulkamaniacs!
Thesz doesn’t totally disagree. He is disdainful of the World Wrestling Federation and calls the stuff you see on TV "choreographed garbage."
(Frankly, I find the banter between Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan stimulating.)
But when it comes to compromising the integrity of a match, Thesz draws the line at himself.
"I could have made a lot of money if I was willing to do that, but I didn’t want to lose my credibility," he said.
Earth to Lou: You’re a terrific actor with a great body, and a student of the sport. But don’t get carried away.
To be completely fair, there is compelling evidence to support Thesz’s claim that at least some of the action is real. He has the worst set of cauliflower ears I’ve ever seen; I’ll swear they are as big as cabbages.
Thesz, 6-feet-2 and 212 pounds, turned pro when he was 17. He spent his early years barnstorming through the Midwest, taking on town bullies and muscle-bound farm boys at county fairs.
When pro wrestling moved into indoor arenas in big cities, Thesz moved with it. He held the world title six times and hobnobbed with Hollywood stars such as Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.
His big break occurred in 1957 when he beat the Japanese champion in Hawaii. That unlocked the vast Japanese market to Thesz, and he has capitalized by making 29 trips there.
Thesz is better known and more revered in Japan than in the United States.
"I can’t walk two steps down the street there without someone recognizing me and asking for my autograph," Thesz said.
Thesz points out that his biography, "The Greatest Wrestling of All Time," was published in 1984 in Tokyo. What he doesn’t say is that only 500 copies were printed.
Of course, that could just mean that Thesz’s fans aren’t big readers.
A Japanese promoter believes in his name enough to charge $65 for ringside seats to the Chono match, which was a tag-team event when originally announced.
(I’d rather watch Lou Piniella hurl bases for that price, but you’ve probably figured that out by now.)
Thesz purports to like wrestling in Japan because it is truer to its freestyle roots than in the United States.
"No show biz, no hype, no music," he said.
"In the United States, everybody thinks wrestling is just show business," said Koji Miyamoto, a Tokyo shipping executive and the author of "The Greatest Wrestler of All Time."
"In Japan, wrestling is taken more seriously. It’s only 50 percent show business."
To be sure, Japanese newspapers treat professional wrestling with the same respect that is given to other sports.
"In Japan, sumo wrestling is No. 1, baseball is No. 2 and professional wrestling is No. 3," Miyamoto said.
It also is just as surely fake.
"Yes," admitted Miyamoto, "although maybe Lou won’t want you to write that."
Now that we’ve come this far, we might as well go all the way.
Tell us, Koji, who is going to win!
"Well, Chono is only 25. Lou could win, but I think maybe it will be a draw."
Sounds good to me.
(ED. NOTE – Masahiro Chono won the match on Dec. 26, 1990, in the Japanese
seaport of Hamamatsu, but not before Thesz acquitted himself quite nicely. His
biggest handicap turned out to be the artificial hip, which buckled when Thesz
tried to hoist Chono up for a suplex slam.)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 13-2001
STECHER SUB TAKES ON GERMAN GRAPPLER
(New York American, Monday, December 3, 1923)
Substituting for Joe Stecher, Nebraska wrestler, Wladek Zbyszko , Polish
giant, wil lock grips with Richard Schikat, German grappler, tonight in the
feature mat struggle of the seond tournament of the season in the Seventy-First
Regiment Armory. The clash will be to a finish, one fall, to decide the winner.
In two other matches Marin Plestina will engage Hans St. Steinke (sic) and
Renato Gardini will attempt to pin the shoulders of Yussif Hussane to the mat.
WLADEK ZBYSZKO SECURES MAIN EVENT WIN
(New York American, Tuesday, December 4, 1923)
Wladek Zbyszko, the Polish heavyweight champion, defeated Richard Schikat, massive German wrestler, who recently came to this country with high hopes of winning the world's championship, last night at the Seventy-First Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at Thirty-fourth Street. The end came after 1 hour, 9 minutes and 50 seconds of hard and even wrestling, when Zbyszko brought his man to the mat with a toe-hold. A crowd of several thousand fans watched the main bout and the two preliminaries, in which Marin Plestina defeated Hans Steinke, another German giant, in 18 minutes and 10 seconds with a head lock and barlock, and Renato Gardini, Italian heavyweight, threw Yussif Hussane with a headlock in 18 minutes.
In the main bout it was announced that Schikat weighed 215 pounds, while Zbyszko tipped the scales at three pounds more. The German aspirant for titular honors proved a great surprise to the gallery and won many friends by his speed, skill, strength and ability to balk Zbyszko and wriggle out of the latter's most dangerous holds.
The German has been essentially a Graeco-Roman wrestler and was quite unfamiliar with the catch-as-catch-can style of grappling until he came to this country a few weeks ago. For that reason his cleverness and his ability to hold off the veteran Polish star was quite unexpected. Schikat proved dangerous from the very start and gave Zbyszko many anxious moments, while he surprised the latter time after time by the ease with which he tossed the Pole about.
For more than an hour the men wrestled with little advantage to either contestant. The end came when both men seemed comparatively fresh. After working out of an armlock, Zbyszko maneuvered until he gained a toe hold in the centre of the ring. The German threw all his strength into an effort to break the hold and gradually worked himself and his opponent to the north ropes.
It was a crushing grip that Zbyszko held and he exerted every ounce of his
strength in an effort to terminate the match quickly. Schikat managed to get
under the ropes and Referee Roeber called the men to the middle of the ring. So
terrific had been the pressure exerted by the Pole that the German said he could
not bear his weight on his left leg. He was counted out and the bout awarded to
STECHER TAKES OUT THE BULGARIAN
(Associated Press, January 7, 1924)
PHILADELPHIA -- In one of the roughest wrestling matches seen in this city in years, Joe Stecher, former heavyweight champion, finally wore down Yussif Hussane, Bulgarian, in 57 minutes and 15 seconds, and threw him with a head chancery and bar lock. Both men weighed 220 pounds.
Renato Gardini, using a toe hold, forced Theodore Stejke, Russian, to quit in 15 minutes and 20 seconds. Stejke claims to be the heavyweight Graeco-Roman wrestling champion of Europe. They also weighed 220 pounds each.
In the opening bout Nat Pendleton, former Columbia and Olympic wrestler, threw Einar Johansen of Norway with a chancery and bar lock hold in 15 minutes and 4 seconds.
REAL WRESTLER TELLS TALES OF ROUGH AND TOUGH RINGS
(The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk VA, Sunday, Sept. 22, 1996)
By Bill Ruehlmann
Lou Thesz held the world professional heavyweight wrestling championship longer than anyone – 13 years. He also was the youngest, at 21, to earn it. And the oldest, at 46, to win it back.
Thesz’s last pro match was a loss in Tokyo six years ago. His adversary was a 27-year-old Japanese named Masahiro Chono who tipped the scales at 260 pounds. Thesz weighed 215.
He was 74.
Thesz would have won, but a hip replacement operation had slowed him down a touch.
"I was old enough to know not to do it," says Thesz, now 80, in his rain-barrel baritone, "but I did it anyway."
The big man sits at the dining room table in his Ocean View, Norfolk, home, smiling out at the white tinge of surf on the waves. How to describe him? His 18-inch neck looks like a sequoia.
The rest of him is in proportion.
He doesn’t credit a prudent diet for that or even regular hours, which he didn’t have over a lifetime of driving 2.5 million miles among engagements and flying another 14 million.
"I’ve had good fortune with genes," explains the still-fit survivor of 200 broken bones and a large assortment of other injuries.
Some of them are recorded in "Hooker: An Authentic Wrestler’s Adventures Inside the Bizarre World of Pro Wrestling," a scrappy, no-holds-barred, 262-page autobiography done with sportswriter Kit Bauman.
Thesz is a master of "hooks," a collection of painful or crippling holds unknown or illegal in conventional competitive wrestling.
He learned them to protect himself. Thesz was successful at that. If an opponent wanted to play dirty, Thesz would accommodate him.
Oki Kintaro tried to head-butt him into insensibility one night in Houston. He telegraphed the move. Thesz atomized him.
"I never stopped exercising," Thesz says, accounting for a leathery frame that should have seized up years ago but still pushes through the paces at Muscle Beach East gym, near his home.
Once Bronko Nagurski, who should have stayed in football, threw him out of a Houston ring, and the fall to the concrete floor fractured his left kneecap. That put Thesz out of wrestling action for a full year. But it did not prevent him from playing 18 holes of golf daily – no cart, on foot.
Thesz knew and fought them all, all over the world – from Baron Michele Leone in Los Angeles to Dara Singh in India, from Rikidozan in Honolulu to Emil Czaya in Singapore.
For years, his personal trainer was the legendary Ed "Strangler" Lewis.
Is wrestling fixed?
"What you see on TV today," says Thesz, "is choreographed tumbling. It is not really related to wrestling."
It’s show business. It always has been a means to sell tickets and make money. Bela Lugosi, a fellow Hungarian, once made a celebrity appearance as Thesz’s cornerman.
Thesz is president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, founded by the late film actor Mike Mazurki, an association of 2,000 boxing and wrestling pros, pals, and stunt people. He also is a "shooter," Graeco-Roman trained from childhood, who knew how to compete, not merely perform; no mask, no make-up, no mumbo-jumbo. The only gimmick he ever had was his unusual skill.
"I am a wrestler," says Thesz with simple dignity. "Not a wrassler; not a clown. A wrestler."
Between anecdotes, Thesz, world-traveled gourmet and grandfather of three, spoons down a steaming bowl of peppery bouillabaisse prepared by his third wife, Charlie, 50.
"Wrestlers always refer to themselves as ‘boys,’" she confides. "And that is exactly what they are – overgrown boys. All male athletes are."
This warm, direct woman once bawled out blue-jawed Antonino Rocca at breakfast for being disrespectful of his Japanese hosts, and the barefoot heavyweight apologized on the spot.
She’s a shooter, too.
"It was," Thesz sums up, "a great adventure. I enjoyed the whole trip. My only regret is that I can’t do it all again."
(ED. NOTE – The Wrestling Channel Press edition, a revised, trade paperback edition, of "Hooker" is available at Amazon.com – and presently is being outsold only by Mick Foley’s new book among all wrestling titles.)
WRESTLING’S PAST GIVES PRESENT NO FUTURE
(The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk VA, Sunday, May 30, 1999)
By Bob Molinaro
During a pro wrestling career that spanned six decades and at least as many continents, Norfolk’s Lou Thesz figures he must have suffered 200 broken bones and fractures.
