THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.61-2001
DETTON STEELE DRAW IN TOP ATTRACTION
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Friday, January 14, 1938)
By Abe Pollock
Dean Detton, 225-pound Salt Lake City grappler who formerly claimed one of the ‘umptee heavyweight wrestling titles, wrestled to what is known to the trade as a Mexican standoff in a bout with Ray Steele, 220-pound Nebraskan, in the top spot on Jack Kanner’s mat show last night at the Auditorium.
Fifteen hundred fans were treated to a delightful evening as the grunting behemoths panted through 90 minutes of warfare to a draw. Curfew nipped the muscle necks after Detton had won the first fall in 47 minutes with an Indian deadlock and Steele had squaredthe count in 12 minutes of the second fall with a punishing leg hold. Detton yelled "uncle" when Steele threatened to break off a limb.
Two polished thespians, Sam Menacher, 210, and Nick Camofredo, 220, pilfered the spotlight in the preliminaries with an adequate spine-tingler.
Sam and Nick shared a deadlock when, after 23 minutes of grimacing and grunting, they fell, head first, from the ring and remained outside the hemp longer than the allotted 20 seconds. Referee Dan Darnell disqualified both.
Menacher and Campofredo displayed a 1938 streamlined repertoire of tricks. The fans were generous in applause.
Baron Benny Ginsberg, who is not an Osage Indian, was his old self in his bout with Pat Fraley. Although Benjamin promised to discard his villain’s role, he was anything but a well-behaved burper, subjecting poor Patrick to almost unbearable torture before the Irisher turned the tables to win in 23 minutes with a leg hold. Adults booed and the kiddies hissed the Baron as he moped up the aisle, a miserable figure in defeat. Ben weighed 218, Pat, 230.
Joe Tontin, 210, tossed Frankie Cutler, 205, in 12 minutes 19 seconds with a body slam.
THESZ WRESTLES MARSHALL TONIGHT
(Rocky Mountain News, Denver, September 12, 1938)
By Abe Pollock
A 23-year-old Hungarian, Louis Thesz, who has twice thrown Everette Marshall, La Junta’s former heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, will attempt to break the Coloradan’s winning streak in the local ring when the two square off at Mammoth Gardens tonight in the top match on Joe Mohana’s inaugural mat card.
Thesz dethroned Marshall last winter in St. Louis, then repeated against the big blond melon magnate a month later. Thesz lost his title to Steve (Crusher) Casey soon after he thumped Marshall for a second time.
The match will be a three-fall affair.
Lee Wykoff will meet John Grandovich in the semi-windup bout, which is scheduled for one fall.
In the prelims, Pat McClary tangles with Dorv Roche and Ray Eckert faces Tommy Marvin.
The first bout starts at 8:15 o’clock.
MARSHALL BEATS THESZ IN MAT GO
(Rocky Mountain News, September 13, 1938)
By Abe Pollock
Everett Marshall of La Junta won two out of three falls last night at Mammoth Gardens to defeat Louis Thesz, St. Louis, in the main event of a bruising wrestling show.
Marshall, who entered the ring weighing 218, annexed the first fall from the 222-pound Missourian in 23 minutes with a body slam.
Thesz came back to win the second fall in 14 minutes and 30 seconds with a body hold.
After nine minutes and 34 seconds, the La Junta grappler took the deciding fall with his favorite airplane spin, whirling Thesz above his head and then slamming him to the mat.
Thirty-five hundred spectators witnessed the card. The main go was a rough, tough affair all the way, with both wrestlers being thrown from the ring at least a half dozen times.
In other bouts, Lee Wykoff, 225, defeated John Grandovich, 245, in 24:50 with a toe hold; Ray Eckert, 211, threw Dutch Wayman, 210, in 14 minutes, and Dorv Roche, 220, tossed Pat McClary, 276, in 23:45.
HARDBOILED HAGGERTY STOPS EL PULPO IN MAT MASSACRE
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, October 27, 1938)
By Jack Singer
W.P.A. crews, working in shifts, last night were removing the broken body of El Pulpo, the Mexican Octopus Man, in sections and transporting said torso the glue factory where, attendants report, there is a 50-50 chance that it will be patched up again as good as new, give or take an arm.
Late last night searching parties had recovered most of Senor El Pulpo’s anatomy but there was still one leg, two ribs and a half-dozen vertebrae still missing somewhere in the vicinity of Olympic Auditorium where the victim had collided with one Hard-boiled Haggerty, a tough yegg.
Hard-boiled, who has a working agreement with the boogie man to frighten little children, scrambled El Pulpo in 20m. 11s. with a backward body drop, 270 pounds of Mr. Haggerty dropping on Senor El Pulpo and El Pulpo dropping off to sleep.
Dr. Lloyd Mace, busy operating on a deck of cards at the moment in the dressing room, was hastily summoned to examine the patient and, after reading El’s gas meter, ruled that he was unable to come out for the second fall – El Pulpo, not the doctor.
With the Mexican stretched out on the floor dozing peacefully, Mons. Jacques Daro, who is not responsible for articles left after 30 days, ordered the carcass removed, a job which proved big enough for a government project.
Hard-boiled, who had his head shaved because he was disappointed he didn’t have curly hair, must have arisen on the wrong side of the bed for he didn’t treat poor El Pulpo like a brother Elk. The first move he made, just to cement friendship, was to grab the Mexican by the throat and referee Don McDonald had to send for a plumber to fix El Pulpo’s windpipe.
Hard-boiled then clutched the Latin’s legs, turned him upside down and bounced his head on the floor several times before referee McDonald, who is taking a correspondence school course in crime detection, made him desist. El Pulpo, somewhat nettled, which is just another word for dizzy, clamped on a toe hold, threatening to tear off Haggerty’s big toe and autograph it.
The Mexican then wrapped his long, wiry legs around Hard-boiled’s kitchen department and applied such terrific pressure that it must have upset some of the chinaware in the Irishman’s "pantry." Haggerty, groaning in anguish, climbed to his feet with El Pulpo’s legs still entwined around his ample waistline and riding him like a jockey. Suddenly Hard-boiled went into a tailspin, falling backwards and landing with what is usually described as a sickening thud on top of the Octopus Man and the next thing you know they were measuring El Pulpo for a casket -–Hart, Shaffner and Marx style.
Hard-boiled, tears in his eyes, seemed very upset on the fate that had befallen El Pulpo and, just to prove that he is a sweet sentimentalist after all, he stepped on the Mexican’s head as he left the ring.
Other details, which come under the heading of just good, clean fun: Killa Shikuma, the Japanese ambassador of torture, disposed of Bob Gregory, the British envoy, in 15m. 3s. with a Mikado Special, known as a choke hold to you and the Japanese Foreign Ministry. It was a jiu jitsu match but Gregory did not appear to appreciate his jacket, probably because it did not come with two pair of pants.
LaVerne Baxter, leading challenger to Ingagi, grabbed the timekeeper’s hammer but finally wound up with a lily in his hand after Vic Christy had flattened him with two rights to the jaw in 9m. 21s. Pat Fraley pinned Irish Jack Donovan in 7m. 32s. with a flying leg lock. This was a "dog-eat-dog" match, both undernourished gentlemen taking turns sinking their teeth in each other’s legs. Apparently neither have been getting enough to eat at the Daro training table.
Dapper Dave Levin disposed of Louie Miller in 9m. 46s. with a rolling headlock. Miller picked up a phone at ringside and was about to crown Mr. Levin but he hastily hung up when the operator said: "Deposit 10 cents for five minutes, please." Ed Don George body slammed Ted Christy into submission in 8m. 38s. Tom Zaharias and Joe Campbell squirmed 20m. to a wild draw, and Tiny Roebuck pinned Otto Von Busing with a rolling arm lock. Otto was knocked blotto in 3m. 15s.
HANS HERMANN VS. THESZ TONIGHT
(Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 27, 1962)
Former world champion Lou Thesz and Hans "The Horrible Hun" Hermann tangle tonight in the wrestling main event at Cashman Field.
The feature attaction will be two out of three falls with a one-hour time limit.
Tonight’s match will be the first Las Vegas showing for Thesz in over ten years. In his last local appearance he met Gorgeous George.
Other bouts match the team of Dick Garza and Ty Colt with Sir Alan Garfield and Art Michalik and Friar Tuck with Tom Zinc. Another bout is as yet undetermined.
Wrestling starts at 8:15.
THESZ DEFEATS ‘HORRIBLE HUN’
(Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 28, 1962)
Lou Thesz held a win over Hans Hermann today but the "Horrible Hun" could still boast that the former world champion has yet to put him on his back.
Monday night Thesz was awarded the first fall when Hermann failed to break a choke hold and captured the second of the three-fall event when the Hun couldn’t make it back into the ring after being tossed out. The match was the main event of the weekly SEMP Inc.-promoted wrestling show at Cashman Field.
MAIN EVENT – Lou Thesz defeated Hans Hermann (straight falls)
SEMI-MAIN – Ty Colt-Dick Garza defeated Sir Alan Garfield-Art Michalik (two falls to one)
PRELIMINARY – Ted Christy and Danny O’Rourke battled to a 20-minute draw
PRELIMINARY – Friar Tuckdefeated Tito Marshall (one fall)
PRELIMINARY – Dick Garza and Art Michalik battled to a 20-minute draw
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.62-2001
GRUNT AND GROANERS GET VERBAL LASHING
(Associated Press, Saturday, November 12, 1955)
LOS ANGELES – Wrestling got another going over with a broad brush at state athletic commission hearing where the testimony was alternately serious, humorous and stormy.
Mat referees Al Billings and Joe Woods reiterated their firm belief that virtually all matches are prearranged. And mat promoters demanded that they be barred from officiating because business has fallen off since they put the blast on the game before a state assembly subcommittee here last month.
Hugh Nichols, Hollywood and San Diego promoter, said he feared for the safety of the two referees because the wrestlers and fans are enraged over their accusations.
After the assembly hearing the two referees voiced their convictions on national television and radio shows, and this prompted the athletic commission to place them on the inactive list.
Four other referees who gave wrestling a clean bill are still on the active list.
Chairman Frank Bonelli of the assembly committee urged the two members of the commission, Chairman Norman Houston and Edward I. Beck , to treat all six on equal terms pending a decision as to who told the truth.
At one stage Mrs. Aileen Eaton, business manager of the Olympic Auditorium, big hub of wrestling in this area, said the Olympic auditorium would be closed before she’d let Billings work a show there.
She was incensed because Billings, in his radio appearance, mentioned the Olympic as a "monopoly."
Billings testified again under oath that he could remember but "one or two matches that were on the up and up" in this section since 1949 or 1950.
From 1950 to 1953 he was an agent for a booking office owned by Cal Eaton, Olympic promoter and husband of the business manager, and John Doyle. He said he also was a licensed referee during this period.
"I went to all the clubs in this territory, and I personally told all the wrestlers and the referees what to do," Billings testified.
"He’s a lair," exclaimed Eaton, sitting just behind the witness.
Billings, Eaton and Doyle have since split company.
Billings said that since 1953 he has worked solely as a referee.
Had he ever reported to the commission that he had received prematch instructions?
"No, I never told the commission because I figured the commission already knew," he replied, and a howl of laughter broke out.
About this time Chairman Houston pointed out that,by law, all wrestling affairs are exhibitions in this state, not bouts or contests.
Woods said he generally got his instructions in the dressing room before a show from either the booker or the wrestlers.
"Always in the dressing room?" he was asked.
"Oh, no, sometimes in the ring," he said. (More laughter.)
FAIR BOUTS COULD KILL WRESTLING, OFFICIAL FEARS
(Associated Press, December 17, 1955)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The one way to kill wrestling in California is to require that all bouts be fair, Norman O. Houston of Los Angeles, chairman of the state athletic commission, said today.
Requiring wrestlers to quit their pseudo-wrestling and put on strictly scientific shows would kill the sport, agreed commissioner Dan O. Kilroy of Sacramento.
The two testified at a hearing of the assembly governmental efficiency and economy subcommittee on boxing and wrestling.
Chairman Frank G. Bonelli (D-Huntington Park) said the state is going to have to make some corrections on the way wrestling is conducted "or the governor is going to take over."
Perhaps wrestling should be taken from commission control or even banned, he added.
Referee Joe Woods of Los Angeles testified that he has "lost a lot of work – a lot of money" since testifying before the committee in October that the bouts are fixed in advance.