Accidents happen, he’ll tell you. Lou just shook off those broken bones.
In the ‘30s, he started out on wrestling’s backroads, not always knowing where his next meal would come from. There were days when he and his partners pulled to the side of the road, hopped a fence and foraged a farmer’s field for the kind of corn they feed horses.
Hunger? Thesz shook it off.
Last week, Thesz learned that Owen Hart, 33, was dead after suffering a 70-foot fall while being lowered in a harness from the ceiling of a Kansas City arena during one of those breathtakingly absurd pay-per-view wrassling shows.
Lou cannot shake this off. The warhorse of wrestling is confused and angry, in part because Hart’s death was personal. As a teenage, Thesz wrestled with Hart’s father, Stu. He’s remained friends with the family. A few years ago, he even trained with Owen Hart.
No one in the world is more serious about professional wrestling or more at a loss to explain what has happened to his beloved sport than the 83-year-old Thesz.
"I don’t think I have ever felt as old or as out of touch as I do today."
So began the most recent commentary on The Lou Thesz Press, an Internet feature that can be found on scoopcentral.com, a wrestling web site.
In the piece that followed Hart’s death, Thesz expressed personal remorse for ignoring the current state of wrassling. His stomach just couldn’t take the cartoon nonsense the WWF has been pumping out for the get-a-life shut-ins who have made ring burlesque a TV bonanza.
"I don’t mean to be unkind," Thesz said Friday from his Ocean View home, "but I don’t have to tell you about the audience. They’re not too bright."
Thesz tuned out long ago, but went real easy on his public criticism of the product. "I have told myself," he wrote on the website, "they were just making a living and giving the crowd what they wanted."
Thesz understands the importance of a good show; he wrestled Gorgeous George in the ‘50s. Wrassling without blowhards, villains and campy storylines is gym class. But what Thesz cannot abide is "the language, vulgarity, stupidity and futility of it all." Can anyone blame him?
He wrote: "It has taken the death of a friend’s son to make me admit how sick the industry I devoted my life to has become."
In conversation, Thesz calls today’s ring theatrics "choreographed tumbling." He says, "You can watch professional wrestling for five minutes or five hours and you won’t see one wrestling move."
He recalls a conversation he had a year or so ago with Vince McMahon, demagogue of the vulgarity currently in vogue.
"He said, ‘Lou, I think you’re going to like this; we’re going back to wrestling,’" Thesz said. "Well, it got worse. He just tells you what you want to hear. Anything to make a buck."
Before, Lou could shake it off. The buffoonery, he’d tell himself, was none of his business. "But it is my business," he now writes, anger and frustration bubbling to the surface, "the only business I have ever loved."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 14-2001
(ED. NOTE – A regular contributor over the length of
The WAWLI Papers series has been Mr. Steve Yohe of Los Angeles, one of the most
industrious and hard-working of all pro wrestling historians. Steve dug up the
NAZI SALUTE INJECTED INTO GARDEN MAT WARFARE
(Boston Globe, May 12, 1939)
Paul Bowser brought a new angle to the wrestling business last night in his
attempt to draw the fans, when one of the new members of his troupe parade
around the ring giving the Nazi salute, after he won his match, just prior to
the Ben Shalom-Harry Jacobs bout.
Of course, Gus Sonnenberg won two out of three from Leo Numa, the former
The Nazi saluter is supposed to be Ernst Franz Hefner of Dusseldorf, Germany,
but he reminds one very much of a wrestler by the name of Cox. He entered the
ring to face Jack Smith in an unscheduled bout and proceeded to click his
heals together and salute the four corners of the ring. Lusty boos and roars
of laughter poured down on him, but he finished his act.
He threw Jack Smith at 8:37, he again made the rounds of the ring. Just as he
finished, the other new member of the Bowser troupe, the Jewish heavyweight
champion, Ben Shalom, was coming down the aisle. "Hefner" held his saluting
position until Ben started to enter the ring. The "Jewish Danno O'Mahoney"
just glared at him. Shalom made short work of Jacobs. He threw him at 3:34
with a reverse back fall.
WCW ASKED TO PAY PIPER
By Jarred Schenke, Atlanta Business Journal, May 25, 2001
Even though no one's wrestling, things are getting rowdy over at the WCW.
The Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling company -- recently purchased by its former rival, the World Wrestling Federation Inc. -- has its back against the ropes again with another lawsuit. This time, it's from one of wrestling's old guard who claims that he was unfairly fired.
Roderick George Toombs, known professionally as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, is suing the WCW for breaching his contract when he was abruptly let go from the once-struggling league's ranks after a wrestling-related injury.
Piper is being represented by the same Atlanta law firm -- Meadows, Ichter & Trigg -- that's trying to pin the WCW down over numerous racial discrimination complaints from former black and Asian wrestlers.
Piper claims his contract with the WCW was unfairly terminated in 2000 after an injury he claims he fully recovered from. And in an interview with Atlanta Business Chronicle, Piper said it was his age -- and the ages of his fellow "Millionaire Club" senior wrestlers -- that prompted the WCW to toss them out of the ring, unloading extra costs to prepare for a then-pending merger between AOL and Time Warner Inc.
"The term `incapacitated' I can't even spell," Piper said. "It really hurts me that they'd talk to me like an injured dog and shoot me behind the barn. I gave my heart and soul [to wrestling]."
The WCW denied Piper's allegations in an answer filed in federal court. WCW's attorneys, Atlanta's powerhouse law firm Troutman Sanders LLP, declined to comment beyond the filed response.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta in February, Piper signed with the WCW in 1999 for a three-year term for a total of 18 pay-per-view events. During a regular wrestling broadcast soon after signing the contract, Piper ruptured his left biceps tendon, but continued to wrestle at events, the lawsuit states.
By the end of 1999, Piper underwent surgery for the injury and then appeared at one more WCW event in February 2000, according to the suit. After that, WCW executives failed to schedule him for other events despite a contract that lasted until 2002, the suit alleges.
Soon after, the WCW terminated Piper's contract, citing an "incapacity," the lawsuit states. Piper's surgeon allegedly gave the green light for him to continue to wrestle, but the WCW wanted Piper to undergo an exam by in-house doctors, the suit states.
Piper claims that was a move to have WCW doctors officially write off Piper as permanently injured.
"[WCW officials] wanted me to be examined by a WCW doctor for a full medical [checkup]. I said to them I had no problem with any doctor you want ... but why are you talking about a full medical [checkup]?" Piper said. "In asking that question, they just never called back."
Piper's attorney, Cary Ichter, said WCW's responses to Piper's lawsuit were "complete lies."
"The bottom line is apparently these people don't even care what they say in filings," Ichter said.
The suit is headed for discovery -- the period when both parties scrutinize and gather evidence prior to trial.
Ichter is no stranger to the WCW. His firm also is pursuing numerous lawsuits against the organization on behalf of 10 former African-American and Asian wrestlers who claim they were discriminated against. Those suits claim that the wrestlers were never properly promoted to help boost their standing with viewers, and that they were required to portray characters that had negative racial stereotypes.
WCW also has formally denied those allegations.
Ichter said there is a possibility that he may name WCW's new owners, the WWF, in all of these suits, including Piper's. It depends on how much of WCW's former assets -- namely the numerous wrestlers who are now on hiatus since the WCW ceased operating earlier this year -- the WWF acquires, Ichter said.
A WWF spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuits, but said the wrestling giant had acquired "a handful of contracts" when it purchased the WCW. But the WWF's choice thus far of the players hired doesn't bode well for Piper.
"It's the more younger, more developmental talent," said WWF spokesperson Jayson Bernstein. "I don't know the details of why [the WWF] didn't pick up all the [WCW] contracts."
Bernstein declined to disclose who the players were or what the details of the contracts included. But Bernstein said AOL Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: AOL) has been left with the more high-priced contracts.
"The understanding that I have here is that some of the higher-price contracts were left up to the talent and AOL Time Warner on how they were to be settled," he said.
ONE BY ONE, WRESTLERS LEAVE THE RING
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, May 15, 2001)
By Steve Duin
There's not a lot of give in the mat when you're 70 years old, so, no, Haru Sasaki did not bounce back from his final fall. He couldn't jerk on the shorts of the brute pinning him to gain a little time. Nor could he slip away with the wily escape that typically outraged the Portland Armory throng and forced the promoters to bring him back for a rematch.
Thus, the family of Stanley Haruo Sasaki -- "Sak" -- gathered Monday morning to memorialize one of the grand old villains of Portland wrestling.
Back in the day when "Sinister Cinema" was the scariest thing about Saturday night, Sak -- who died May 5 -- was the Japanese boogeyman. Odd Job without the razor-rimmed hat. "He was a rascal, a rogue, Mr. Bad Guy, the dastardly, underhanded World War II holdover," said Dan Spiering, Sak's son-in-law. "That was his game. That was his act."
"He brought the 'Oriental' style into the ring," said Tough Tony Borne, meaning (if you missed the show on Channel 12) that the 5-foot-6, 230-pound Sak specialized in sneak attacks and karate chops. "He played the part to the hilt. He could really get the crowd worked up and that was the name of the game back then."
Such clumsy stereotyping wouldn't play today, but 35 years ago Pearl Harbor was an open wound, not a Jerry Bruckheimer production. And the carnival promoter Don Owen brought to the Armory or the Sports Arena for 38 years featured the most basic bad guys: the German Von Steigers, the Japanese, and Mutt-and-Jeff acts like Borne and Lonnie Mayne, who was dimmer than the light bulb he was invariably chewing on camera.
When Stan "The Crusher" Stasiak died in 1997, Sasaki recalled the passions outside the ropes. "People hated the Japanese," he said. "I got booed all the time. I got death threats, and in some small towns I had to leave hidden in a trunk."
But when he got home -- Lake Oswego, for the last 32 years of his life -- Sak was a celebrity. "Everyone loved these guys," said his widow, Mary. "They were characters. They were local. People knew them by name. And they loved their villains. The little old ladies couldn't wait to sit in the front row and poke him with their umbrellas. He really got hurt one time. He was aching for weeks."
That was much of the old wrestling crowd on Saturday nights, little old ladies and teen-agers enchanted by their first tame brush with seediness. Even in the clouds of cigarette smoke, good and evil were easy to pick out. Sex and Vince McMahon weren't part of the package. Those blatant caricatures? "If that was the worst thing out there now," said Sak's daughter, Darcy, "the world would be great."
There wasn't much of a wrestling crowd at Grace Lutheran Church for Monday's memorial service. Borne, his wife, Nona, and his cauliflower ear dropped by, but most of the assembly related less to the black-and-white stills of Sak's wrestling career than to the color shots of the golfer, the patriarch, the old man trying not to cry when he is surrounded by grandchildren and birthday presents.
Owen once estimated he used Sak in 5,000 matches, but Mary, his wife of 37 years, insists she never saw once her husband play the bad guy inside the ring. ("And you know what?" she said, "I've been a bartender all my life and he never took a drink.") He quit the sport in the mid-'70s, after all, and sold cars for a time, then worked the seafood counter and bakery aisle at the Safeway on Lake Oswego's A Avenue.
Sak kept the pictures of his old life packed away in a box he pulled out only when The Crusher's heart failed him or Mayne died in that head-on collision, or he caught one of his old opponents, Andre the Giant, in "The Princess Bride."
He had the good fortune to love what he did, Mary said, even when he played the bad guy. But he had the good sense to surround himself in the end with those who never bought his act, and endeavored to tell him so in ways that left more lasting marks than the ends of those umbrellas.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 15-2001
LEWIS SEEKS FOURTH TITLE
(Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1931)
Will Ed (Strangler) Lewis become the first heavyweight wrestler to be world’s mat king four times?
That is one of the interesting questions being asked by those who follow wrestling closely in connection with Lewis’ scheduled finish title mat battle with champion Ed "Don" George at Wrigley Field the 13th inst.
Lewis and Joe Stecher are the only wrestlers in the heavyweight division who have won the title three times. Lewis’ chances of being the first to win it a fourth time are rated higher than the body-scissor exponent’s from Nebraska.
The title has changed hands twenty-four times since the first mat tournament in this country, which was held March 10, 1870, in Detroit, Mich., and won by James H. McLaughlin.
Because of the interest in the title battle at Wrigley Field a review of past titleholders and title-changing amtches is in order.
THE LINE OF ASCENSION
McLaughlin successfully defending his title against Homer Lane, March 30, 1870, and L. Torrance, February 4, 1871, at Titusville, Pa. James H. Martin wrestled McLaughlin to a five-hour draw in Detroit June 20, 1876. The title and $1000 were at stake. The two met in a return bout in New York, with the title and $1000 at stake, and McLaughlin won again, October 16, 1876.
James owens, a husky young farmer from Vermont, took the title from McLaughlin, December 28, 1876. A purse of $1000 also went to the winner. Records show that Owens held the title the shortest length of time. Five weeks later, February 6, 1877, to be exact, newspaper records credit William Muldoon with a victory over Owens, yet one reads that the young Vermonter held his collar and elbow title by beating J. Martin, May 29, 1877, for a purse of $1000, and C. Murphy in Boston, September 19, 1877, for a purse of $500.
The outstanding wrestlers of that time were McLaughlin, Owens, Martin, Charles Murphy, Theodore Bauer, William Muldoon, Clarence Whistler, Edwin Bibby, William Acton, Evan (Strangler) Lewis, Ernest Roeber, John McMahon, H.M. Dufur, Duncan Ross, Tom Connor, William Miller, Anton Pierre, Capt. Daley, Donald Dinnie, Carl Abts, Meteski Sorawki, Jack Carkeek, and Andre Christol.
Another big match of that time was between John Graham and Whistler in 1883. Graham won. Whistler and Muldoon met in several great battles in those days. Durfur defeated McMahon December 13, 1883, in Boston, in a match that was said to have been for the collar and elbow championship, and the following year McLaughlin defeated Dufur in a best two out of three fall match for the collar and elbow title in Detroit, January 24.
For all this time, however, there is no record of a defeat of Muldoon. The former New York policeman was beaten by Ernest Roeber in 1887, and he held the title until May 18, 1890, when he was defeated by Evan (Strangler) Lewis.
Although the collar and elbow style of wrestling was much in evidence at that time, the Lancashire style was beginning to gain favor with the fans. Greco-Roman wrestling also was being used extensively here, then. By taking the good features of both the Lancashire and Greco-Roman mat styles, the catch-as-catch-can wrestling style was developed in this country. It permits holds on any part of the body, barring only the strangle, generally speaking.
Milton (Farmer) Burns won the title from Lewis in 1895, according to available reports, and two years later he was defeated by Tom Jenkins of Cleveland.
Beginning in 1897, the list of mat champions developed in this country becomes easier to follow, because of the greater national interest taken in wrestling and themore attention given big bouts by the newspapers. It also was about this time that the catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling became popular and used almost exclusively in this country.
Jenkins lost his claims to the world’s title to Frank A. Gotch, a farmer boy from Humboldt, Iowa, January 27, 1904, in Bellingham, Wash. Jenkins, however, won it back March 15, 1905, in New York City, but he held it for but two months when George Hackenschmidt, the "Russian Lion," came to this country to relieve him of the championship in the old Madison Square Garden, new York City, May 4, 1905.
Hackenschmidt took the title back to Europe with him, so Gotch and Jenkins decided to wrestle it out for the championship of America. They wrestled May 19, 1905, and Jenkins won. The bout was held in New York City. In a return match, however, held May 23, 1906, in Kansas City, Gotch beat Jenkins to become the American champion. He lost it to Fred Beell in New Orleans, December 1, 1906, but he won it back December 17 of the same year in Kansas City.
Hackenschmidt was induced to return to this country in March,1908, and on April 3, in Dexter Park Pavilion, Chicago, he lost the championship to Gotch. The gate for that match was about $45,000. The match lasted two hours and three minutes. Hackenschmidt quit.
Gotch kept the title then until his death, December 16, 1917, although he announce his retirement from the game April 1, 1913, after his victory over George Lurich. He quite definitely two years later. Charley Cutler became the recognized champion after Gotch’s retirement, and after ruling the heavyweight division for about a year lost the title to Joe Stecher in Omaha, Neb., July 5, 1915.
Stecher held the title until his first meeting with Earl Caddock, a former national amateur champion. Stecher quit at the end of the second fall, and Caddock became world’s heavyweight mat king, although he weighed but 186 pounds.
Caddock volunteered for war service and was badly battered during the big conflict. He was not the great wrestler he had been when he went back into the mat game to wrestle in defense of his title. Stecher won from him the night of January 30, 1920, in New York City.
Ed (Strangler) Lewis headlocked Stecher into submission in New York City, December 13, 1920, to become champion for the first time. Stanislaus Zbyszko, in his forty-first year, took the title from Lewis in New York on May 6, the following year, with a one-fall rolling pin. In a return battle, held in Wichita, March 3, 1922, Lewis won the title back, and was presented with the $10,000 diamond-studded belt, now emblematic of the world’s championship.
Wayne (Big) Munn, who died recently in Texas, beat Lewis in Kansas City January 8, 1925, to relieve the headlock artist of the title. Lewis claimed he was fouled, but Munn continued to wrestle as champion until he met old Zbyszko in Philadelphia, April 15, 1925. The veteran Pole won in straight falls. On May 30 of the same year Stecher took Zbyszko’s measure in St. Louis to win the title for the third time.
Stecher and Lewis met for the first time in eight years (sic) in St. Louis, February 20, 1928. Lewis beat Stecher after two and a half hours of wrestling to rule the heavyweight division again. This bout drew closer to $50,000, and was rated as the greatest since the Hackenschmidt-Gotch battle.
Lewis held the title about a year this time. He ran afoul of Gus Sonnenberg’s butts and tackles in Boston, January 4, 1929, and was defeqated. That match drew around $70,000.
Sonnenberg had the title for two years, and in that time crowds paid close to $5,000,000 to see him wrestle. Many of his matches drew from $25,000 to $50,000. One, in Los Angeles with Everette Marshall, drew $70,000.
Sonnenberg was beaten in Los Angeles the night of December 10, 1930 by Ed (Don) George, former national amateur wrestling champion. The gate for that bout was under $25,000, the result a big upset.
LEWIS BEATS GEORGE TO REGAIN MAT TITLE
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, April 14, 1931)
Ed (Strangler) Lewis proved himself the noblest Roman of the wrestling game by winning the mat championshp last night for the fourth time by defeating Don George, the defending title-holder, in two straight falls, at Wrigley Field. The first fall came in 1h. 10m. 26s. following a seeries of headlocks and the winning fall of the match was obtained by Lewis in 7m. 42s. with a hammerlock which George could not break. Approximately 12,000 fans witnessed the championship mat contest staged by "Carnation" Lou Daro.
Joe Savoldi, former Notre Dame line crasher, tossed Myron Cox, Venice lifeguard, in 9m. 5s. with a body slam. Jumping Joe handled Cox like a sack of what. He tossed him hither and yon before finally crashing him down on the mat for the winning fall. The ex-football hero got quite a hand from the crowd as he left the ring.
Joe Malcewicz, sometimes called the Utica Panther, won from Dick Raines, an eastern heavyweight, who recently invaded these parts, in 25m. 45s. Both boys were smeared with blood from cuts opened up over their eyes and mouths during the melee. It was one of the roughest bouts put on here in a long time. Malcewicz finally got an overhead body slam on Raines and pinned him to win the match.
Ad Santel and Wild Bill Beth battled to a draw in the opener. The bout was limited to thirty minutes.
SIX WORLD TITLE MATCHES TONIGHT!
(Associated Press, Thursday, November 17, 1938)
By Paul Mickelson
NEW YORK – Battling Pistone, who is our wrestling editor simply because nobody else will have any truck with the mysterious business, today tried to peddle his job. Even Pistone, a carefree fellow with a love for figures, couldn’t endure the modern trend in the grunt industry when he discovered the "world heavyweight wrestling championship" will be defended in six different cities tomorrow night.
"Give me a simple job like counting the number of people who pass Forty-second street and Fifth avenue at noon time," requested the upset Battler. "I can’t keep up with them any more! Look at tomorrow night’s all-championship porgram."
Well, the list is unbelievable – even for the wrestlers. Six "championship" matches for the same title in six cities on the same night unquestionably sets a new high for sports daffiness even in rassling. This is the program that caused Pistone’s surrender:
At Tampa, Fla.: "World Heavyweight Champion" Dick Shikat vs. Sholem Whale-em Aleichem.
At Cincinnati, Ohio: "World Heavyweight Champion" John Pesek vs. Nig Wilcox.
At Philadelphia: "World Heavyweight Champion" Bronko Nagurski vs. "International World Heavyweight Champion" Jim Londos.