"I told the truth," he said, asking for an investigation to determine whether other referees told the truth when they said they knew nothing of decisions decided upon before matches.
THERE’S NEW MAT CHAMP – OR DID YOU KNOW?
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Friday, March 23, 1956)
By Bill Boni (Column: Writing Out Loud)
Somehow I seem to have missed this. But back east in Toronto just a week ago last night, one Whipper Billy Watson won (that’s what it says in three different newspapers) the world heavyweight wrestling championship by beating Lou Thesz.
This is the world heavyweight wrestling championship, National Wrestling Alliance division, and even NWA president Sam Muchnick went along with the change of champions. "If Thesz wasn’t disqualified," Sam told the Toronto Telegram, "then Watson is the new champion."
The reason for this qualified endorsement, it appears, is that Watson had claimed the title two weeks before. Referee Jack Sharkey had disqualified Thesz on that occasion, and awarded the bout to Watson. But Thesz dug up a rule book and located the paragraph that says titles can’t change hands on disqualifications (so now they’ve got rule books – boy, oh boy!).
This time there was no disqualification, and there was a different referee, jack Dempsey. Seems Watson applied a "corkscrew hold" (Daily Star, also Globe and Mail) or a "claw hold" (Telegram) to Thesz’s wrist. Lou ducked under the ropes, thinking Watson would let go. Watson didn’t. He followed Lou through the ropes on to the ring apron, dumped the big champ with a body slam, hopped back over the ropes and stood there waiting while Dempsey counted all the way up to "10."
Wrestlers are durable types. Watson won the title – the same one (sic) – about nine years ago from Wild Bill Longson in St. Louis. He lost it to Thesz, who lost it back to Longson, then retrieved it in 1948 and has held it ever since.
So now you know. World heavyweight wrestling champ, Whipper Billy Watson, out of East York, Ont. We give you all the news.
DONOVAN TAKES WIN IN ‘WRESTLE TO FINISH’
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Friday, April 6, 1956)
By Danny May
More than 2000 wrestling fans warmed up last night at the Interstate Fairgrounds arena for next week’s Coliseum headliner between Primo Carnera and equally huge Adrien Baillargeon.
Last night’s fans saw Spokane’s first "finish" wrestling match with Doug Donovan beating Cal Roberts after 11 falls and one hour and five minutes of action.
Roberts was unable to continue after losing the 11th fall on an atomic drop – for which he was set up by being thrown out of the ring over the ropes into the seats.
Roberts led in falls at the end of the match, 7 to 4, but lost because of his disablement.
The semifinal went to Tony Borne over Red Donovan when brother Doug Donovan charged into the ring to rescue Red. Each man had one fall at the time and Borne had Red pinned for the third one when the disqualification came.
Elmer Davis and Leon Kirilenko defeated Jerry Gordetski and Jack Dunnivant in a tag team match on a referee’s decision after 45 minutes had elapsed. Kirilenko had taken the only fall of the bout from Dunnivant by various foul and illegal means after 24:17.
A substitute, young John Buff, from Boise, lost the opener to Treach Phillips on a body slam and press after 14:05, despite doing most of the damage up to that point.
DA PREEM NO SHOW; 40 IRKED
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Friday, April 13, 1956)
There were 3,284 wrestling fans at the Coliseum last night and evidently only 40 of them came to see Primo Carnera.
Carnera, former world heavyweight boxing champion, failed to show for his scheduled match with Quebec’s Adrien Baillargeon, but when fans were offered their money back because of Primo’s nonappearance, only "about 40" took advantage of the opportunity.
Matchmaker Tex Hager announced that state athletic commissioner Louis August had told him that as of last night, Carnera is suspended from wrestling in the state of Washington indefinitely, and that the state would ask other athletic commissions to honor the ban.
Ken Kenneth, 235-pound Californian (sic), substituted for Carnera against the Quebec strong boy and gave him quite a tussle for 22 minutes and 6 seconds. Baillargeon, a 240-pounder, preceded his match with Kenneth by lifting 11 men and a 300-pound board – a total of 2,435 pounds – in a mid-ring exhibition.
The one fall of the no-time-limit match went to Baillargeon on a drop kick which saw him extended in midair almost six feet – it seemed – above the mat. The body press which got the actual fall seemed almost unnecessary.
The co-feature, which apparently was what most fans were waiting for, saw the Donovan brothers, Doug and Red, team for a two-fall-to-one decision oveer Logger Larsen and Kurt Von Poppenheim. The first fall, a highly legitimate looking toehold by Doug, caused Logger to quit after 18:48. The second, by Von Poppenheim over Red, came at 4:05 and followed a series of body slams administered by both Logger and Kurt.
The final fall, booed long and lustily by the crowd, went to Red with a body press over Logger at 10:19. Larsen had Donovan balanced on his shoulder, with intentions of slamming him to the mat, when brother Doug reached through the ropes and kicked Larsen head-over-Red. The fall stunned Logger long enough for the three taps. Protests availed nothing.
In the opener, Elmer (Bad News) Davis and Jerry Gordetski went 20 minutes to a draw in the fastest match of the night. Leon Kirilenko took 16:39 to down Treach Phillips in the special event. Phillips had Kirilenko groggy with drop kicks but missed one and rebounded off the ring post into the fall.
Tony Borne, beard and all, won over Billy Kohnke at 17:49 of the semifinal. Borne used an abdominal stretch to win and had lots of abdomen to work on. Kohnke, a stocky blond, is one of the roundest wrestlers to appear here.
Matchmaker Tex Hager announced the next Coliseum card will be May 10, featuring recent heavyweight champ Lou Thesz.
LOU THESZ WINS IN COLISEUM TEST
(Spokane Spokesman-Review, Friday, May 11, 1956)
Lou Thesz, former heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, took two out of three falls to win his match with Adrian Baillargeon last night at the Coliseum.
A crowd estimated at 2,500 watched Thesz take the first fall at 16:17 on a rolling arm scissors. Baillargeon came through with a full nelson to snatch the second fall but Thesz wasted no time on the third, reverse body-pressing the Canadian in 1:37.
The Donovan brothers defeated Cal Roberts and Tony Borne in the night’s tag team match. Roberts and Borne managed to take the second fall but Doug Donovan’s "surfboard" hold on Roberts finished things at 4:07 of the third.
Moe Smith and Treach Phillips drew in the opener; Elmer Davis defeated DeVince Carty in the second bout, and Jerry Gordetski beat Leon Kirilenko on a disqualification in the semifinal.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.63-2001
LOPEZ OUTSLUGS KOVERLY IN MAT SHOW
(Washington Post, Friday, June 5, 1936)
By George Considine
Thirty-five hundred spectators sat by the light of the silvery moon last night at Griffith Stadium to witness Vincent Lopez, so-called world wrestling champion, taming villainous George Koverly in one of the wildest slugging exhibitions on record.
The orgy, the shortest feature match in memory, went 14 minutes and was climaxed when Lopez whirled his adversary into the ropes and caught him on the rebound with a crushing right uppercut. Koverly was unconscious for ten minutes and had to be carried to the locker room.
Always cast in the role of a villain, Koverly took such a beating from the mountainous Mexican that he won the sympathy of the crowd for the first time in his local career. But then that was natural because he spent so much time out of the ring that he became chummy with the ringsiders.
Time and time again, Maj. Brown’s minions raced to the ringside to save Koverly from injury after being zoomed through the ropes by Virile Vincent. On one occasion both men were slugging away at each other a good 15 feet from the mat.
Only in the opening second did Koverly have any fun. He wobbled from his corner, snarled a bit and clamped on his favorite strangle. Lopez, wrought up over such an outrage, swung from the floor and Wild George began a seemingly unending series of swan dives through the ropes.
In the semifinal struggle-tussle Kansas City Joe Cox required 16 ½ minutes to dispose of Jim Wright with a combination uppercut and body press. Jim had things his own way until he threw Kansas City Joe out of the ring. That must have been where he made his mistake.
The customers were treated to a mighty struggle when Dapper Dean Detton and Chief Little Wolf wahooed to a bristling 30-minute draw. Getting in and out of Indian deathlocks, the men kept the fans cheering throughout.
Taking care of the early entertainment, Sandor Vary outfumbled Jim Wallis in 11 ½ minutes and Dick Powell took a 16 ½-minute funfest from Handsome Happy Hollihan.
JIM BROWNING, EX-WRESTLING CHAMP, DIES
(Associated Press, Friday, June 19, 1936)
ROCHESTER, Minn. – Jim Browning, once recognized in some states as heavyweight wrestling champion, died here this afternoon. He succumbed in St. Mary’s hospital from pulmonary embolism, a condition of blood clots in the lung.
The wrestler underwent an exploratory operation about 10 days ago in connection with an abdominal ailment. His condition improved until three days ago when complications developed.
When Browning launched his wrestling career several years ago he was billed as the farmer from Verona, Mo., where he resided until his popularity as a mat performer made it necessary for him to travel extensively.
He won recognition as a champion in New York after the athletic commission of that state stripped Jim Londos of his title for refusing to meet Ed (Strangler) Lewis. Browning then threw Lewis, becoming champion in New York and the states having a working agreement with the New York commission.
After four years of dickering Browning and Londos were brought together in New York on June 25, 1934 and Londos won. Thereafter, Browning was just another wrestler, although he continued to tour the country and make money.
Frank Smith, former sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, was Browning’s manager until Smith’s death in Toronto three years ago.
WRESTLER DIES IN STADIUM BOUT; INQUIRY CALLED AS RIVAL HELD
(Washington Post, Friday, June 26, 1936)
By Bill McComick
Mike Romano, veteran wrestler, died on the mat before 5,000 people at Griffith Stadium last night.
The 40-year-old native of Trieste, Italy, was being counted out by referee Cyclone Burns after 13 ½ minutes of a match with Jack Donovan, of Boston, when he became unconscious.
Physicians and ringside officials made frantic efforts to revive him in the ring as the crowd, always doubtful of happenings in the grappling game, remained skeptically indifferent to his plight.
The stricken athlete finally was removed from the squared circle on a stretcher. In back of the stands, away from the gaze of the crowd, Dr. H.N. Roberts and L. Calfee, a chiropractor, said Romano gave no indications of life.
Romano was removed in a police patrol to Freedmen’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. A doctor at the hospital ascribed the death to a broken neck. Two physicians who examined him at the ball park gave it as their unofficial opinion that death was due to heart disease.
An inquest will be held at noon today to determine the cause of death.
Donovan, Romano’s opponent in the fatal bout, is in the custody of Detective Sergt. Walter Beck. He is being held pending action by the coroner’s jury. The jury probably will meet tomorrow to decide whether charges are to be brought against Donovan.
The bout, which had been scheduled to one fall or a 30-minute time limit, had been remarkably clean and devoid of rough tactics throughout. There were not more than a half-dozen "slams" in the entire 13 ½ minutes the contest lasted.
There had been no "wide open" action for several minutes preceding the finish. After they each had exchanged several holds, Donovan finally eased Romano to the mat and applied a head scissors – which consists of wrapping the legs about the head – and wrist lock – twisting the wrist with both hands.
Referee Burns counted three over the form of the athlete who was never to rise again.
"I felt Romano go a bit limp as we stood locked in a corner," Donovan said. "We went to the mat and I applied the head scissors and wrist lock. As I held him in that hold he gave a gasp and I relaxed the hold, which I hadn’t been holding very tight, anyway. Then Burns counted him out."
Romano has been wrestling about 18 years. He lived at 3759 Warren Street, Elmhurst, Long Island, New York. He was married and had one child, a girl of 11.
Romano, a world war hero, had been decorated by the Italian army.
With true "the show must go on" fortitude, other wrestlers scheduled to follow the fatal bout, which was the first on the program, gave the 5,000 fans – few of whom knew that Romano was dead – more than a run for their money.
In the bout immediately following the Romano-Donovan mishap, Joe Dusek and Hank Barber went 30 minutes to a rousing draw. In another 30-minute supporting bout, Ivan Managoff pinned Emil Dusek in 20 ½ minutes.
Rudy Dusek, another of the four Dusek brothers whose appearance en masses on the card had attracted the large crowd, forced Joe Cox to resign after 22 minutes of a bout scheduled to a finish. Rudy was punishing Cox unmercifully with an arm bar lock when George cried "hold – enough."