At St. Louis: "World Heavyweight Champion" Crusher Casey vs. Ali Baba
At Houston, Tex.: "World Heavyweight Champion" Leo Daniel Boone Savage vs. Elmer Wiggins.
At Bridgeport, Conn.: "World Heavyweight Champion" Steve Passas vs. King Kong Frankenstein.
Some of these matches, warns Pistone, may be changed at a moment’s notice.
"It’ll be the biggest wrestling night since day before yesterday," he said. "Eight were listed for that night but two were called off on account of bad train schedules when the promoters saw the crowds. By late Friday night, we’ll have only six ‘champions.’
"Londos is the international champ. He even claims the title of Mars. Friday night’s winners will be Shikat, Pesek, Casey, Savage, Passas and Londos. Wish I could pick football winners like the wrestlers!"
Nobody really knows how many grunters claim the "world heavyweight championship." Since the death of Jack Curley two years ago, the rassling business has gone in for wholesale lots. Every promoter has a champ. Nobody seems to care much.
This corner used to enjoy watching Pesek, the Ravenna, Nebr., tiger man. Then we saw him wrestle big George Godfrey. George was a tough guy with a chin so tough even Jack Dempsey couldn’t knock him down. He won the first fall from Pesek by cracking him a good, stiff right to the jaw. Pesek recovered and won the next fall by giving tough, old George a slap on the tummy. Down George went. After a 20-minute rest period, it was announced:
"Godfrey was so injured by the last fall, he is unable to continue. The winner – Pesek."
That’s the day Pistone got the wrestling editor’s job that he’s trying to peddle today.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 16-2001
WEST COAST SENSATION IMPORTED TO WRESTLE
(Washington Post, October 3, 1938)
By Lewis F. Atchison
Feeling the urge for new interior decorations in the Arena, promoter Joe Turner last night announced the importation of one George Wilson for Thursday night’s wrestling show. Wilson is new here, coming directly from the Pacific Coast where he has been something of a sensation.
Wilson has his task cut out for him this week, as Herr Turner has made arrangements for him to meet John Katan, the rapscallion who has spread woe and consternation among the patrons of the art by his decidedly uncricket actions in the past few weeks. He lost to Yvon Robert last week, true enough, but the fans want to see a better job done on his cordially disliked carcass.
In Wilson, Turner believes he has just the man to satisfy their craving for Katan’s head. Standing 5 feet 10 ½ inches tall, weighing 205 pounds. Wilson is reputedly one of the toughest hombres operating on the coast. A former football star he specializes in the flying tackle, the deadly weapon that carried Gus Sonnenberg to the top of the heap a decade ago and put a new twist in wrestling.
Wilson’s career since leaving college has been colorful and varied. He played football for the Western Wildcats (sic) in Seattle, and later for the Providence Steam Rollers when that club was in the National Pro League.
He taught school, labored as a grocery clerk, insurance salesman, and later still a lumberjack. Wrestling, in his opinion, is easier than some of those jobs, and he isn’t overlooking the Katan match when he says it, because he’s heard all about scowling Jawn, and believes he’ll reform him.
The main bout Thursday involves Ernie Dusek and Gino Garibaldi, and Turner last night signed Ed Meske and Ed Newman for another preliminary – which all but insured the evening’s success.
ERNIE DUSEK TO MEET GARIBALDI TONIGHT
(Washington Post, October 6, 1938)
By Lewis F. Atchison
Gino Garibaldi, the close-cropped Italian who has a penchant for highly seasoned spaghetti and for tossing around the Dusek family, will try his holds on the bulging biceps of Ernie Dusek tonight at Turner’s Arena in the main event of a well balanced card.
Garibaldi has his task cut out for him, coining a new phrase, for Ernie . . . a nasty gent when in an ugly frame of mind – is bent on atoning for two successive setbacks suffered by the Dusek clan at Gino’s talented paws. Both reverses were charged to Joe Dusek, Ernie’s 6-foot-2-inch kid brother. This time they are sending a man to do the job.
Ernie takes the family’s wrestling losses hard, and usually tries to atone for them personally. Since Rudy Dusek retired, more or less, to the well-cushioned armchair to direct the firm’s activities. Ernie is regarded as a muffin-eared guardian angel of the tribes.
Dusek will be cast in his favorite role of villain tonight, and he’s at his best in this character. Not so long ago he announced he had got religion and intended to wrestle cleanly. He fulfilled the promise to the letter, until Steve Casey won a much-disputed decision over him at Griffith Stadium. That was early in the summer, and Ernie, bitterly disappointed at the officiating, immediately reverted to the old style of working.
Speaking of officiating, there will be a new arbiter in the ring tonight, although promoter Joe Turner refuses to divulge the nominee’s name until just before the first curtain rises.
A bevy of new faces will be seen tonight, and from the lot Turner hopes to obtain a tough gent, whom the fans take a liking to, and whom he made build up into a contender for the championship. Uncle Joseph is getting weary of struggling along with the ordinary run-of-the-mill workman. He wants a standout for a change.
Two old favorites, Ed Meske and Ed Newman, tangle in the semifinal, then the big parade of new talent begins. Frank Bruce, hailing from Jamaica, Long Island, and reputedly the son of a retired artillery captain, makes his local bow against ponderous Chief Saunooke, the Big Smokey Indian, in a 30-minute engagement.
Pat Kelly, an honest-to-goodness Irishman from Tennessee, will exhibit his wares for the first time hereabouts against Chris Zaharias; and George Wilson, the third freshman, takes on John Katan. Wilson is supposed to be a comer, and is fresh in from the Pacific Coast, where he was a headline performer.
GARIBALDI, DUSEK DRAW
(Washington Post, Friday, October 7, 1938)
The ancient physics problem of irresistible force vs. immovable object that has stymied scientific giants for generations finally caught up with the wrestling fans last night at Turner’s Arena where Ernie Dusek and Gino Garibaldi struggled 90 agonizing minutes to a draw.
Every hold in the book was used and their vast store of wrestling knowledge virtually exhausted when a couple of asthmatic blasts on the timekeeper’s whistle halted hostilities. Name any hold you can think of and they used it at least twice. Well, no, there were no successful body presses, but everything else.
Dusek, taking the irresistible force’s side of the argument, started off in a gale of enthusiasm to punch, pinch and pull Garibaldi into defeat. But Gino, representing the immovable object, or the defendant, refused to budge. Ernie clamped on Japanese armlocks, necklocks, Swedish bear hugs, German dropkicks, and even Bohemian busts on the schnozzle, but the irresistible force upheld its end of the case in admirable fashion.
Gino got in a few licks on the irresistible force, which amounts to a phenomena in scientific circles, threatening to pin Ernie to the carpet with a "figure 4 scissors" hold. He had Dusek all but down when Ernie reached out and grabbed a handful of rope and pulled himself to safety.
From the hour mark on it was a free-for-all on a minor scale. They kicked, butted and almost knocked themselves out twice. Dusek swung Gino around like a merry-go-round and let him skid across the rug on his nose, and Gino came back and dumped the irresistible force with flying tackles and other tricks. They wore themselves plumb out, wrestling in and out of fair territory, threatening to mix it with the excited audience, and rudely threatening to throw referee "Cyclone" Burns into the ash-can.
Ed Meske, the blond adonis, scored a spectacular victory over Ed Newman in the semifinal, using a Japanese armlock and body roll. It took him 18 ¼ minutes to accomplish the feat.
The new talent didn’t fare so well. Chief Saunooke threw Frank Bruce in 18 ½ minutes with a body press, Chris Zaharias disposed of Pat Kelly in 19 ¾ minutes with a backdrop, and John Katan tossed George Wilson in 23 ½ minutes with a "figure 4" leglock.
BLANCHARD TEED OFF OVER BEING DENIED AWARD
(Charleston Post & Courier, Sunday, May 20, 2001)
By Mike Mooneyham
Tully Blanchard couldn't help but think about how great it would be to win a new car as he teed off at the recent Camp Happy Days and Special Times Celebrity Golf Classic. After all, the road-weary Blanchard had logged 189,000 miles on his '94 Dodge Intrepid, most of them traveling throughout the Southeast fulfilling his prison ministry duties.
The 47-year-old Blanchard, better known for his exploits in the squared circle than on the links, had a good feeling about his first shot of the day at Coosaw Creek Country Club on May 7. It was on the 15th hole, and tournament sponsor Stokes Volkswagen had sweetened the deal by offering a brand new Passat valued at $23,000 to any extremely lucky golfer who could ace it.
Blanchard, who had driven from Rutherfordton, N.C., for the event, still figured he had a better chance at winning the lottery than landing a hole-in-one - that is, until he actually swung his 7-iron and saw the ball disappear into the hole.
"It was the first hole we played -- the first time I swung the club in the tournament," said Blanchard. "Bingo. Hole-in-one."
It had indeed been Blanchard's lucky day -- at least for the moment. But Blanchard, basking in the spotlight of his first-ever ace, would have the luster removed before finishing his outing on the course.
"I was thrilled. I thought I had won a car -- for about three holes."
That's when former Atlanta pitcher Jose Alvarez, whose company had provided the special hole-in-one insurance, balked. Alvarez, the Braves' 1988 MVP who played professional baseball for 16 years before retiring for the celebrity golf tour, pointed out that the markers hadn't been properly placed. Blanchard's ace turned out to be from 141 yards, instead of the regulation 175. And that meant no car.
"(Alvarez) says tough luck, I can't win the car. That's just the way it is - because he didn't go check the holes and make sure the yardages were right. If Jose was the agent and he sold the insurance, I would think it would have been his job to make sure the holes were set up right before the tournament, which obviously he did not. When he saw this thing at 140 yards after the fact and knew there was somebody on the line for a car, he started calling people."
Blanchard was dismayed, as were a number of fellow golfers on the course that day. To many who were there, an ace is an ace is an ace. But rules are rules, and Alvarez was required to enforce them.
"It certainly started taking the glitter off the day," said Blanchard, an original member of The Four Horsemen along with Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair, who retired from pro wrestling in 1991 to pursue a career in the ministry. And although he was disheartened by the incident, he said it hasn't dampened his enthusiasm or support for Camp Happy Days and Special Times.
The unfortunate situation still left all parties trying to explain what had gone wrong and left Blanchard with one burning question: "How does the guy who gets the hole-in-one not get the car?"
"The insurance company they underwrote with started screaming that the tee was in the wrong place," said Blanchard. "How was that my fault? That would be the insurance policy's out."