Ernie Dusek, who appeared in the final bout, scored a 20 ½-minute victory over George Koverly, thereby precipitating an ante-bout riot. Dusek literally battered his rough, tough opponent into submission to win the official victory, then Koverly went berserk.
Swinging wildly, George floored referee Benny Bortnick. A flock of seconds entered the ring and Koverly started punching them around. Ernie started to wrestle again – without benefit of referee as Bortnick lay in a daze on the mat.
Benny finally rose and Koverly floored him again. At that point, Ernie swung a knockout punch which really kayoed Koverly. He was revived, very peaceful and escorted from the ring by a cordon of police who had surrounded the fighting pit during the hectic action.
ROMANO DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES, AUTOPSY DISCLOSES
(Washington Post, Saturday, June 27, 1936)
Mike Romano, the wrestler who died in a bout with Jack Donovan at Griffith Stadium last Thursday night, succumbed from natural causes, an autopsy performed by Dr. Christopher J. Murphy, deputy coroner, disclosed yesterday.
Coroner A. Magruder MacDonald issued a certificate stating the heavyweight wrestling veteran had died "from coronary occlusion and chronic disease of muscles of the heart, liver, spleen and kidney."
Donovan, who had been held in the custody of Detective Sergeant Walter Beck pending the coroner’s report, was released immediately and left for Richmond, where he wrestled last night. There will be no inquest.
Romano failed to rise from the mat after being thrown by Donovan in 13 ½ minutes of a bout scheduled for 30 minutes. When it became apparent that his condition was serious, physicians were sent for and they worked futilely over him until he was taken to Freedman’s Hospital, where he was officially pronounced dead.
Coroner MacDonald said Romano’s heart ailment was not acute, but of long standing, gradually making inroads on his physical condition until he succumbed easily in the Donovan match.
Romano died almost two weeks to the day after Steve Znosky was fatally stricken in a match with him in New York City. In that fatal bout, Romano noticed Znosky was ill and asked that the bout be stopped.
The contest was halted and Znosky died two days later from spinal meningitis.
In respect to the memory of Romano, who was one of the first big favorites in big-time wrestling here, promoter Joe Turner, who staged last Thursday’s card, will not operate a program of grappling next Thursday night. The regular shows will be resumed one week from that night.
MARSHALL PINS ALI BABA; CLAIMS WRESTLING TITLE
(Associated Press, Monday, June 29, 1936)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Everett Marshall, Colorado wrestler, won what was billed as a world heavyweight championship wrestling match tonight, defeating Ali Baba in 39 minutes and 20 seconds.
Marshall had Ali Baba under control from start to finish and wound up the affair with a series of full nelsons, his favorite hold, and a high body slam and cross body pin.
THESZ’S AERIAL MANEUVERS WHIP EAKINS
(Chicago Tribune, Sunday, January 8, 1956)
Lou Thesz, world heavyweight wrestling champion, and Ike Eakins spent half of their Marigold Arena match being propelled thru the air by one another last night. When they came down, Eakins was on the bottom the two decisive times.
Thesz won the battle of drop kicks, flying tackles, airplane spins, and flying scissors in straight falls. The times were 8:08 and 6:36, and the clinching holds a flying scissors and an airplane spin preceding the final body presses. Other results:
Angelo Poffo beat Lou Papineau, Johnny Gilbert beat Billy Crist, Jim Hady and Billy Goelz drew, Tony Ross and Zack Malkov beat Mitch Lassen and Wally Steele, and Red O’Shocker beat Mike Sipich.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.64-2001
ALI BABA IN MAT TRIUMPH
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, June 23, 1938)
By Jack Singer
Just what effect it is likely to have on the national debt, the European crisis and the 1940 presidential election is not yet apparent but a rassler actually knocked himself out by landing on his head last night.
This was the most startling scientific development at Prof. Daro’s House of Horrors as Ivan Rasputin, the pet of Petrograd, lit on his head, or crazybone, and suffered a concussion, or something, mostly something, in his two out of three falls tickler with Ali Baba, the Arabian Nightmare.
As a result of this injury, which parted Ivan’s hair right in the middle, Ali, the hop scotch and rassling champion of Turkey, was returned the winner in straight falls over evil-eye Rasputin, running on the Progressive, or Svengali, ticket.
The match was but 20m. 18s. old when Rasputin, who is so hairy that someone must have dropped a bottle of hair tonic on him when he was a baby, applied a full nelson. This hold, of course, is censured by the Hays office of Turkey and Ali Baba, as slippery as an eel, or heel, flipped the bearded Russian over on his konk, or head.
Ivan lay very still in mid-ring and it is a good thing that an officer was not on duty because he was parked at least three feet from the curb. Referee Art Shires, who modestly calls himself "Whattaman," called time, or crime, out and summoned the house medico, Dr. Lloyd Mace. Feeling Ivan’s pulse, which was going forty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five-mile zone, the good Doctor permitted Rasputin to come out for the second fall against his better judgment.
The Russian was in so much of a fog as he answered the bell for the second fall that he really required a couple of fog lights. Calling to Allah, and Jack Daro, it was simple for Ali to slam Razzputin to the canvas for the grunt finale in just 48s. flat, which is how Ivan felt when he came to in the dressing room.
The other disasters, reading from left to right, were: Gus Sonnenberg pinned Dr. Fred Meyer in 5m. 10s. with a flying tackle, Man Mountain Dean squashed Jack Donovan in 4m. 27s. with a backward body drop, King Kong Kashey and Nick Lutze grimaced to a 30m. draw, Tom Mahoney flattened Baron Ginsberg in 7m. 33s. with a flying tackle, Sandor Szabo disposed of Big Ben Morgan in 9m. 53s. with a giant swing, Chief Little Wolf used an arm pull to vanquish Stanley Mayslack in 3m. 3s., and Raoul Lopez pinned Ed Krummel in 8m. 25s. with a body slam.
(Associated Press, Friday, November 3, 1950)
DUBLIN, Ireland – Irish wrestler Danno O’Mahoney died Friday night from injuries suffered in an automobile accident Thursday night. O’Mahoney’s car hit a parked truck near Port Laighaise. Both his legs were broken.
The wrestler’s brothers, John and Dermot, and a young woman, Mary Hamilton of Sligo, escaped with slight injuries. All were removed to a hospital at Port Laighaise.
BROTHER AIDS KISER IN WIN
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1951)
Jack Kiser, with some spontaneous assistance from his younger brother, Dale, defeated a very angry Soldat Gorky in the feature tangle of promoter Don Owen’s Labor Temple wrestling card Monday night.
After each of the mat foes had won a fall to square the match, bearded Soldat employed a hammerlock in an all-out effort to win the third and decisive nod from Jack. Then youthful Dale, in a moment of excitement, reached across the ropes and belted the Siberian wolfhunter on the nose. Gorky, enraged by his interference, leaped across the ropes and cornered Dale in a cubbyhole-like store room off the side of the arena.
After a minute of furious fighting the pair was separated but in the meantime the referee had counted out Soldat because of his sudden and prolonged absence from the ring.
In a rough-and-tumble semi-windup, Frank Stojack and Herb Parks battled to a 30-minute no-fall draw.
Cowboy Carlson retained his unblemished record by pinning Leo Jensen in the special, and Lou Macera grappled to a no-fall draw with Sugi Hayamaka in the opener.
JONES VICTOR IN MAT MATCH
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Saturday, January 27, 1951)
Rufus Jones, the hard-headed Negro from Birmingham, won the first and third falls of his match with Scandinavian Eric Pedersen in the main event of the wrestling card at the Portland Armory Friday night.
After winning the first fall with a head butt and crab hold, Jones was defeated in the second when Pedersen downed him with a series of flying drop kicks and then jumped into the air, pinning Jones as he lit.
Pedersen’s drop kicks knocked Jones out of the ring after action resumed and the Scandinavian vaulted the ropes and grappled Jones among the spectators. Pedersen, back in the ring, brought Jones over the ropes with a flying headlock but Jones retreated outside the hemp again. When Pedersen charged he was met with a head butt which knocked him down. Jones dove onto the mat and three more head butts finished Pedersen.
George Dusette defeated Gordon Hessel with a full nelson after 28 minutes of the semifinal attraction. Lou Macera and Glen Detton used speed and science to draw in a 20-minute match. In the opener Tony Verdi downed Danny O’Rourke with an octopus leg hold.
SOLDAT BESTS KISER TANDEM
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 1951)
Black-bearded Soldat Gorky defeated the Kiser brothers combo in the feature match of promoter Don Owen’s wrestling program at the Labor Temple Monday night.
The Siberian wolfhunter battled on even terms with both Jack and young Dale for 20 grueling minutes. Then the unpopular Gorky employed a backbreaker to pin Dale in what proved to be the only and deciding fall of the 30-minute bout.
The Kiser tandem worked feverishly in the final ten minutes to wear down Gorky but the Siberian managed to go the distance.
In the semiwindup, Frank Stojack unfurled a giant swing to win over Buck Davidson. Andy Tremaine, recognized as the world lightheavyweight mat king, pummeled Luigi Macera of Quebec with a pair of shoulder butts and a half crab in the special event. Sugi Hayamaka and Cowboy Carlson grappled to a no-fall draw in a fast-stepping opener that drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
ALL OF PRO WRESTLING IS NOW OWNED BY THE WWF – DEAL WITH IT
(Salt Lake City Weekly, Friday, July 26, 2001)
By Bill Frost
You know professional wrestling is in dire straits when City Weekly honcho and rasslin’ aficionado John Saltas couldn’t care less about what’s going on anymore.
"I don’t watch the WWF very much," Saltas said from his penthouse hot tub in the City Weekly office tower, referring to the grappling monopoly of the World Wrestling Federation. "The characters seem too cartoonish for my liking. Plus, my kids are getting enough crotch-shots, finger-flips and the A-word in daycare already, and pushing it on them at night is just plain overkill." After he asked who I was again and instructed me to mix him up another VO and water, he added, "I’ve got to admit, though, as a live show, the WWF is pretty good."
Be that as it may, he was unaware of the WWF ad that’s been running in this very newspaper for a couple of weeks now, the one proclaiming that you can "be a part of history! Be at the first live SmackDown ever!" That’s right: The Thursday-night UPN show that’s typically pre-taped on Tuesdays is celebrating 100 episodes by treating Salt Lake City (Aug. 16, E Center) to the kind of live-on-TV event that hasn’t graced Zion since the days of Saltas’ dearly-departed World Championship Wrestling—get those "Burt’s Tiki 3:16" signs ready for the crowd-pan shots.
Those "days" were as recent as Memorial Day 2000, when one of the last WCW Monday Nitros beamed out live from the E Center via TNT. Things have kinda changed since then: TNT and TBS dropped the long-running WCW from their skeds earlier this year just as Time Warner was in the process of selling it, thereby softening it up for Vince McMahon and the WWF to swoop in and buy it cheap. WWF programming had been killing the WCW in the ratings anyway, and the other barely-mainstream competition, Paul Heyman’s influential Extreme Championship Wrestling, conveniently went out of business two weeks after the deal went down. Aside from the subsequent multimillion-dollar reaming from his failed XFL "football" franchise, McMahon’s own showrunners couldn’t have scripted the corporate drama any better.
What they’re up to now is anyone’s guess. Talks of re-launching the WCW as a separate programming entity from the WWF have pretty much dried up, and now it’s being forced into WWF shows every week. But since the only recognizable name involved in WCW anymore is Karl Malone bud Diamond Dallas Page (no Hulk Hogan, no Sting, no Goldberg, nada), it doesn’t amount to much more than a logo, albeit one "owned" by Vince’s son Shane McMahon, who wants to take dad "down."
Then, a couple of SmackDowns ago, the WCW’s "invasion" was upstaged by the "surprise" return of the ECW-major company players like Taz, Tommy Dreamer, the Dudley Boys, Raven, Rhyno, Rob Van Dam and more, intact. Sure, most have been working for the WWF anyway, and the rest just want a piece of the ECW bankruptcy money they’re still owed (in the previously incognito Van Dam’s case, over $150,000), but it was a beautiful sight, no matter how obviously staged it was. The Philadephia-based ECW was always known as a tough, hard-working, no-budget visionary company from which the WWF swiped nearly all of its talent, "hardcore" attitude and concepts over the years. The crowd certainly knew this, giving the crew a bigger "pop" (rassle-speak for "audience reaction") than the largely anonymous WCW group has ever gotten. (OK, except for überleggy WCW eye-candy holdover Stacy "Ms. Hancock" Kiebler, a bombshell who could get a turgid rise out of the corpse of Owen Hart—and don’t think they’re not working on that storyline for future pay-per-view.)
"Ownership" of the ECW was given to the other McMahon kid, Stephanie, setting everything up for a (you guessed it) pay-per-view McMahon-against-McMahons event called Invasion, which went down last Sunday. Did Stone Cold Steve Austin lead the threatened WWF to victory against the WCW-ECW? Has the course of professional wrestling been changed forever by this war within the company? It doesn’t matter—it’s all theater, and everything is owned by Vince McMahon, remember?
Knowing full well there are no real surprises to be had at a wrestling show anymore, the only match that anyone actually cared about was a "bra and panties tag-team match" between the WWF’s Lita and Trish Stratus and the WCW’s Kiebler and Torrie Wilson. Putting a real-deal athlete like Lita—who’s supposedly being groomed to take over the soon-to-be-booted Chyna’s top-girl spot in the WWF—in a cheesy T&A match is kind of an insult, but where else is she going to go? Women of Wrestling? Unless Vince buys that troubled franchise too, WOW is ready to go tits-up in financial distress, which leaves only the WWF, again.
And no one thought the old WCW plotline gimmick of the New World Order would ever make a comeback.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.65-2001
MAT TITLE MATCH MAY SET RECORD
(Los Angeles Times, Sunday, June 11, 1961)
A gate record for an indoor wrestling show is a cinch to be set Monday night at the Sports Arena when France’s Edouard Carpentier defends his world heavyweight mat crown against Freddie Blassie.
Promoter Cal Eaton announced Saturday he had over $20,000 in the till and was sure the box office receipts would hit more than $40,000 to smash the present mark of $31,000, set last year by Carpentier and Lou Thesz at the Olympic.
Monday night’s complete card also was announced Saturday by Eaton. Former champion Thesz will meet Cowboy Dick Hutton in the semifinal.’
Other matches: Count Billy Varga vs Wild Red Berry; Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb vs. Hans Hermann; Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell (Judo style); Ricki Starr vs. Don Duffy; Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe; Reggie Parks vs. Stan Holek; Lord Blears vs. Sam Steamboat.
Something new in wrestling will be tried in the championship bout. At the request of Blassie, two judges will work with the referee and give a decision if need be.
The program starts at 8 p.m., with the title tilt scheduled to go on at 9:45 p.m. There will be no TV or radio.
SELLOUT EXPECTED FOR WRESTLING BOUT
(Los Angeles Times, Monday, June 12, 1961)
By John De La Vega
This is it, he-man fans and little old ladies. For the world’s rassling champeenship, Edouard Carpentier of France against Freddie Blassie, the Georgia peach.
They match "holts" at the Sports Arena tonight starting at 9:45, marking the first time the groaners have invaded the plush sports palace. And why not? They’ve had everything else there, from circuses to home shows.
It’s such a hot one that a full house of some 15,500 fanatics is expected. Coughing up from $5, $3.50 and $2.50, a new Southland indoor record of some $40,000 is a cinch. Carpentier and Lou Thesz set the mark of $31,000 in their showdown at the Olympic last summer.
Bring the kiddies. They don’t let the writers in on the format but we have a hunch the good guy will predominate.
It all depends. If the Pasadena gals stir up enough animosity, maybe Blassie, who vows that his career will be climaxed "when I kill a man in the ring," will win.
Then we can have a rematch in midsummer. Carpentier, unbeaten in seven years since he switched from a graceful Olympic Games gymnast to grappling gyrations, is too good to lose twice to this guy. Maybe not even once.
Since Cal and Aileen Eaton have set aside three dates for "summer spectaculars" at the Arena, we’ll guess that Lou Thesz, from whom Edouard captured the crown, will be next up for the grabs.
How good are tonight’s gladiators? Well, all kidding aside, they’ve got to be pretty fair. In this dodge, going through the routine at least twice a week, sometimes you have to lose. Even fanatics get tired of a winner.
Carpentier’s slate is perfect. Blassie, no substitute for Lassie, claims a streak of five years without a setback. Obviously, it wouldn’t be much of an upset if Freddie should flatten him.
Edouard is a nephew of Georges Carpentier, the party of the second part in that historic heavyweight title fight against Jack Dempsey. Edouard even started out as a fisticuffer.
But Carpentier keeps hammering that he’s a clean wrestler. "My job is to pin this man and nothing else. Now, if he wants to try other stuff . . . "
IF? Please, dear fans, do not stay away thinking Freddie will try to win without foul tactics. That’s all he knows.
It’s a curious thing, but Blassie has requested that besides the usual referee, two judges also work the match.
So it shall be. But doesn’t Freddie realize that while the ref might miss some of his underhand methods, the judges will see all? Ah, we think he goofed there.
The card will be hypoed by the presence of practically all the top mat names in action this generation and last. There will be eight preliminary one-fall matches starting at 8 p.m. The prelims:
Lord Blears vs. Sam Steamboat. Reggie Parks vs. Stan Holek. Ramon and Alberto Torres vs. Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe. Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell (judo). Ricki Starr vs. Don Duffy. Big Daddy Lipscomb vs. Hans Hermann. Wild Red Berry vs. Count Billy Varga. Lou Thesz vs. Cowboy Dick Hutton.
BLASSIE TAKES WRESTLING TITLE BEFORE 13,200
(Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, June 13, 1961)
By John De La Vega
Blond Freddie Blassie won the world’s wrestling title (honest!) at the Sports Arena Monday night by putting France’s Edouard Carpentier out of commission, and the howling mob of 13,200 wanted to crown him personally.
The gross gate of $40,169 set an indoor record for Southland wrestling matches.
The bad actor from Atlanta climaxed a night of "crime" when he flipped the champion hard against the ropes just when it looked as if Carpentier would win.
Carpentier bounced off the top strand and landed on his right knee. As he writhed in pain on the canvas, unable to regain his feet, referee Mike Ruby gave Blassie the fall. The time was 10:20.
Actually, that only evened the match at a fall apiece, but when Carpentier was unable to continue, Dr. Robert Richards was called in. He diagnosed the injury as a badly sprained knee with a possible fracture, so Blassie was declared the winner.
Carpentier had won the first fall in 20:24.
Blassie started out using his infamous neckbreaker which naturally infuriated the fans. Carpentier’s face was beginning to match his sky-blue eyes.
Just when it appeared the champ would pop a blood vessel, he became a whirling dervish. He unleashed a series of body slams, followed with a reverse leg drop and applied a spectacular alligator crab for the fall.
Starting the second fall, Carpentier, who had not lost a match in seven years, went into his famed repertoire of 1,000 clean holds. Several times he had the groaning Blassie on the verge of giving up. Each time, however, he extricated himself with those choke holds.
Just before the finish, Blassie was in trouble after Carpentier spun him to the canvas, did several flips and landed on him. But Edouard allowed Blassie to grab his arm, which led to the back flip that ended the proceedings.
Preliminary results: Lou Thesz def. Cowboy Dick Hutton; Count Billy Varga def. Wild Red Berry; Big Daddy Lipscomb won on disqualification over Hans Hermann; Ricki Starr def. Don Duffy; Zebra Kid vs. Gene LeBell, both disqualified; Torres brothers, Alberto and Ramon, drew with Mr. Moto and Mike Sharpe, tag team; Reggie Parks drew with Stan Holek; Lord Blears drew with Sam Steamboat.
REMEMBERING WILD RED BERRY
By Percival A. Friend, The Epitome of Wrestling Managers
Remembering Red Berry and the quests that he traveled will be a monumental task left to the ages of time. Not many people actually knew the real Red Berry … the man … the family person … and the giver.
Aside from the groups that he admitted to, Red was a Mason and was involved with the Shriners, those beautiful fez-wearing, parade-going people who put their own families behind their work of helping kids with medical problems.
Red and I first became friends in New York in the late ‘60s. It wasn't much later when he decided it was time for him to retire to his home in Pittsburg, Kansas. I never got a chance to travel much with him, but I did later meet with him again in Kansas at a card in a town not far from where he lived. We did keep in contact with each other by mail on a regular basis.
Wild Red Berry was born Ralph Berry in 1907 and began his colorful career as a boxer in 1923. He won the Kansas State Middleweight title after defeating everybody he faced. Brittle hands caused him to change professions to wrestling. By 1937, he had won the first of many titles.
Despite his lack of height (he stood 5'8"), he managed to gradually pack on weight until he could tangle with the larger men. He was a guy who did a lot of different stunts to attract attention to the wrestling arenas.
One time, he climbed a tree in front of Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas and stayed there for three days. He was dubbed "The WILD MAN" by the Kansas City Star, and thus the name Wild Red Berry was given and hung on him for the rest of his life.
He captured the World's Light Heavyweight title from Hugh Nichols; the Texas Heavyweight crown from Blackie Guzman, and the Junior Heavyweight diadem from Danny McShain. In his years of wrestling, Red met most of the top stars and developed a technique that made him one of wrestling's most colorful performers. He became known for his pet hold, the "Gilligan Twist."
In his younger years, while developing his body to be the athlete he was to become, Red recalled, "I'll bet I painted the Pittsburg YMCA a dozen times. It was the only way I could pay my dues".
Born in Pittsburg, Kansas, he grew into political circles until he held the job of Commissioner of Parks. He also had been the acting mayor on two occasions. He was usually introduced in the ring as The Mayor of Pittsburg.
It was during World War II that Red toured the Army camps giving Judo and hand-to-hand combat exhibitions. He also published a book on the subject which attained popularity.
In the third stage of his career, Red became a manager of wrestlers. He will never be forgotten as the flamboyant, fast-talking ballyhoo mentor of The Fabulous Kangaroos … Al Costello and Roy Heffernan. They were quite a trio, and they ran rampant right to the top of the heap.
Red became one of the best after-dinner speakers on the grappling circuit. His appearances on radio and television brought squeals of joy from his host of followers. Red once said, "I like to talk. I like to express myself to the best of my ability. Despite my not having a formal or college education, I consider myself vociferous and most articulate." Red only went to the seventh grade in Pittsburg, but was self-taught and could do anything he set his mind to do.
Red also did the movie thing and was in a show called "My Wife's Best Friend," where he played the part of a trainer at a men's conditioning camp.
Red passed away in 1973 of a heart attack at age 66. He was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame in Tulsa just the year before.
Wherever lovers of the spoken word gather, Ralph "Wild Red" Berry will never be forgotten. He was a pixie-like man who loved to talk and loved life. He loved people, and they, in turn, loved him back.
Rest in Peace, my Brother.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.66-2001
DOES McMAHON STILL HAVE THE MOVES?
(Westchester County Weekly, Thursday, August 2, 2001)
By Chris Kanaracus
Vince McMahon, Connecticut's most colorful billionaire, and promoter/owner of the phenomenally successful World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., generally comes across as larger than life. Not tonight, though, on the July 12 broadcast of UPN's "WWF Smackdown!"
McMahon, clad in his customary aging-playboy attire (open shirt collar, no tie, suit jacket), stood in the ring, alone. The camera zoomed in for a close-up; McMahon looked tired, exhausted even. The fine wrinkles around his eyes deepened into harsh creases and his cheeks appeared blotchy.
The sight was alarming. At 55, McMahon retains an uncanny youthfulness, partially from a lifetime of obsessive bodybuilding, and from a bottomless well of raw, hokum-meets-ham stage presence. Not tonight. McMahon, after finishing an impassioned in-ring speech directed at wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin (who, in the show's storyline, had just snubbed McMahon), let his cartoonish, foam-ball topped microphone topple out of his hand and clatter to the ring apron. The camera moved in for another close-up: McMahon looked like he had one foot in the grave.
But that was just a television show, a fictional skit. Surely everything is fine in terms of the real-life WWF. And surely McMahon, the 1,000-pound gorilla of American CEOs, has matters firmly in fist. Right?
That's hard to say. McMahon's WWFE (renamed from WWF after a 1999 initial public stock offering) definitely enjoys a reputation as a company on the rise, a newly legitimate enterprise with massive growth potential and a rock-solid future.