Stokes, which as a sponsor had advertised the car as a prize, had purchased the hole-in-one insurance from Alvarez' company, which he says would have gladly paid up had the ace met the yardage requirements.
"It was a terribly unfortunate deal," said Alvarez. "Tully went out there and hit a shot from where the markers were, but the sign said that for anyone to be eligible for a hole-in-one, they had to hit from 175 yards. He hit it from about 140 yards. The rules are very specific. I know, because I'm the one who had the contract. It's my company."
Alvarez admitted that it was unfortunate that the markers weren't properly placed.
"Tully made the ace, and because someone at the golf course didn't set the markers where they should have been, there's nothing that can be done as far as him getting the car," said Alvarez. "The auto dealer is not at fault. They paid their premium. We're not at fault. We don't go to every tournament and put the stuff out. The fortunate thing is that I was playing in the tournament.
"When I saw that we got to the first hole and it was for the Volkswagen bug and it had them (the markers) at 141 yards and was supposed to be 175, I called someone and said we need to hit from back here and we need to move, and that they should probably go back and check all the other holes to make sure it was done right. They started checking them, and when we got up to the hole where Tully made the ace, they still didn't have the markers set right. It was at about 160 yards. They fixed it and then told me that they already had a hole-in-one. I said, 'Don't tell me that.'"
Eddie Stokes of Stokes Volkswagen shared similar sentiments. "A mistake was made, and everybody wants to point the finger ... Somebody dropped the ball. I wasn't in on that part of the loop. I was playing golf, but I didn't see it happen. I heard about it after the fact that the pins weren't the right distance. It's very unfortunate. If the man had been at the pins, maybe he wouldn't have made the hole-in-one. But still, either way, he made a hole-in-one, and that's something some people never do in a lifetime."
Possibly the most distraught party was was Camp Happy Days and Special Times founder and executive director director Debby Stephenson, who was a member of Blanchard's team when he sank the ace.
"I want to die a thousand deaths. It was really all so unnecessary."
Explained Stephenson: "They brought the car out. The golf course usually sets the pin. They were waiting to hear that the cars were there. My staff never told them that the cars were there. They just went out and put the cars out there, and they didn't know that you had to place those pins back, which was no excuse. We were the first ones on the hole. Tully hit the shot and got the hole-in-one."
Stephenson, who started the camp nearly 20 years ago, said it was an honest mistake.
"Normally it's the golf course's responsibility to place the markers. On the other hand, they were going to do that, but they were waiting for the cars to get there. My staff put the cars out there, but they just didn't tell the golf course, not knowing they had to. The golf course didn't know that the cars were there. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing ... I guess it's everybody's fault."
Stephenson said last week she was attempting to put together a golf vacation package for Blanchard. Alvarez, who mentioned a "bonus prize" of a six-day, five-night trip to Mexico, tried to put a positive spin on the situation.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 17-2001
YOUNG ZBYSZKO FLOPS SCHULTZ
(Chicago Tribune, Sunday, February 1, 1914)
Wladek Zbyszko, brother of Stanislaus, made short work of Carl Schultz, champion of the German navy, in the feature bout of the wrestling show at the Chicago Athletic Association last night. Zbyszko, while not as heavy as his brother, has tremendous strength and is exceptionally fast. He put the German sailor down in straight falls, gaining the first in 2:32 with a body scissors and wrist lock and the second in 2:47 with a body lock.
The Pole weighed 225 pounds, and there seemed to be none of it that wasn’t muscle or bone. His opponent was ten pounds lighter, but never had a chance to put the Polish grappler in danger. The big fellow was the more aggressive, several times picking up his rival bodily and hurling him to the floor. Once the Pole got a toe hold on Schultz and was warned by the referee that such things were barred at the C.A.A. In another minute he had demonstrated he did not have to use the toe hold to master his man.
Next to the main bout the interest centered in the contest between Theodore Peter, the St. Paul 166-pound grappler, and Ole Nelson, a 175-pounder, who was substituted for Louis Annick. The St. Paul man showed wonderful speed and took the match in straight falls, getting the first in 6:10, when his opponent was in such a dangerous position because of a hammerlock hold that he gave up and conceded the fall to Peter. The second fall was obtained by a chancery and scissors hold in 15:32.
Johnny Billeter, the clever Toledo lightweight, succeeded in beating Walter Moran of West Pullman in straight falls, but was forced to the limit in each bout. Several times Moran had the Toledo man in a dangerous position, but the experience of the latter always enabled him to wriggle out. Billeter took the first fall in 19:18 after a desperate struggle and the second came after much effort in15:42.
Bill Hokuff, the Bohemian heavyweight, succeeded in putting the "Mysterious Conductor" down in 10:00 in a one-fall match. The two little sons of Billy Finucane, the old-time boxer, entertained the crowd with a combination boxing and wrestling contest of three rounds.
ZBYSZKO WINS IN TWO FALLS
(Chicago Tribune, Saturday, February 7, 1914)
Wladek Zbyszko, who gained fame by winning the European wrestling championship in a recent tournament at Paris, met a severe test last night in his bout with "Farmer Bill" Hokuff at the Globe theater, but showed he possessed enough class to win. Zbyszko won the first fall in 43:55 with a body lock and grapevine and the second in 23:56 with a cross body grip.
The theater wasn’t overcrowded, only a fair number of fans turning out to see the card of four bouts. The windup between Zbyszko and Hokuff brought out the only interesting work of the night.
Zbyszko won because he was better versed in offensive wrestling than his opponent, but that isn’t saying a great deal for either contestant, as Hokuff did not seem to know what to do when he got behind his man. In knowledge of holds he was lamentably lacking, and almost from the start it was apparent the Pole would win. Hokuff was on the defensive most of the time, and he was fairly successful breaking out of several holds with the aid of superior strength.
The semi-windup brought together Paul Samson, the gigantic German, and Julius Goverdacia, Samson winning in straight falls, the first in 16:40 with a cross body and wristlock, and the second with a head scissors and wristlock in 11:00. Strength counted for more than wrestling ability in this contest, and Samson won because he was stronger than his opponent.
John Frieburg won from Joe Gesthout in straight falls. He took the first in 27:53 with a scissors on arm and reverse nelson and the second in 2:59 with a half nelson and crotch. In one fall, Joe Wallace downed Victor Soldat in 35:03 with a body lock.
BEELL MEETS LEWIS TONIGHT
(Chicago Tribune, Monday, February 9, 1914)
Fred Beell, the Wisconsin grappler, and Ed (Strangler) Lewis of Lexington, Ky., will meet in the main event of the wrestling show tonight at the Empire under the auspices of the newly organized Madison A.C.
This bout will be Beell’s first contest since he announced his intention to return to the game. He has worked hard for the match. In Lewis he will meet one of the most promising wrestlers seen in Chicago in years. The grapplers are evenly matched in weight, but Lewis will have the advantage in height and reach.
In the semi-windup Theodore Peters of St. Paul will meet John Arvidson of Moose Jaw, Canada. In the other bouts Ernst Kartje will grapple with Peter Kohotovitch and Walter Evans will be pitted against Ted Tonneman.
BEELL VICTOR IN LIMIT BOUT
(Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, February 10, 1914)
Freddie Beell of Marshfield, Wis., one of the greatest wrestlers of his weight, more than made good in his "comeback" appearance at the Empire Theater last night, when he defeated Ed (Strangler) Lewis of Lexington, Ky., two of three falls in the main event of the first show staged by the Madison A.C.
After he had lost the first fall in 9:37 of interesting grappling, because he allowed Lewis to trick him into a side roll, which the Kentuckian shifted into a waist lock and scissors on the arm, the badger came back and won the next two. Beell won the second fall after he had tightened a vicious head lock. Lewis jumped, kicked, and used all the defensive knowledge of wrestling he knew to break the hold.
Lewis was unsuccessful and finally went to his knees, with Beell still in possession of the dangerous hold. Lewis squirmed and twisted, and after he realized his efforts were of no avail he struck the canvas with his right hand as a token of defeat. The Wisconsin wrestler was loudly cheered as he left the ring.’
After a fifteen-minute rest, the grapplers appeared for the third and deciding fall. Lewis was more careful, but Beell waded into his opponent in fearless fashion. They bulled each other around the ring for nine minutes, when they went to the mat with the Wisconsin grappler on top. After he had tried several holds, which Lewis broke with apparent ease, Beell obtained a toe hold which Lewis was unable to break. As he was about to hit the canvas again with his hands as a token of defeat, Beell released the toe grip and shifted to a cross body lock. Although Lewis tried hard to break the hold, the badger pinned his shoulders to the mat in 10:35.
In the semi-windup John Avidson of Moose Jaw, Canada, won from Theodore Peters of St. Paul in straight falls. The Canadian won the first fall in 10:31 with a hammerlock and the second in 1:36 with a scissors on the arm and bar arm.
Walter Evans defeated Ted Tonneman in straight falls in the opening bout. Evans won the first fall in 6:26 with a standing crotch and the second in 1:18 with a cross body hold. Peter Kokotovitch, known as Peter the Great, was defeated by Ernst Kartje by the straight fall route in the second contest. Kartje took the first fall in 39:50 with a head scissors and wrist lock and the second bout in 4:11 with a toe hold.
GRUNT AND GRIMACE OF MAT WOULD AID RING GAME
(Special to Washington Post, June 2, 1931)
By Westbrook Pegler
NEW YORK – The wrestling industry will now enjoy a summer lay-off after a prosperous indoor season, during which the boys demonstrated again that at one word from the press the public will do just as it pleases. Even though the newspapers invariable covered the so-called championship matches of the various so-called champions and their business partners in a broadly facetious tone, and even though Jim Londos, one of these champions, confessed he always endeavored to give the customers a modicum of drama along with their sport, the wrestling business outprospered the prize fighting industry by a good margin in New York.
In the end, no apparent harm was done, as Mr. Jack Curley’s weekly entertainments soon developed into a kind of young and old boys’ Wednesday night off-the-street club.
The current popularity of wrestling is one of the amusing puzzles of the sports industry in the United States. For many yeas the game has been without friends, so forsaken that newspapers which would hesitate to denounce poison ivy were not afraid to express themselves on the subject.
Mr. Jerome Beatty, an old former newspaperman himself, tells me of an incident illustrative of this. Mr. Beatty was working in a newspaper office which was so full of sacred cows that it was as much as a reporter’s job was worth to mention the name of the guest of honor at a routine hanging lest the party turn out to be a friend of the management.