Certainly, the numbers back up that thesis. As the WWF grew
from a small, family-run business into a multi-national, multi-brand behemoth,
earnings increased accordingly. Recently, growth has been stratospheric. In
1999, the company reported revenues of $251 million. Last year, that number shot
to $379 million.
For the fourth quarter ending April 30, revenues from continuing operations were $131.1 million, up 13 percent compared to the same period last year. Pretax earnings were $26.1 million, compared to $20.5 million for last year's fourth quarter.
Most of the dough comes from lucrative pay-per-view events. April 2000's "WrestleMania" broadcast scored more than 825,000 buys at $50 a pop, a $41.2 million gross. For the fiscal year 2000, the company raked in a cool $150 million via pay-per-view. Its market valuation hovers near $1 billion.
Then there's the company's virtual monopoly on the wrestling industry; besides scores of tiny, barely profitable "indy" promotions around the country that mostly act as farm leagues, WWFE is the only game in town. It wasn't always this way, of course. Earlier this year, McMahon purchased Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling from media conglomerate AOL/Time-Warner. It was a sweet victory for McMahon, as the rivalry between the two companies had become personal. Over the years, McMahon had verbally sparred in the media with Ted Turner, who owned WCW before the AOL/Time-Warner merger.
Another, though much less dangerous rival, scrappy Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling, also recently folded. WWFE has absorbed both companies' wrestlers and brand names into current storylines. At this writing, the first volleys in the ultimate wrestling war--WWF vs. everyone else--are being fired on WWF programs. Many say that if done correctly, the storyline could prove the most lucrative yet--more on that later.
But evidence indicates that as impressive as McMahon's empire seems, it's not as impervious as you might think. And there's some question as to whether mainstream investors and observers have a clue about what, or whom, truly drives this sleek entertainment mini-empire.
Where's the truth? It's somewhere in a murky stew of traditional business philosophy and secretive, sometimes frantic back-room machinations. As it turns out, predicting the future of the pro wrestling business is about as tricky a game a speculator can play.
It's important to note that the wrestling business, like many others, tends to be cyclical. After an initial boom in the mid-1980s, business for both the WWF and its former competitor, World Championship Wrestling, slowed to near-bankruptcy conditions.
A far less drastic dip in business is occurring at present. In early spring, the WWF quietly canceled a "house show," or non-televised event, in Ohio due to slow ticket sales. While the cancellation went unnoticed in mainstream circles, it provoked marked discussion on many Internet wrestling sites. House show business has dipped substantially at many other locations. The WWF's July 16 show at the New Haven Coliseum drew a crowd of 5,008 paying customers, in a building that seats 10,000. One year ago sellout crowds were common. Even live tapings of programs like TNN's "Raw Is War" and UPN's "WWF Smackdown," which in the past few years have sold out in minutes (once, the company sold out back-to-back shows in Texas in less than 90 minutes), are running at 75 percent capacity in some locations.
Then there's the biggest sore on the WWF's keister this year: the unmitigated failure of the Xtreme Football League, a McMahon/NBC co-production. The games, which featured looser rules than the NFL, campily sexy cheerleaders and inventive television production, drew well at stadiums but bombed in the ratings.
The WWF's share of the XFL write-off was $36.2 million. While all observers agree the company is more than strong enough to shoulder that debt, the XFL's folding resonated on Wall Street, pummeling WWFE's stock price. Before the start of the first XFL season, the stock's average price was $21 a share. Now it hovers around $13 a share.
More importantly, the XFL's death chipped away at McMahon's carefully crafted image as a risk-taking but generally infallible marketing genius. It's an image he covets, especially in terms of Wall Street.
WWFE investor relations director Tom Gibbons, while admitting the XFL's failure hurt, expressed confidence in the company's future. "We looked at [the XFL] as an extension of our traditional sports entertainment product. It fit our strategy. [But] we rushed [the launch]," said Gibbons, who also posited that the Saturday-night time slot for games didn't help either.
As investor relations directors are wont to do, Gibbons was more eager to talk about the WWF's new business ventures, post-XFL. There is indeed a lot in store. The company recently created its own recording label, and is producing a reality-themed MTV show, Tough Enough, which follows a group of attractive, twenty-something wrestling trainees, à la The Real World.
Gibbons expressed high hopes for those ventures, as well as WWF superstar The Rock's fledgling movie career. Indeed, you have to give the McMahon family credit: they've transformed pro wrestling, that pariah of American popular culture, into something hip and profitable--like Don Corleone's import-export business, they've "gone legit."
In general, Wall Street views WWFE favorably. Late last year, Business Week rated WWFE as one of the country's 100 best small companies.
Laura Martin, an analyst with New York-based investment firm Credit Suisse First Boston, said her company currently has a "buy" rating on WWFE, and thinks things look solid for the near future. "I like the stock. As far as the content companies go, [WWFE is] doing well. The exit from the XFL allows them to free up some of the cash flow from their wrestling business [for other things]. It's going to benefit stockholders."
A survey of other investment firms reveals similar thumbs-up--albeit not rabidly so--assessments of WWFE.
But as Martin mentions, despite all the potentially lucrative ancillary ventures WWFE has lined up, its core product remains straight-up, warts-and-all pro wrestling. Despite the newly legitimate public face of pro wrestling, it hasn't lost sight of its roots as a "closed" business, owned and staffed, much like carnivals or the circus, by a select, closely knit group. As such, some of the most intriguing information on what WWFE's future might hold can't be found in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
California resident Dave Meltzer has been publishing the weekly Wrestling Observer Newsletter since 1982. The 16- to 20-page paper is regarded by pro wrestling fans, promoters and wrestlers themselves as an indispensable bible of news, gossip and analysis of the pro wrestling business.
Only in sheets like the Observer will you learn that tough-guy WWF wrestler Tazz has trouble getting out of character after his matches. Also here is it revealed that ex-Olympic gold medalist-turned-pro Kurt Angle legitimately bruised his tailbone during a particularly grueling match, or that Mexican high-flyer Eddie Guerrero has entered a drug rehab center for an addiction to painkillers.
It's news you'll get nowhere else. Certainly no other media outlets cover the wrestling business as intensely as Meltzer and his primary competitor, 30-something Minnesotan Wade Keller, who publishes the glossier, but somewhat less informative Pro Wrestling Torch. Both the Torch and the Observer have accompanying websites, which are updated around the clock. The sites, though, feature mostly news tidbits. The good stuff--exclusive interviews, the most salacious gossip, deeper analysis--costs money; about $80 for a one-year subscription. For both Meltzer and Keller, the newsletters are their only job. Keller even has an assistant editor on staff, Jason Powell.
In a business as historically "inside" as pro wrestling, how can investors or stock market observers really understand how to predict the company's fortunes? Meltzer says it's hard, if not impossible. "The stock market people don't have a clue," says Meltzer.
That said, Meltzer himself hedges. "I don't know that anyone does. This is a business where you can't predict what's going to happen in a week."
Even so, Keller and Meltzer tend to be the primary sources of unfiltered information concerning inside dealings of the WWF and the wrestling business on the whole. While in the past, the "dirt sheets," as they're called, dealt mostly with gossip, match results and critiques, and storylines, pro wrestling's emergence as an economic player has forced sheet writers to place stronger focus on financial matters.
In the past, wrestling companies would publicly disown the
sheets, claiming they violated the once sacrosanct tradition called "kayfabe."
The term, which wrestling lore lists as coming from the carnival business,
refers to the veil of secrecy the wrestling business placed over its activities,
especially an insistence that such an obviously staged product was as real as
rain. So ironclad was the tradition, it could be compared to "omerta,"
the Mafia code of silence.
No more. While mentioning the Internet as a catalyst for change might induce yawns at this point, the adage has never been truer than for wrestling. Literally thousands of sites exist, some more regularly updated than others. The most ambitious ones are almost laughably detailed in their coverage: minute-by-minute text updates during pay-per-views, obsessive post-show analysis, interviews with anybody remotely tied to the business, from roadies to managers to valets.
Wrestling companies and wrestlers themselves have taken notice, and are taking the Internet crowd's attentions seriously. WWFE executive Jim Ross, who is also an on-air commentator, holds regular conference calls with the media. Not The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly or Sports Illustrated, though. Instead, Ross dishes inside dirt to people like Meltzer and Keller.
WWFE officials aren't ready to completely embrace newsletters, though. "You'll never see anyone's name used in those things," said WWFE spokesperson Jayson Bernstein.
"For every time they're right, 10 times they're wrong. Certainly there are some of our employees here that are going to speak with [newsletters], people that may have had a longstanding relationship with [writers]. You can't stop that."
WWFE officials pay more attention to the waves of e-mail that pour in after each broadcast or special event, says Bernstein, than anything in the sheets.
There's always been a certain quid pro quo to the relationship between sheet writers, wrestlers and wrestling companies. The sheets get the scoops and, consequently, the money of thousands of eager subscribers. Individual grapplers can air grudges, pass along gossip, and even plant damaging stories about rivals. Promotion bosses get to disseminate information in a way no mainstream outlet can; in fact, WWF executive and on-air talent Jim Ross recently announced plans to make his occasional conference calls with sheet writers a regular, monthly event.
It would be a mistake, however, to overstate the wrestling
business's new candor. Nearly all sources are anonymous. I.D.'s like "top
WWF official," "one big-name star" abound, evoking comparisons to
most Washington coverage these days. Yet as tabloids and gossip columnists well
know, a veneer of exclusivity and secrecy can be a selling point in itself.
Despite the lack of attribution, what gets printed is often received as the
gospel. Meltzer, in particular, is revered as an all-knowing guru.
(The article will conclude in The New WAWLI Papers 67-2001)
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.67-2001
DOES McMAHON STILL HAVE THE MOVES?
(Westchester County Weekly, August 2, 2001)
(continued from The New WAWLI Papers 66-2001)
But you'll rarely see Meltzer or Keller quoted in
the mainstream media for anything more than comment on wrestling's creative
content. As the following shows, the financial press is missing out on a lot of
potentially important scoops.
The story behind WWFE's biggest current storyline--indeed, perhaps the biggest storyline ever in wrestling--is a perfect example of how business at the company is anything but "as usual."
Just before the demise of the XFL in May, the WWFE publicity machine trumpeted its latest, greatest move: after decades of battle, they had defeated and bought out their competition, Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling.
WCW, which under various names and structures has been around for more than 50 years, reached its financial peak in 1997 and 1998, even trouncing the mighty WWF in cable ratings and at the box office. The company's growth, spurred by inventive storylines and the signing of famous, ex-WWF grapplers, was explosive: WCW, a struggling, $30 million company in 1995, grossed $250 million in 1997.
But the success was short-lived. After a prolonged creative malaise that led to a $60 million loss last year, owners AOL/Time-Warner pulled the plug. WWFE pounced, purchasing WCW's brand name, video archives and a number of low-level contracted wrestlers for about $30 million.
At the end, WCW was in a sorry state. Live events, even for television, drew scarce crowds. Television ratings fell to less than half their peak. In essence, while WWFE may have won the war, their spoils were tainted.
Meltzer says that although the WCW brand name carries a stigma, it's not an insurmountable one. "Wrestling fans are incredibly forgiving when it comes to the product. Give them six weeks of good television and they'll forget all about the bad stuff."
And it's via that philosophy that many wrestling fans looked forward to the ultimate, "dream" wrestling storyline: WWF vs. WCW.
Things started off well enough about seven weeks ago, with WCW's champion, the athletic Booker T, attacking top WWF stars at the climax of "Raw Is War." But while T's timing was great, the reaction he got from the crowd was tepid at best. Part of the problem was that the WWF itself had spent the past several years regularly bashing WCW on its programs; now it had to make WCW seem cool.
The following two weeks of television were no better, either in execution or crowd response. Most of the WWF's WCW signees were lesser-known, inexperienced stars; if headliner Booker T couldn't spark a reaction, how could a bunch of scrubs? And while you could give the newcomers instant credibility by allowing them to defeat prominent WWF wrestlers, it could also end up tanking the home team.
Things weren't looking good; although television ratings weren't appreciably affected by the fizzling feud, the promotion's long-term track looked shaky. The angle had to be reworked immediately.
In short order it was, and to exhilarating effect, when WWF writer and on-air talent Paul Heyman tossed off his headphones and climbed into the ring during the main event of the July 9 "Raw Is War."
Heyman is an industry veteran, having come to the WWF after his own promotion, the Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling, folded earlier this year. Heyman is more a creative mind than a financial one. Many of the ideas and themes currently used by the WWF are vintage ECW, from the T&A to the accelerated violence, and its fans were some of the most dedicated and vocal the business has ever seen.
As Heyman made his way into the ring, a series of wrestlers walked down the ramp. Some were active WWF employees. Others worked under WCW's banner. All, however, were former ECW stars. Surrounded by his 12 old friends, Heyman grabbed the microphone and delivered an impassioned speech declaring the reformation of ECW. The alchemy worked: the crowd went ballistic.
Several days later, on "Smackdown," Heyman revealed a further, even more ingenious twist: Vince McMahon's own daughter, Stephanie, was behind the purchase and revival of ECW. In the following weeks, the duo joined forces with Vince's son Shane, who in storylines had already masterminded the WCW "invasion." Most recently, none other than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin jumped ship to the WCW/ECW camp, which is now dubbed "The Alliance." With big WWF stars like Triple H and the Rock set to come back from long-term absences, it seems like the World Series of pro wrestling that fans have longed for could finally become reality.
While not a masterstroke, it seems the creative dilemma facing the WWF evaporated overnight. But who was responsible? Why wasn't this approach taken from the start?
There's no official account: WWFE spokesperson Bernstein declined any comment on matters concerning the company's internal creative processes. But a possible answer can be found in a fascinating "Keller's Take" column posted on July 11 (two days after Heyman's showstopping speech) to the Torch website, titled "How You, the Average Wrestling Fan, Can Change the Course of Wrestling History."
Formatted as a mock advice column, the piece explained how to gain influence within a wrestling company by toying with a promoter's overreliance on the whims of Internet-savvy fans. "First, come up with something that's being done poorly and imagine how it could be improved," wrote Keller. "Sit back and watch as the idea is being done poorly. Do not say anything to anyone! It's important, for your idea to eventually be accepted, that the idea it is replacing fail miserably first.
"Then, when the timing is right, start sending dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of e-mails to various wrestling websites that run reader feedback," continued Keller. "Tell them, under dozens of made-up names, how something isn't being done right and is doomed to fail. . .This will strike fear into the promoters and wrestlers who thought that things were going just fine. . .They'll be insecure and looking for a savior.
"Then, a few days, or at most a couple of weeks after that first letter campaign, bombard these same websites with letters suggesting your idea. Write letters under dozens of made up names under various e-mail services.
"Then, try to get as many Internet sites as possible who do polls to ask a 'yes or no' question regarding your idea that you've popularized beyond reality. . . At this point, the gullible, overworked wrestling promoters, and especially his 'yes-men' who long ago figured out how to manipulate him, will see the 'groundswell of support' for your idea and push for it.
"The only problem with this overall plan is that when the idea works, you can't take credit for it. . . Instead, try to make it seem like it was an idea of the boss. . . Nothing pleases a boss more than public credit for something, even if he didn't come up with the idea."
While Keller didn't name any names in his article, its timing and tone points in one direction: Heyman. Perhaps it was all just an elaborate conspiracy theory. If true, though, it's a tantalizing concept: that someone as publicly powerful as Vince McMahon, could be manipulated so easily by a subordinate, that the creative path of such a massive company can be altered by one individual's careful gamesmanship.
Of course, those types of slick moves are what McMahon, and pro wrestling itself, is based upon.
The invasion angle could still prove to be a flop, but WWFE can afford to make a few mistakes right now: with the WWF, ECW and WCW now folded into an all-encompassing entity, WWFE is the only game in town. Besides, the company has proven its resilience again and again.
Also, there doesn't seem to be much interest in a new, start-up promotion. Faded wrestling great Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea), 47, has hinted at an impending deal with Universal Studios for more than a year, but with no tangible developments. While Hogan is not the star he used to be, he remains a household name, making his struggle curious at the least.
Then again, as Meltzer posits: "You'd need such a massive cash outlay in order to legitimately compete with the current WWFE product on a competitive level. I don't see that happening right now."
WWFE spokesperson Bernstein says his company is ready, and even waiting for someone to take on. "If I believed all the rumors I hear, we'll have half a dozen new promotions anytime now. There are plenty of companies who could back a new organization. We welcome competition."
(Westchester County Weekly, August 2, 2001)
By Chris Kanaracus
Paramount to WWFE's success is an ability to create new stars. While baseball, basketball and other sports certainly benefit from marquee draws like Michael Jordan and Pedro Martinez, pro wrestling depends on them. Storylines surround them. Fans root for, or razz them. Lucrative merchandise is created in their image.
One of the weaknesses the WWF developed over the
past couple of years is potentially crippling: the company hasn't created new
stars on the level of marquee players like Triple H, Stone Cold and the Rock.
Although H and Rock are due back in action shortly, their currency won't last
WCW's rise to fortune can be credited almost entirely to Bill Goldberg, a juggernaut-like former football player who became the industry's most popular performer within months of his debut, thanks to a to-the-moon promotional push, including a 100-plus win streak over the company's top names. Goldberg, 34, is currently on the sidelines, riding out his lucrative Time-Warner contract.
Similarly, the WWF's most recent wave of blockbuster business is tied to mega-stars like the Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, 36. Austin had toiled in the mid-to-lower ranks of smaller federations, including WCW, for years, showing marked charisma on the microphone and plenty of in-ring talent, but never received a substantial promotional push. Shortly after arriving in the WWF, Austin was transformed into a trash-talking, beer-guzzling redneck superman. Storylines concerned a lengthy, often raucous feud with his boss, Vince McMahon, one that continues (and continually metamorphasises) to this day. The neo-populist approach resonated powerfully with wrestling's largely blue-collar, plain-folk audiences, sending pay-per-view and merchandise business into the stratosphere.
But the Austin-driven gravy train may soon come to an end, due to his accumulated injuries and simple character burnout. Austin sports massive, cumbersome braces on both knees and on one elbow and had his neck fused after a 1998 in-ring accident that left him temporarily paralyzed. Currently, Austin is performing on a limited basis despite three broken bones in his back and two fractures in his hand.
Industry observers believe there is certainly another Bill Goldberg or Austin out there. One of the most often-named candidates is former NCAA wrestler and current WWF trainee Brock Lesnar, who is learning the ropes in a small, WWF-sponsored league in Ohio. From within the ranks are prospects such as the smallish, but highly charismatic Canadian wrestler Chris "Y2J" Jericho and Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, to whom Dave Meltzer, publisher of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, gives the highest praise possible. "Within five years I think he could be the best all-around performer in the world."
Where things get tricky for wrestling promoters is not only finding the right star, but knowing when, and how, to "elevate" them. Do you grant Up And Comer No. 1 a clean pin over an established veteran like Austin, or do you use Up And Comer to give someone already at their peak, such as the currently injured Triple H, a further push? And when do you give up on an older, but still viable employee? Throw in scads of backstage politicking, back-stabbing and cronyism, and things get even tougher to navigate.
PULLING DOWN THE BIG BUCKS
(Westchester County Weekly, August 2, 2001)
By Chris Kanaracus
In terms of talent expenditures, WWFE is sitting on highly favorable financial ground, especially during a soft economy; the salary structure in a wrestling organization is nothing like the bloated payroll of a professional sports team.
The company's biggest stars, such as the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, receive a paid, yearly guarantee in the low millions, plus additional fees from merchandise, arena admissions and pay-per-view sales. Some estimates place the annual income of stars like Austin near $10 million. Big bucks, for sure, but if business slows, the company isn't affected much.
Lower-level stars also receive a so-called "downside" guarantee, but a considerably smaller one: perhaps $250,000. Finally, non-contracted wrestlers, often less experienced workers or aging veterans, work on a night-by-night basis as "enhancement talent" or "jobbers": fall guys-cum-punching bags for bigger stars to pound out an impressive victory with.
This de facto caste system is effective in keeping individuals in line, and for rewarding those who excel. But when you couple it with the WWF's current monopoly on the American wrestling business, the system is practically infallible. In the past, stars would regularly threaten to leave one company for the other come contract time, using the leverage to score better deals.
That can happen no more, at least until another
large promotion turns up. And that's no certainty.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.68-2001
DICK HUTTON CAPTURES LOU THESZ’ MAT CROWN
(Globe & Mail, Toronto, November 15, 1957)
By Steve York
Dick Hutton became a good guy again to 9,099 wrestling fans at Maple Leaf Gardens last night.
All the Oklahoma strong boy did was win over Lou Thesz to become National Wrestling Alliance world’s heavyweight champion.
Hutton forced the veteran to concede when he applied his fearsome abdominal stretch at 35:15 of the one fall, no time limit match.
Hutton also kept his $2,000. For so long it had become laughable he had been offering $1,000 to any wrestler who could defeat him in 20 minutes or less. For last night’s crucial contest, Hutton waived the time limit and also increased his offering to $2,000. If he lost, half would go to charity and half to Thesz.
Well, that’s one way to save $2,000.
Next to Thesz, the most disappointed man there was probably Sam Muchnick, Alliance president.
There he was with Hutton’s two grand in one hand and not able to give it away, and a handful of the Alliance’s latest by-laws that he was unable to use. The result was clear-cut.
Last time Muchnick was here, Whipper Watson won over Thesz by disqualification. Sam just happened to have a recent Alliance by-law with him that said the title couldn’t change hands by disqualification.
Watson, incidentally, challenged the winner of last night’s match.
Next week’s main event will have three teams in the ring at the same time: Fritz von Erich and Gene Kiniski, Whipper Watson and Yukon Eric and Pat O’Connor and Roy McClarity.
Officially, only the first two teams will be wrestling. O’Connor
and McClarity will be acting as referees.
This is the lineup of several weeks ago that was knocked into the discard by Watson’s attack of la grippe.
Hutton set up Thesz for defeat with a couple of body slams. Dick caught Thesz coming off the ropes as Lou was planning a flying tackle. Instead Hutton seized him, lifted him high and slammed him mightily to the mat.
Thesz, a cagey character, made a production of recovering to stall off his eager and younger rival, but Hutton bounced Louie heartily again. Before he could recover this time, Hutton was on him swiftly and enmeshed him in his abdominal stretch. Thesz made one valiant effort to fall into the ropes but couldn’t make it and referee Bert Maxwell finally awarded the match to Hutton.
It wasn’t a very spectacular clash as neither man wished to give his rival any openings. So they ground each other down with headlocks, hammerlocks, scissors holds and toe holds.
Thesz annoyed the customers by his mean tactics along the ropes. Some times before breaking a hold at Maxwell’s behest he would punch at Hutton’s head or give him an elbow smash. At other times Thesz would break cleanly immediately when Maxwell ordered it, but before Hutton could get away from the ropes the old champ would rap him in the head with a punch or an elbow.
Main Bout – Dick Hutton, 255, def. Lou Thesz, 237, with abdominal strech at 35:15 of one-fall match.
Semi-final – Al Costello, 240, and Roy Heffernan, 240, won over Tiger Tasker, 229, and The Mighty Ursus, 325. Heffernan pinned Tasker with flying tackle and top spread at 7:16 of a scheduled 30-minute match.
Preliminaries – Roy McClarity, 232, defeated Pierre LaSalle, 229, with sleeper hold at 8:34 of scheduled 30-minute match; Farmer Boy, 265, and Jim Bernard, 255, wrestled 20 minutes to a draw; Fred Atkins, 248, and Joe Blanchard, 239, wrestled 20 minutes to a draw.
‘STRANGLER’ HEROIC TO THE LAST FALL
(Indianapolis Star, Wednesday, August 17, 1966)
By Woolsey Teller
Oldtimers must have felt something of a shock at reading of the death recently of one of the most famous wrestlers of all time, Ed (Strangler) Lewis. Anybody who ever saw Lewis would find it difficult to imagine how anything, even the Grim Reaper, could cut down such a rugged example of manly strength.
Lewis had all the physical attributes of the Rock of Gibraltar. In his heyday he weighed 270 pounds, all of it solid muscle. His immense neck measured 21 inches around. Ordinary neckties didn’t fit him so he had special ones made, eight inches longer than the normal cravat. His chest was 56 inches and his waist 44.
Years ago when he was in Indianapolis he joked that he was the only baby in the world who was never slapped when he was born. "I was so big the doctor was afraid I’d slap him back," he said.