But one day he took a small item over the phone about a brakeman’s accident in the local railroad yards, wrote about 50 words on the mishap and turned it in to the desk. A few minutes later there was a commotion at the desk, and Mr. Beatty was summoned to face a city editor who sat waving the copy and spluttering excitedly.
"Have you gone crazy, Mr. Beatty?" the city editor demanded. "Don’t you know that our respected owner and publisher is a stockholder in this railroad? Do you want to get fired and get us all fired, writing a story like this?"
"I am very sorry," Mr. Beatty said, "and I suggest that you post a list on the bulletin board of the persons and firms who are not to be mentioned in the columns of our great, free and fearless journal, except in complimentary terms."
"That would be the long way around," said the city editor. "Just remember always this paper takes a firm uncompromising stand on Chinamen and wrestlers, and nothing else."
I am inclined to believe that the introduction of sound effects into wrestling during the recent season had much to do with the revival of popularity and prosperity. The boys always were pretty garrulous in the clinches, talking over their family affairs, their investments and their vacation plans in low, confidential murmurs, but in the past they tried to maintain a mistaken stoicism during the application of the punishing holds.
However, Mr. Curley took the members of his herd to some good conservatory of the drama, told them to pass a voice test and then learn to utter a repertoire of bird calls and wild animal cries.
The acoustics of Madison Square Garden were an item of singular pride with the late Tex Rickard, who often boasted they were the best acoustics that money could buy, and with a little experience some of Mr. Curley’s wrestlers became so artistic that a small whinny or duck-squawk loosed up on the acoustics in the ring became a resounding cry of agony as it soared toward the galleries.
Old Mr. Muldoon, the prize-fight commissioner, being a former wrestler, looked upon these bouts with a cold, cynical eye and refused to let Mr. Curley advertise them as contests, holding them to be more histrionic exhibitions, but the customers were no more willing that Mr. Muldoon should save them from their folly than the newspapers should, he being another of those pathetic altruists who have tried to make the public think.
It is probably that if the prize fighters should add the talkie element to their entertainments they would enjoy much better business. They belittle their punishment, and the customers naturally conclude that the hardest punches do not hurt, and they, therefore, go away dissatisfied and often neglect to come back.
I imagine, though, that if during the recent featherweight championship waltz between Bat Battalino and Fidel LaBarba, the boys had moaned and screamed to the rafters at each vicious jab on the elbow the patrons might have created for themselves a pleasant illusion that they were witnessing something very like a slaughter.
When a pugilist is hit on the chin and assumes a smile of apparent delight he does not deceive his opponent, who always knows how much weight the punch carried and whether or not it landed flush. But he does create an impression on the customers which is not exactly helpful to the business. The customers are easily deceived, and the punch that provokes a wide grin is discounted as something of no importance, whereas, if the fighter were to yell, "Ow! You’re killing me," he would create the opposite illusion.
Similarly, when a pugilist speaks on the radio, it is no boost to the business when he exclaims, as he usually does, "hullo, momma, hullo, poppa, Milton and Little Gloria, I win easy."
I suggest that they moan triumphantly, "I win, but I’ll never be the same."
Mr. Curley hit upon an idea so obvious that both the fighters and wrestlers overlooked it before, the notion being that the patrons do not pay their funds to see the gladiators have a good time.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 18-2001
LONDOS BEATS DUSEK IN 58 MINUTES
(Washington Post, Friday, June 5, 1931)
By Bob Considine
Twelve thousand roaring fans last night saw the syndicate’s heavyweight wrestling crown totter on the head of Jim Londos, first hanging precariously on one side and then just caught on the flange of his bitten ear, as Rudy Dusek gave the "Greek gawd" his worst evening since Ray Steele was defeated in New York nearly a month ago.
Londos emerged triumphant in 58 minutes of agony at the hands of the bruiser who had never lost a match in Washington. It was a match which saw the champion in a defensive role throughout, which saw him barely come out of three hitherto unbreakable rocking-cradle holds, which saw him take blows driven from the elbow which would have floored a Civil War statue and it was a match which came to a thrilling death with Dusek prostrate after three airplane spins.
If there had been no finishing coup, Dusek would have won on points. Young, strong and as pugnacious as a movie villain, Dusek asked for no quarter and gave dollars’ worth of energy in what seemed a mighty effort to wrench loose from Londos that much-maligned crown which he won just a year ago next week. Just as fast as Londos, Dusek had a 12-pound weight advantage, buckling the boards at 214.
The bout, itself, will live long in the Commonwealth’s collective memory. It was bloody and unrelenting warfare from the start. The royal blood of the champion flowed freely from a leg scrape, while the common red corpuscles of the challenger resembled nothing describable. Dusek was "open" around the mouth and ears, and sustained general damages when, near the end, Londos hurled him across the ring, through the ropes and plump into Mr. Griffith’s ballfield.
That pitch out of the ring was the turning point of the battle. Dusek returned a bit chastened and subsequently was taken for a ride by way of the airplane spin.
The crowd was in an uproar throughout the 58 minutes, as Londos’ shoulders strained but a fraction of an inch away from the mat and the beetle-browed challenger mauled and wheezed. Londos seemed closest to defeat on two of Rudy’s cradle rocks. Dusek’s other decisive holds were a crab lock, with half the bout gone; a series of arm strangles, and a head scissors which served as a lever with which to bang the champion’s head against the canvas with blows which resounded out to the sun parlor.
Londos, like his ancient forebear, grew stronger near the end. He bounded up from the mat with redoubled vigor in the last five minutes to quell the human wildcat he was pitted against. He gained his greatest Washington ovation as he left the ring. It reverberated nearly as wide as did the tumultuous cheer for Dusek.
If gore is what the patrons wanted – and that seemed to fill the bill – the Dick Daviscourt-Frank Brunowicz brawl supplied it in bucketfuls. This was no wrestling match, although Daviscourt pinned his man to the mat after 17 minutes. It was toe-to-toe hitting throughout, the winner going down once for the count of five.
Jim McNamara, the former Hilltopper, and now athletic director of the Jewish Community Center, lost his first professional match to Sun Jennings, the Indian, in seven minutes. "Mac," given one of the big cheers of the night, showed promise in losing. He gained the first real hold of the match – a good armlock – but being butted out of the ring and a series of flying tackles subdued him.
Joe Turner, owner of the ring, paid a return visit to Marlo "Justa" Giglio and tossed his guest in 27 minutes with a cradle clamp, and Leon Hyatt, substituting for Sandor Szabo, tugged at old Tiger Nelson for 30 minutes to no decision. While the patrons were filing in, one Cyclone Williams rendered Firpo Wilcox horizontal in 11 minutes, with what is known, and respected, as a flying tackle.
STILL FIGHTING PROUD
(Toronto Sun, March 3, 2001)
Back when men were men and women were used to it, one man
stood out as the brute we all loved to hate.
Gene Kiniski was a professional wrestler for more than 40 years, tossing opponents around the ring from 1952 until he finally hung up his battered tunic in 1994 at the grandfatherly age of 64.
He's just one of the grappling legends featured on the Comedy Network's nostalgic new series Wrestling With The Past. The second episode, featuring Kiniski, airs tomorrow at 8 p.m.
"I'd still be wrestling if it wasn't for my knees," Kiniski told me last week when we met for an interview at a fancy Toronto restaurant.
I wasn't about to argue with him, especially after shaking his giant catcher's mitt of a paw.
The 72-year-old, who now lives near Vancouver, is still fit and, more to the point, cranky. He works out with light weights five times a week and swims twice a week, too.
In his prime, Kiniski was named Canada's Greatest Athlete. He attended the University of Arizona on a football scholarship and played in the CFL. He was also a boxer.
The big money, in the '50s, was in wrestling.
"I'd have to say we were the highest paid athletes going," Kiniski says. "Hockey, baseball players, they weren't making anything then. We could write off our hotel rooms, cars and other expenses."
And see the world. Kiniski travelled throughout the U.S. and Canada and even to such far-flung places as Japan and New Zealand during his ring career.
As Kiniski points out, wrestling was perfectly suited to the new medium of television. "It didn't cost much to put up a wrestling ring and the crowds always came out."
They sure did in Toronto to see the likes of Gorgeous George and Whipper Billy Watson, whom Kiniski fought so many times he has long ago lost count.
"George could wrassle, don't kid yourself," Kiniski says of the flamboyant grappler with the long peroxide locks. "He just wasn't that big."
At 6-foot-5, 275 lbs, Kiniski fought in the super heavyweight division. There he's faced all the big guys -- Haystack Calhoun, Tex McKenzie, Andre The Giant and Yukon Eric.
Kiniski rates Eric and Andre as wrestling's strongest men. Rotund Calhoun, whose big finish was to sit on his opponent, was surprisingly strong, too.
"You had to be very, very careful with him," Kiniski says. "Once his endurance went down you could take a few liberties with him."
Kiniski was just the guy to take a few liberties. Opponents -- and often audiences -- hated him.
"Don't tell me about that Kiniski," one fan once yelled. "He was a troublemaker on the boat with me."
Kiniski still laughs at that one. He was born in Alberta.
He doesn't watch today's goofy brand of wrestling, where super-sized women like Chyna now star, but has no problem with it, either.
"We all like to look at the ladies," he growls. "At least I know I do."
He's met The Rock, and found him to be "a fine gentleman, very articulate." Kiniski used to fight his father, Rocky Johnson. "His dad told him I was a son-of-a-bitch," smiled Kiniski.
It's a rap he wears with pride. "My son used to say, 'I never heard one wrestler say anything good about you.' And I'd say, 'where are they and where am I?'"
In fact, Kiniski makes no effort to impress anyone. "Even today, I wear old clothes," he says, drawing attention to his possibly grey leisure suit jacket. "Who the #%&!@# am I going to impress by wearing a thousand dollar suit?"
Maybe me, grandpa, I said.
Kiniski's forehead started sizzling like a hot hamburger. He reached across the table and flung me the length of the restaurant like a used Beanie Baby.
When I came to, he was towering over me like a lumpy TD Centre. I tried to smash a chair across his arthritic knees but I couldn't reach them. Scrambling onto a stack of tables, I leapt on his back and tried for an eye gouge or a camel clutch but I couldn't get my arms around his ears, let alone his neck.
Kiniski was about to toss me down, stomp on my head and put me in a lethal scissors lock when the check arrived. I saw my opening and made for the door, but Kiniski beat me to it. He was last seen picking cabbies up by their nostrils and flinging them up Yonge St.
Or something like that. Tune in and see mean Gene reminisce tomorrow night at 8 on Wrestling With The Past.