After he retired Lewis spent most of his time toward the betterment of what he called "his hobby." And he explained, "Youth is my hobby." He visited schools for the blind and orphan homes, and seemed happiest when he was among the youngsters.
For what the title was worth, Lewis won the world’s heavyweight wrestling championship five times, taking it the first time in 1920 with a victory over the famed Joe Stecher.
Possessor of what was considered the most powerful headlock in the trade, Lewis in 1922 challenged Jack Dempsey, then the heavyweight champion prizefighter, to a mixed wrestling-boxing match. The contest never took place but Lewis’ challenge demonstrated his belief that by wrestling, he could whip any man on earth, even so tough a customer as was Dempsey.
It is saddening to consider what the ravages of time can do to even so magnificent a specimen as Lewis. He was blind and poor at his death in Oklahoma at 76 although he had earned $4 million during his career.
But if time ended his eyesight and emptied his pockets it could not dampen his great fighting heart. He said of the terrible affliction that plunged him into darkness: "This is just another test to prove the allness, the omnipotence of God. I’m going through a beautiful experience."
Lewis said that faith in God had enabled him to sustain his life after he became sightless. "I have come to realize a true sense of values through this tribulation," he explained.
The great old catch-as-catch-can artist knew all the holds, and all the ways to break holds. He was wise in the ways of the mat and knew how to size up and how to grapple against a tough adversary.
As for the toughest adversary of all – the one that each human on earth must grapple with daily – life itself, Strangler Lewis had a headlock on it all the way to the end of the match. Because, as it turned out, his heart was even bigger than his neck.
‘FADED GLORY: THE VON ERICH STORY’
(Dallas Observer, March 16, 2000)
By Robert Wilonsky
"It's astonishing no one has yet turned the Von Erichs' tragic tale into a big-screen biopic; after all, theirs is a story shot through with enough drama and trauma to level any audience. Or maybe it's possible that no one will believe their tale, as fact or fiction. For a brief, shining moment, Fritz Von Erich and his boys (Kevin, Kerry, Michael, and David) ruled the wrestling world with an Iron Claw, only to succumb to drug abuse, suicide, and a thousand pounds of pain. Rusty Baker's documentary does an admirable job of presenting the short-hand tale of the Von Erichs, using home movies and footage from matches (even Kevin's very first in 1976); and it's gripping to hear Fritz, now dead, speak from beyond the grave about the two things he loved most in this world -- his sons, and beating the hell out of anyone who dared step into the squared circle with the meanest wrestler in Texas . . . Kevin is the last of Fritz's four sons (Jackie died when he was a child, electrocuted in a trailer park) -- the sole survivor of an ill-fated clan. Sometimes, this family's story is too sad even to contemplate."
‘FADED GLORY: THE VON ERICH STORY’ – A FULL REVIEW
(WrestlingObserver.com, Thursday, August 2, 2001)
By Jeff Timbs
Dallas PBS affiliate KERA aired a documentary on the wrestling Von Erich family Wednesday night. The film is copyrighted 1999 and has been shown in at least one film festival. To my knowledge, it has not aired on television before and is not available on video. "Faded Glory" provides an interesting, but far from comprehensive, look at the triumphs and tragedies of the Von Erichs, a family in which both parents outlived five of their six sons.
Written and directed by Marine fighter pilot turned filmmaker Rusty Baker, the film apparently had the full support of Kevin Von Erich. Kevin appears on screen frequently as does his late father Fritz (in purportedly his last filmed interview) and long-time Von Erich friend and announcer Bill Mercer, who also hosts the program. Unfortunately, no other friends, family members, or wrestlers were interviewed. The participation of someone like Freebird Michael Hayes, Playboy Gary Hart, or Scandar Akbar of Devastation Inc. might have given some indication of the Von Erichs’ wrestling legacy.
Instead, we hear Kevin say that he and his brothers changed wrestling by being athletic, well–conditioned young men who worked shorter, faster paced matches than the long, slow matches than were then the norm. Montages of ring footage against the Freebirds, Jimmy Garvin, and the team of Gentleman Chris Adams and Gorgeous Gino Hernandez support this to some degree although more and longer clips could have provided better evidence. The one exception is the footage from Kerry Von Erich’s victory over Ric Flair for the NWA world title belt on May 6, 1984, where a few minutes of highlights are shown. Ironically, the match is well-worked but not typical of the Von Erich style.
The film opens with a very quick look at the childhood and youth of Jack Adkisson. After college, he enters wrestling as Fritz Von Erich. He, his wife, and their growing family travel extensively to further his career. A lot of the family’s home movies showing the sons as young boys is set to Hank Snow’s "I’ve Been Everywhere." We see some clips of Fritz’s early matches, including his mockery of opponent Gorgeous George.
While Fritz is away in 1959, the oldest son Jackie is electrocuted and drowns in a puddle of melting snow. When he returns home, then-world champion Gene Kiniski breaks the news, and Fritz breaks a car window with his fist. En route to buying a bait stand in Corpus Christi, the family visits Fritz’s relatives in Dallas and decides to stay and put down roots. Fritz sees it as an opportunity to spend more time at home and raise his sons since he blames himself for Jackie’s death.
Although Fritz wants his sons to get a college education and prepare for a profession, the boys (who have a backyard ring) follow their father into wrestling. As Fritz says, "it was the only thing they’d ever known." First Kevin, then David, then Kerry, all high school athletes, become wrestlers. Kerry is the first to play up to the adoring young female fans, but his brothers eventually do also. This portion of the film seems too understated and doesn’t give an adequate picture of how big the Von Erichs were in Texas in the early 80s.
The next tragedy strikes when David, sick with the flu, dies during a tour of Japan in 1984. The next son, Mike, who bears some physical resemblance to David, is brought along to fill David’s spot. David was in line for a title shot at Ric Flair, and Kerry is chosen for the match held at Texas Stadium at the 1st annual David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions. Fritz joins Kevin and Mike in defeating the Freebirds for the six-man title, then Kerry beats Flair for the NWA world title (which Kerry held for only a few weeks).
Not long into his career, Mike sustains a shoulder injury, leading to toxic shock syndrome and high fever. He survives and even returns to wrestling but isn’t the same physically or emotionally. He takes an overdose of pills in 1987. Fritz responds by selling his wrestling business interests. Kerry loses part of a foot in a motorcycle accident but continues wrestling (and eventually wins the WWF IC title in 1990 as the Texas Tornado, although his WWF stint is never mentioned).
Youngest son Chris eventually enters wrestling although he lacks the physical size of his brothers as a result of life-long asthma and medication which stunted his growth and made his bones brittle. (As I recall, the heels frequently called him "munchkin" because of his short stature). He shoots and kills himself in 1991. Kerry commits suicide in 1993, also with a gun. Unmentioned is the fact that Kevin gradually drifts away from the business and retires.
Alone of all of the Adkisson sons, Kevin survives, which he attributes to his wife and children. They provide an anchor for him that his brothers lacked. He introduces his two daughters and two sons. The two boys are seen playing on a trampoline, one trying either a piledriver or a power bomb on the other. Kevin says his two sons remind him of David and himself at that age.
Even though the boys want to be wrestlers like their dad,
Kevin doesn’t like what the business has become and describes it as too "cartoony."
He wants his sons to be anything other than wrestlers, just as Fritz wanted that
for his own sons. The grave markers of David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris are shown,
bearing both their real name and their wrestling name. Even in death, they
remain wrestlers and Von Erichs. With a mixture of pride and regret, Kevin tells
one of his sons that no matter what, they’ll always be Von Erichs."
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.69-2001
FRITZ VON ERICH DEAD AT 68
(Associated Press, Thursday, September 11, 1997)
By Chris Newton
DALLAS -- Jack Adkisson, patriarch of the famed Texas wrestling family the Von Erichs, died at his Denton County home Wednesday, about two months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 68.
Adkisson, who went by the name Fritz Von Erich during a 35-year wrestling career, was diagnosed in July with lung cancer that had spread to his brain and adrenal glands. A statement from the family said he died of a brain tumor at his home in Lake Dallas, about 20 miles north of Dallas.
Adkisson and his five sons were long associated with wrestling triumph in Texas. Five sons -- Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris -- also wrestled under the Von Erich name.
Jack Adkisson for years produced a syndicated wrestling show, World Class Championship Wrestling, that was seen in 66 U.S. television markets, Japan, Argentina and the Middle East.
But in recent years, there has mostly been pain. Five of Jack Adkisson's sons preceded him in death. One died as a child in the 1950s, three committed suicide since 1987 and the fifth died of an apparent drug overdose in 1984.
The only surviving son is the oldest, Kevin, 40.
"We would like to express thanks to the fans and the community for their prayers, love and support," Kevin Adkisson said. "Dad loved them very much." David, probably the best wrestler of the sons, died at the age of 25 in 1984 from an apparent overdose while on a wrestling tour of Japan. Suicide claimed the lives of Mike, 23, in 1987; Chris, 21, in 1991; and Kerry, 33, in 1993. Another son, Jack Jr., died at the age of 7 in 1959 from electrical shock.
"It hurt him desperately," said Tom Pulley, a longtime friend of the Von Erichs. "It's hard for any of us to imagine losing one son, much less five sons. It changed his life and it definitely took the wind out of his sails."
Until Fritz Von Erich retired in 1980, he was one of the stars of professional wrestling. The former Southern Methodist and Dallas Texans lineman stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 260 pounds. He turned to wrestling in the 1950s after being injured.
The Von Erichs once wrestled in front of 40,000 people at Texas Stadium and regularly filled the arenas where they competed.
In their heyday, the Von Erichs were the good guys of the wrestling world, vanquishing trash-talking, loudmouthed wrestlers in black garb. The continuing family tragedies brought them -- and their sport -- even more fame.
Pulley said Fritz Von Erich had a vision for what wrestling could be on television.
"What he did back in the '80s really started wrestling on television," Pulley said. "There's no question that the brains behind what you see today was Fritz Von Erich. It took wrestling from being a small regional sport to being international in scope, and I give him the credit for that."
Jack Adkisson is survived by his son Kevin, daughter-in-law Pam, their four children and two other grandchildren. He and his wife, Doris, divorced several years ago.
Family members said they would receive friends of Jack Adkisson at a memorial service on Saturday at First Baptist Church in Dallas. No funeral or graveside services were planned.
EVERYTHING’S FAKE BUT THE DEATHS
(The Village Voice, August 8-14, 2001)
By Nick Mamatas
Last spring, Vince McMahon appeared both on his own show, the World Wrestling Federation's 'RAW IS WAR' on TNN, and on his competitor's, World Championship Wrestling's 'MONDAY NITRO' on TNT, and declared himself owner of both. And maybe the number of folding chairs thrown at wrestling matches will decrease now that maverick Extreme Championship Wrestling has itself folded. The wrestling wars of the 1990s have simmered down, but they left behind a body count.
Half a dozen active wrestlers and wrestling personalities died during the ratings war, mainly between the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, as punishing road schedules, painkillers, and ever more fantastic stunts were offered to television audiences hungry for the spectacle of gladiators.
It all started in 1995 when the WCW — at the time Ted Turner's outfit -- decided to go head-to-head against the WWF by airing its show Nitro against the WWF's Monday Night Raw, which was then airing on the USA Network. Television wrestling was a relatively staid affair—cartoony characters went through the motions of beating "jobbers," or no-name wrestlers with no hope of winning, to entice people to attend the next local event, or "house show," or to buy the next pay-per-view. Nitro changed the rules. It pitted top stars against one another in PPV-caliber events, and dipped into Time Warner's kitty to sign up some of the biggest stars, many of whom were working for the WWF at the time. Wrestlers jumping ship from one company to another, and a new hardcore style that combined high-flying antics, a number of prop garbage cans, folding chairs and ladders, and classic wrestling maneuvers fueled the immense ratings increase that the industry saw in the mid and late 1990s.
The action may be scripted, but the deaths are real. They rose as the stakes got higher.
"These things have happened over the past 15 or so years," says Dave Meltzer, who runs the Wrestling Observer, a "sheet" of inside wrestling information, but "really escalated in the last three or four years."