STU HART RECEIVES ORDER OF CANADA
(Calgary Sun, June 1, 2001)
By Rick Bell
They were all there, yesterday afternoon in Ottawa.
Judges and educators, captains of industry and top civil servants, entomologists and ornithologists, conservationists and playwrights, and the host of a Sunday-night sex show on TV.
They all graced the Governor General's digs at Rideau Hall.
Our very own Stu Hart was there too.
To become a member of the Order of Canada, this country's highest honour for a life of achievement.
No amount of government glitz could change the man.
Stu is still Stu.
He has lived it all and seen it all in his 86 years.
He's wrestled in every ring, played on every field and faced more than his fair share of hurts. Stu has nothing to prove and does not need the false comfort of fleeting fame.
In recent years, Stu witnessed his son Owen die and his grandson Matthew die.
He endures the unseemly spectacle of the public, pathetic feuding of many in his family and maintains grace under pressure.
Getting the Order of Canada was another day for Stu.
He couldn't see why he'd been singled out when, as he says, there were "lots of good guys."
"It's a hell of a thing. I don't know if I deserve it. You shouldn't get carried away with this," says Stu.
And he means it.
He was happy for the honour but, on the flight down from Calgary, he tells a passenger Gordie Howe should get the award.
Stu says he's just lucky.
He'd rather talk your ear off about good times on the road, old and largely forgotten adversaries of bygone bouts, his days as an Edmonton Eskimo, the award he got in Vegas from wrestling's Cauliflower Alley club.
And yesterday Stu sure would've liked to have showed a move or two to the Governor General and the other honourees.
"I'd love to put a thread-through hold on some victim and show them how deadly wrestling is, if properly applied," says Stu, just before reluctantly donning a rented tuxedo and heading to Rideau Hall. "You know the move.
"The guy's eyeballs turn red and he feels like he's going to burst."
And, in many parts of this city and in many quarters of this world, Stu and his Stampede Wrestling is the stuff of legend. Many people know this city only because of Stu.
Yesterday, the Governor General cited Stu as the "patriarch of Canada's first family of professional wrestling," an "icon of the golden era" of the grappling game, a "generous supporter of community life" and a man who imparted "the highest standards of athleticism and personal conduct."
His daughter Georgia was at the ceremony.
So was the one tag-team partner who's stayed with Stu for almost 54 years.
Helen, his wife.
As Stu is honoured, this lovely lady thinks of Stu's strength. Not his well-documented physical prowess, now declining with years. No, Helen thinks of his strength of character.
"Stu is like a rock. When everyone loses their head, he's calm. He just has a lot of stamina and fortitude. He never gives up," says Helen. She also reflects on Stu's softer side.
Stu, the "very artistic" lover of interior decorating, needlepoint, Oriental rugs and crystal chandeliers.
Stu, who never forgot where he came from and helped every charity and every person who came to call.
"He's a farm boy from Saskatchewan who never really had many of the advantages of life, but he'd always leave the door open for anyone. Whether you were a stray person or the Prince of Wales, Stu would take you in," says Helen.
"A graphologist once analysed Stu's handwriting and told me the way he does the letter T means he wants to house the world and feed everybody."
Today, Stu wakes up a member of a select group with one motto. It reads: "They desire a better country."
One thing is certain.
Canada is a better country and Calgary is a better city because Stu Hart lives here.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No. 19-2001
MAN MOUNTAIN DEAN DUMPS PINTO
(Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, January 3, 1939)
Man Mountain Dean won his wrestling exhibition with Stanley Pinto in Cicero Stadium yesterday afternoon when Pinto was counted out by referee Earl Mollihan after 9 minutes and 15 seconds.
In other bouts: Pat Murphy beat Jack Mason, 13:35; John Evko beat Vic Soldat, 30:00; Silent George Mack beat Mike Markoff, 30:00; Jack Ross beat Joe Mitchell, 14:45.
Ruffy Silverstein was awarded a decision over Olaf Olson after 24 minutes and 25 seconds of wrestling in White City last night. After both fell from the ring, Silverstein was the only one able to climb back before the twenty count. Bert Rubi, scheduled to meet Olson, was incapacitated with an arm infection.
In other results: Walter Palmer beat Jack Conley, 30 minutes; Roy Rickenbacher beat Babe Kasaboski, 27:04; Mike Markoff pinned Kid Chapman, 17 minutes, and Whitey Hewitt drew Ken Fenelon, 30 minutes.
WHEN GOTCH MET HACKENSCHMIDT
(Chicago Magazine, September, 1999)
By Bob Kurson
Ninety-one years ago in Chicago, two of the most famous athletes in the world battled for the championship of wrestling. It was the sport's crowning moment --and its ultimate undoing
Around the two-hour mark, Gotch body-slammed the Russian into the mat and
searched for the step-over toehold. Anticipating defeat, Hack conceded.
"Mr. Gotch, I surrender my title," said the vanquished champ, who
forfeited the second fall. The Chicago crowd exploded and the world had a new
Hackenschmidt was gracious in defeat--at least in Chicago. "I shall not wrestle Gotch again. He's too much for me. I cannot beat him," Hack said, according to one reporter. "Gotch is the greatest man I have ever met. He's master of the whole bunch."
The Russian Lion boarded a steamer back to his home in England, but the days aboard the ship were cruel to his ego. Memories of his fall to Gotch began to stalk his pride, and in England, few could accept that their hero had been bested. Pressed to explain the loss, the ex-champ and his cronies described a match different from the one fans had seen in Chicago. They accused Gotch of soaking in oil for three days before the match so that Hackenschmidt couldn't grip him; drenching his hair in kerosene to burn his opponent; and using eye pokes, face gouges, ear rips, head butts, knuckle drags, and other foul tactics.
By then, Gotch had become America's most beloved athlete. He toured the East Coast starring in the play All About a Bout, which eventually traveled to London. The British press hounded Gotch, clamoring for a rematch and questioning the American's honor. Stung, Gotch challenged Hack to a rematch, but promoters couldn't settle on the details, and Gotch returned home to Iowa. Three years passed before Chicago again was chosen to settle the world's biggest grudge.
The rematch was set for September 4, 1911, at one-year-old Comiskey Park. Each wrestler had spent the intervening years defeating all comers, and promoters began predicting a Comiskey crowd of 25,000--remarkable in those days for an American athletic event. From his box seat at the Cubs-Cardinals game at the West Side Grounds the day before the bout, Gotch entertained players with pregame predictions of victory. Hackenschmidt also insisted he would win, but in fact he nervously paced Michigan Avenue, alone. Just hours before the match, he told a writer, "[Gotch] is a great fellow, yes? I may beat him quickly and then, of course . . ." The writer reported that Hack couldn't complete the sentence.
More than 31,000 wedged themselves into Comiskey Park for the rematch, arriving 12 hours early and paying up to $50 for prime seats. The Marquess of Queensberry, author of the modern rules of boxing and in attendance for the match, wrote in the Chicago Daily American, "Yesterday I was wondering in my mind what on earth sporting Chicago was going to do with itself after the big event of this afternoon is over."
Gotch instantly justified Hack's foreboding. From the first bell, the Iowan hunted for the toehold, but settled for a pin after just 14 minutes. In the second fall of the best-two-out-of-three match, Gotch locked onto the Russian Lion's ankle, looked for the step-over toehold, and wound up with the pin. Total elapsed time: 19 minutes, 50 seconds.
The triumph should have cemented Gotch's reputation, but by now, the seed of theatre had begun germinating in the sport. Hackenschmidt started complaining again, this time that he had entered the rematch with an injured leg. Weeks later, rumors flew that Gotch had paid a henchman $5,000 to "hook" Hackenschmidt--to injure his leg--during a prematch sparring session. Today, Mike Chapman, executive director of the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa, dismisses the charge as bunk, but the accusation lingered and helped pave the way for the lucrative, if ludicrous, wrestlemania phenomenon of the 1990s.
Just a day after the second Gotch-Hackenschmidt match, one Chicago
sportswriter wrote, "Most of the spectators filed out of the place . . .
feeling something had been done to them, they knew not exactly what, but
something." Professional wrestling would never again be the same, and,
ultimately, fans began to question its legitimacy.
"Gotch-Hackenschmidt was a turning point," says Chapman. "Wrestling reached its highest pitch of excitement, but after Gotch retired, there was a void. In terms of national interest and excitement, wrestling went downhill from there."
After a few more matches, Gotch did retire, in 1915, to Humboldt, Iowa, where he contemplated a run for governor before dying of uremic poisoning in 1917, only 39 years old. His fame, however, endured. For years he remained his home state's most popular figure, inspiring a love for the sport of wrestling that persists in Iowa to this day. George Hackenschmidt died in 1967 at the age of 89.
Following Gotch's retirement, legitimate wrestling carried on. By 1922, the reigning world champ, Ed "Strangler" Lewis, had won hundreds of matches and was considered unbeatable. But he wasn't particularly charismatic, and the country was getting bored with him and with wrestling, especially since baseball had come to life under Babe Ruth. Wrestling needed a shot of adrenaline, and promoters approached Lewis with a proposition--a fat check in return for throwing the title to Wayne "Big" Munn. Weeks later, Munn hit Lewis with a series of halfhearted body blocks and Lewis went sprawling out of the ring. "Wrestling was gone at that point," says Mike Chapman.
After Strangler Lewis, professional wrestling became increasingly staged, though several legitimate, or "shoot," matches proved that champs such as Lou Thesz and Chicago favorite Verne Gagne were capable of wrestling for real--and viciously--when necessary. Through the early 1980s, promoters selected champs primarily based on star appeal, with genuine wrestling ability only occasionally part of the package. In 1982, when Chicagoans booed the supposed German muscleman Baron von Raschke at the International Amphitheatre on Halsted, they were really booing Jim Raschke, University of Nebraska football and wrestling star. Even then, the sport retained ties to Gotch by valuing superb athletes who could break bones if they needed to.
No longer. In an era when young males have fallen in love with video games and special-effects-driven movies, marketing wizards know that wrestling sells best when its characters are cartoonish and its story lines mythic. Actual wrestling prowess needn't ever figure into the equation. "Stone Cold Steve" Austin might well use his patented "can of whoop-ass" to stomp the Undertaker, but according to Chapman, he can't wrestle a lick. Worse, he probably knows little of Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt, to whom he owes a debt a thousand cans of whoop-ass could never repay.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.20-2001
MIGHTY WRESTLERS IN GREAT BOUT HERE TONIGHT
(Boston Globe, Thursday, November 27, 1919)
Will "Strangler" Ed Lewis’ head lock prevail or will the equally effective double-nelson of Wladek Zbyszko bring the "Mighty Son of Poland" through a victor in tonight’s battle in Mechanic’s Building?
The importance of the contest is recognized by the fans, for they realize that Lewis is struggling to retain the prestige of his previous victory over the Pole at Braves Field in 1917 and also to prevent elimination from among the championship contenders.
As matters now stand Lewis was defeated by Stecher, and another setback tonight would spell disaster to any hopes he might have of capturing the title.
Zbyszko has never forgiven Lewis for the defeat at Braves Field. In fact, the Pole has always contended that Lewis threw him from the ring.
Both men are at their best, interest is exceptionally high, and every indication is that there will be a big crowd on hand when the first of the preliminaries are called at 8:15 by promoter George Tuohey.
ZBYSZKO HURLS LEWIS TO MAT
(Boston Globe, Friday, November 28, 1919)
Wladek Zbyszko, the Polish wrestler, eliminated Strangler Ed Lewis of Chicago in the elimination trial to determine the world’s champion in Mechanic’s Building last night. The Pole won after the two big gladiators had been wrestling 38 minutes. The fall came as a surprise to the 6,500 spectators who packed the hall.
Lewis was the aggressor up to the time Zbyszko secured the verdict. The Pole was very cautious and had gotten out of many serious positions. Only a very few times during the match did Zbyszko have an advantageous hold, but on these occasions Lewis struggled and got free. Just before the contest ended, Lewis kept trying his deadly headlock, and several times the Pole had to use all his strength and cunning to break away.
Lewis centered his attack on Zbyszko’s head. After four attempts to bring down his opponent, he made another drive against Zbyszko’s head. This time the latter broke loose and, with a flying fall, turned to a body hold and a head chancery, he pinned Lewis to the mat. It was several minutes after Referee Hehir had tapped the victorious Zbyszko on the back before Lewis was able to get on his feet.
It is feared that one of Lewis’ ribs was broken. He had to be escorted from the ring to his dressing room, where he was examined by a physician. It is the second time Zbyszko has beaten Lewis, and with last night’s defeat all chances of Lewis being considered for the championship are lost.
Last night’s carnival was one of the best ever staged in this city. There were many women present. The main bout was decided under the new American Wrestling Association championship rules.
In the preliminaries Tommy Record of Somerville defeated Young Ray of Haverhill, with a front crotch and body hold, after 11 minutes and 30 seconds of wrestling.
Peter Goulette of Woonsocket won from Al Marshall of Brunswick, Me., in a rough and tumble contest. A flying fall with a body hold gave Goulette the verdict in 19 minutes 50 seconds. John Kilonis and Tony Ajax struggled through 30 minutes of strenuous work to no decision.
ROBERT RISKS TITLE FRIDAY AGAINST MANAGOFF
(Houston Post, Sunday, November 22, 1942)
Yvon Robert, French Canadian mat master, now is the unquestioned heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. He gained a pretty staunch toehold on the title late in October when he pinned "Wild Bill" Longson twice in Montreal in a battle which Longson questioned and even got out an injunction against Robert claiming the crown. But Friday night in St. Louis, Robert again faced Longson, and this time he outroughed and beat Longson beyond any shadow of doubt, throwing Longson completely out of the ring, and defying him to return.
On that same St. Louis card, in the semifinal spot, Young Bobby Managoff demonstrated his Houston-gained acumen by pinning Joe Dusek, St. Louis’ pride, almost stealing the play away from the top bout.
Friday night at the City Auditorium, in a bout which every wrestling center in the nation would clamor to get, promoter Morris Sigel will present Young Bobby Managoff, Houston’s idol, versus Yvon Robert, for the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world.
Promoter Sigel had a representative at the St. Louis ringside this last Friday evening, and literally stole the marbles right out from under the very nose of Tom Packs, one of the nation’s top matchmakers.
Robert stipulated that, should he lose the title to Managoff, Bobby would agree to give him a return whack at it within 90 days. This Young Bobby agreed to do.
This simple request on Robert’s part may indicate that the title sits rockily on his head.
Bobby Managoff, whose rise has been one of the most rapid in mat history, is well known to Houston fans. He fought his way up here, from bottom to top.
The new champion, however, is a complete stranger to local fans. He has done most of his grappling in Canada, and like Managoff, is the sort of man who has washed up most of the opposition in his home area.
You pronounce his name as if it were spelled e-VON ro-BAIR, and from what those who have seen him say, he really is a bear. Any man who can outrough Longson definitely has something on the ball, and Friday night two such men will meet when Bobby Managoff faces Yvon Robert.
On the same card, Mildred Burke will tackle the Purple Flash. This battle in itself will be outstanding, since the masked mystery is the only feminine grappler who has ever pinned Mildred Burke in a Texas ring, or any other ring, for that matter. She turned this neat little trick in a tag match here three weeks ago. Three additional prelims will complete the card.
ROBERT RISKS MAT CROWN TO BOB MANAGOFF
(Houston Post, Friday, November 27, 1942)
Yvon Robert, 228-pound French-Canadian heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, will make his first wrestling appearance in Houston Friday night at the City Auditorium when he risks his newly acquired title to young Bobby Managoff, Houston’s idol and the nation’s top contender for matdom’s top honors.
Robert, who had been knocking at the title for almost a year, won it in late October by downing "Wild Bill" Longson in two falls of a questionable Montreal bout that went four falls before it was over. Thus with the title hanging questionably on the heads of two claimants, Tom Packs, St. Louis promoter, matched Robert and Longson again in St. Louis last Friday night and Robert beat Longson decisively to take the crown without doubt.
On that same card, young Bobby Managoff faced Joe Dusek in the semi-final and beat the Nebraskan so handily that there was no question but what he was entitled to a shot at Robert.
Promoter Morris Sigel of Houston had a representative at that St. Louis ringside, and before the main event decision had gotten out over all of the news wires, he had already signed Robert to this local battle against the sensational young Armenian.
Not, however, before Robert had insisted upon one thing: That should Bobby win, he must agree to give Robert a return battle within 90 days. Managoff, advised by his father, who is also his coach, trainer and second, readily agreed. "If Bobby can beat him tonight, he can certainly repeat the beating any time within the next 90 days," was Pop Managoff’s comment.
That Managoff has an excellent chance to take Robert’s title is attested to by most local mat fans and backed up by the statement of Louis Thesz, who has met both men at different times. "I have met and defeated Yvon Robert in Canada this year before he acquired the title," says the man who has been twice champion himself. "And I think Bobby, whom I have also wrestled, will beat him."
Texas’ wrestling commissioner, John D. Reed, and his able chief deputy, Bill Cummings, will be present, as probably will Col. Harry J. Landry, president of the National Wrestling Association. Hundreds of out-of-towners, anxious to get in their last big championship mat battle before gasoline rationing, have bought ducats.
The entire card is outstanding. In the semifinal slot, Louis Thesz will tackle Jim "Goon" Henry, making his last mat stand before being inducted into the United States Army. A special battle sends Mildred Burke, the world’s leading female grappler, in against the masked, mysterious Purple Flash, only young lady who has ever pinned her shoulders to the mat here. Prelims will include: Ray Eckert versus Dynamite Joe Cox, and Roy Graham versus Chief Joe Little Beaver. The curtain-raiser will begin promptly at 8:30 p.m.
BOBBY MANAGOFF COPS WORLD TITLE
(Houston Post, Saturday, November 28, 1942)
Young Bobby Managoff was crowned the new heavyweight wrestling champion of the world Friday night at the City Auditorium in Houston, before a cheering capacity crowd that had flocked into the building to see their idol work against Yvon Robert.
Although the crowd was there to see Bobby conquer, they could hardly believe their eyes when referee Ellis Bashara held Bobby’s hand up in the symbol of victory, and stayed standing many minutes after the bout was over in a tribute of admiration to the scintillating young Armenian boy and his faithful father who holds the reins of destiny in his slow, sure, tedious trek to the title.
Bobby has the distinction of being the youngest man in grappling history to reign over the heavyweights. His recent rise to championship heights has taken place almost wholly in Houston, and twice before he made bids for the crown against Longson. While he gave the Utah titleholder physical beatings both times they met, Managoff always came out second best in the record books.
But last week in St. Louis, appearing in the semi-final battle on the card wherein Robert defeated Wild Bill Longson, Bobby made his first Missouri appearance, and blasted Joe Dusek to gain his first national notice. Promoter Morris Sigel, who has been convinced since the first time he saw Bobby wrestle that here was a sure champion, had a representative at that St. Louis ringside, and literally stole this Managoff-Robert contest right out from under the very big noses of a half dozen of the nation’s leading matchmakers.
Before Robert would sign to meet Managoff, however, he insisted upon a clause in the contract which stipulated that should Managoff win he must agree to give Robert a return chance within 90 days. This return battle is something which the fans can now begin to look forward to, for if Friday night’s fray is any criterion, such battles are few and far between.
It was evident from the first time Managoff and Robert went into a clinch that they were evenly matched. For a few torrid minutes they delved into conventional holds, measuring each other up, and then it was a question of the best man winning. Bobby Managoff proved to be that man. He pinned Robert twice, right out in the center of the ring.
The first fall went 22 minutes, with Managoff using a step-over toe-hold to win. In the second fall, Robert came back to the ring with determination breaking out in his own cold sweat, and clamped a rolling short-arm scissors on Bobby, to even it up, in 10 minutes and five seconds. Bobby, getting much the worst of it for a time, finally came through with the winning combination when he applied at least a dozen lightning-like, bombastic flying drop-kicks, to take the fall, the match, and the championship after seven minutes of the third fall.
Mildred Burke got back at the masked, mysterious Purple Flash in a special added battle, using her favorite alligator clutch to beat the masked femme in 18 minutes.
Louis Thesz, himself a former two-time champion, looked every bit the part in the semi-final, with his own airplane spin clamped on Jim "Goon" Henry. He beat the Goon in 15 minutes. It was Thesz, incidentally, who maintained throughout the week that Managoff would win the world’s mat title when he faced Robert.
Ray Eckert and Dynamite Joe Cox wrestled to a thrilling 20-minute draw in the card’s second slot, while Chief Joe Little Beaver used a Boston Crab to dispose of Roy Graham after only five minutes of the opener. John Galiano refereed the women’s match, while Paul Jones officiated in the other prelims.
(RETURN TO WAWLI PAPERS INDEX PAGE)