Brian Pillman was the first major post-Nitro casualty. He had wrestled on the first-ever Nitro match for WCW, and then, after an injury, spent a brief time in ECW to build momentum for his leap to the WWF, where his character wrestled with his own personal demons. Formerly a high-flying wrestler, Pillman suffered an ankle injury that forced him to change his style to straightforward brawling and his character to a loose cannon. Like many other wrestlers with nagging injuries, industry insiders say, he abused prescription painkillers.
On October 5, 1997, just before the PPV event Badd Blood, he was found dead in a hotel room in Bloomington, Indiana, thanks to a heart attack brought on by heart disease and possibly complicated by prescription drugs. The WWF responded by hyping an interview with Pillman's widow, Melanie Pillman, the next night on Raw.
Eric Bischoff, at the time the public face of World Championship Wrestling, where Pillman had spent most of his career, took the time to point out that the WCW had random drug-testing policies. He also said, in an online chat, "If there was ever one decision that I could change, and ever one time in my wrestling lifetime that I could turn back the clock and change the way things happened, I would have gone the extra mile to make sure Brian stayed with WCW."
The WCW was soon to have its own deaths, though.
"The WCW was the one with the really scary deaths," says Meltzer. "After Pillman, the WWF sent guys to rehab."
Asked about the WWF's response to Pillman's death, WWF spokesman Judd Everhart says, "Brian Pillman died from heart failure, and his death did not have any impact on our talent policies. We have worked with our talent over the years to help them with any health issues they may have faced and continue to follow that practice today."
But after Pillman, the deaths continued. On February 15, 1998, Louis Mucciolo, who wrestled under the name of Louie Spicolli for the WCW and who had also recently jumped from ECW, died of an overdose of Carisoprodol, a prescription muscle relaxant. Spicolli, who was only 27, was just beginning to get recognition among the fans and substantial TV time. He was starting to get what wrestlers know as "the push," the all-important determinant of income. Being pushed by promoters means TV time and merchandising and, from the wrestler's perspective, increased bargaining power. The push, however, is in the hands of the promoters who develop characters and write the segments.
"It leads to a paranoid life," Meltzer says. Spicolli, who wrestled for the ECW and the WWF (as Rad Radford), had a bad drug problem, says Meltzer.
The WCW was well known as having an exceptionally paranoid locker room during the wrestling wars. Bischoff spent millions signing top talent, and keeping all those egos happy with their separate pushes led to ridiculous storylines, changes in direction, and wild physical stunts. The WCW frequently went for the quick payoff, such as when it lured the semi-retired Rick Rude away from both the WWF and ECW. When he died of a heart attack at age 40 in April 1999, Rude was training for a comeback, but for the WWF.
"He was probably 'roided up at the time," Meltzer says.
Only a couple of months earlier, a wrestler on the way down perished. Rick Wilson had gotten what the fan sheets called "a semi-major push" in 1995 by the WCW. The fans had been promised an "ultimate surprise" by WWF-turned-WCW star Hulk Hogan and were primed to expect the long-missing Ultimate Warrior, a 1980s WWF superstar. Instead, they were introduced to Wilson as "the Renegade." He was lost in the shuffle and reduced to jobbing on WCW's second-tier shows. He was then let go by the WCW. In February 1999, a despondent Wilson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The most spectacular wrestling death in 1999 was that of Owen Hart of the WWF. While the WCW was well-known for repackaging old WWF wrestlers and concepts and selling them to new fans, the WWF also took a few jabs at its competition. The WCW often had its main event star Sting descend via cable from the rafters like a superhero. Once in the ring, he would clobber opponents with a baseball bat. The WWF, riffing on the storyline, dressed accomplished technical wrestler Owen Hart as the comical Blue Blazer and started sending him down from the rafters as well.
The joke soured on May 23, 1999, during a PPV event, when Hart fell from the rafters to the ring in Kansas City's Kemper Arena. The lights were down, so the audience did not see Hart fall, but they did watch him get carried backstage, where he died while the event was still under way. While online fans were alerted to Hart's death immediately, the thousands of people watching the show live were not told of Hart's backstage death, and the show went on. The next night, on Raw, a "memorial" episode featured heartfelt statements by wrestlers. The WWF also sent a busload of wrestlers and cameras to Hart's funeral, and eventually sent a bundle to Hart's family, which received a huge settlement, reportedly $18 million.
The final wrestling-war death was in 2000, when WCW wrestler Bobby Duncum Jr., who spent most of his career in Japan before working in the ECW and then jumping to the WCW, OD'd on painkillers and alcohol.
By the time Duncum died, though, the war was nearly over. WCW exhausted the possibilities of its "New World Order" storyline, and its bloated roster of aging stars cost the company tens of millions of dollars. Its ratings collapsed while the WWF cashed in on its new stars, like Triple H, the Rock, and former Olympian Kurt Angle. Little ECW suffered the most, as both the larger operations frequently raided its talent. ECW filed for bankruptcy, and earlier this year the WCW was put up for sale.
Today, the WWF holds a monopoly over pro wrestling as powerful as Microsoft's grip on software. Except for a few small promoters who run shows out of high school gyms and air their programs on local TV, the WWF is the first, last, and only stop for wrestlers. Meanwhile, the chances of unionization are near nil, and the WWF is already cutting some of the stars who helped it win the war, including Chyna, who had a bestselling book under her championship belt.
The question no one can answer yet is whether
Vince McMahon, who has finally become the undisputed boss, rules over what might
be the bombed-out remains of a war-torn industry.
THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) Papers No.70-2001
DEDICATED TO THE BOYS IN THE ARMED SERVICES
(Houston wrestling program, July, 1945)
Hello, Folks! This is our "FOURTH OF JULY" issue-and we are dedicating it to all members of the wrestling profession who served in the Armed Services. Our list may not be entirely complete-but the majority of the boys listed in the "Honor" Roll on Page 4 have appeared here in the City Auditorium and all of those pictured in this week's program were in the service, and have wrestled here. It is with provide that we pay respect to them in this small way.
*1st. Lt. Lou Miller, of the U.S. Army Air Force, was killed in action in a bombing raid over Germany.
*Pvt. Zack Gazek, U.S. Army, Infantry, was killed in action on the battlefields of Germany.
**Joe Cox, who served in both World War I and II, died last year from pneumonia.
**Gus Sonnenberg, former World's Heavyweight Champion, died in a Navy hospital as a result of a tropical disease contracted in the Pacific.
***George Ligosky enlisted in the C-Bee's, and spent over a year in the Pacific, after his two sons, who were already in the service, were sent overseas.
***Karl (Doc) Sarpolis and Man Mountain Dean both served in World Wars I and II.
These are just a few facts about those in our professional who fought and died for Libery-Justice-Freedom-just as our Forefathers did-and we Honor them on this FOURTH OF JULY, 12946!
Paul Boesch, Tommy Nilan, Joe Cox, Bobby Bruns, Ray Villmer, Mike Burnell, Bill Lee, Jim Henry, Tarzan White, Danno O'Mahoney, Leo Savage, Fred Blassie, Dick Bishop, Vic Christy, Flash Clifford, Chief Chewchki, Tug Carlson, Ronnie Etchison, Ed Don George, Karl Gray, Al Getz, Lee Henning, Paul Jones, Karol Krauser, Henry Kulkovich, Dick Lever, Danny McShain, Jim McMillen, Tiger Joe Marsh, Roland Meeker, Sam Menacker, Tom Mahoney, Ed Meske, Tommy O'Toole, Joe Pazandak, Lou Plummer, Pete Peterson, Jack Purdi, Jimmy Ricci, Dick Raines, George (Red) Ryan, Hal Rumberg, Bill sledge, Don Serio, Joe Savoldi, Louis Thesz, George Temple, George Thomas, Fred Von Schacht, Leo Voss, Chris Zaharias and Ferdinand Ziegler.
THE NIGHT McSHANE BLED … AND BLED … AND BLED
(Houston program, April 23, 1948)
Danny McShane almost became the "late" Mr. McShane last week. The tough Irishman severed an artery in his head when he hit the turnbuckle and if prompt action had not been taken he could easily have bled to death while all of us watched. Dr. B.H. Bayer pronounced him a very lucky fellow as he took three stiches in the artery and three more in the wound outside to close the gash.
Dizzy Davis promised that the match would probably end with one of them being carried from the ring. It was almost Dizzy. But as lucky would have it McShane was carried from the ring and yet did not lose the match. Davis was bleeding from a cut over the eye and referee Doc Sarpolis stopped the match with the intention of awarding the fall to McShane, but Davis was intent on continuing and would not hear of losing to McShane on a TKO. So, Doc reversed his original ruling and Davis tore into McShane, pounded him into the turnbuckle and then pounded McShane as he held him in the corner where he couldn't get away.
Doc Sarpolis took prompt action when he saw the blood spurting from McShane’s head with every beat of his heart, but instead of giving the match to Davis as many fans thought he should have done he call it a no decision affair because both men were in no condition to continue. But Davis protested that he was still on his feet while McShane was carried from the arena to the hospital. But Sarpolis stuck to his decision based on the fact that he was convinced Davis was in condition to continue a few minutes earlier.
(Daily Olympian, Olympia WA, January 25, 1954)
By Mike Contris
It was the persistent thought of the reports of buds and flowers showing up back home in Olympia that caused him the greatest concern. That’s what Swede Olson, wrestling promoter, said as he returned to Washington’s fair Capital City the other day after eight weeks in the snowy reaches of Canada. Yep, he piloted his jalopy some 2,400 miles from a spot where the weather gadget was hitting 28 below zero to what he thought was the land of prematurely blooming springtime flowers.
Hah! Those of you who have braved the snow, ice cold, slush and rain of recent days surely realize his utter, complete surprise as he drove into Olympia. There were no flowers blooming in the Spring, tra-la. No buds that one could see, either. Nothing but more of the same of what he had left behind in the North: snow, drifts, freezing weather and slipper highways.
But those eight weeks in Canada, sub-zero weather and all produced some of Swede’s top thrills, chills and driving. Oh, yes, he wrestled, too, about three nights a week. And thereby hangs our yarn for today. Imagine heading out of Calgary for Regina, some 500 miles away and then heading back to Calgary after the mat show! You imagine it, if you like; we’re content to report it. Anyway, Olson had to cover some 1,100 miles for such a show, and he did this three times a week, going to Edmonton and Regina among other places.
He drove these distances alone, on roads that were in no way kept up as they are here, along lonely stretches where there were no gasoline stations and an accident to a car would leave a person stranded to freeze to death.
His chilliest – outside of the weather – situation happened on his way home, near Cranbrook. Olson was driving cautiously along a slick, icy highway when he noticed a car turn into the road from the left and then stay in the left lane. Without warning, the car ahead of him then made a sudden right turn. Olson tried to stop his car on the icy road but to no avail, ramming the other car. The two vehicles came to rest at the side of the road. Cliff said he was more frightened than he had ever been in his life. On the other side of the road was a 500-foot drop-off.
As it was, Olson pried the bumper off his front wheel and then kept on for Spokane. The accident had happened about two-thirty o’clock in the afternoon. On the way from there to Spokane, Swede battled a blizzard, with but one of his lights on. He guided himself along the road by shining his spotlight on the ditch alongside the road. There was no other way to tell where the center of the highway was located.
He hit a snow drift well over his head in height. The impact threw snow against the windshield and fogged it up. He had to stop because he had no idea of what had happened. When he lifted the hood of his car, he found the motor compactly stuffed by the snow that had been forced through the broken grill. Only the carburetor air filter was showing. But he arrived in Spokane at midnight, with the nightmare blizzard behind him. From Spokane to Olympia the roads were good.
But then there was Olympia! Enough said!
To go back to the Canadian wrestling, Swede said he had planned to head for Saskatoon to do some promoting. It was 26 below in Calgary where he was stying, and when he learned that Saskatoon was hitting 30 below, he picked up his wife’s letters that told of the flowers reported blooming here just before the Christmas holidays – and he thought of the lonely, treacherous 1,000-miles-plus of driving for the mat shows – so he chucked the idea and headed for home.
In the eight weeks in Canada, Olson drove his car for more than 10,000 miles and traveled some 5,000 miles by other means of transportation.
On one of those lonely rides at night, Olson saw something coming at him in the night. He pulled up and suddenly realized it was a cub airplane, some 50 feet in the air, apparently lost and following the strip of highway.
"Never had an airplane spin in the mat ring to rival that plane’s effect on me that night," Olson said. "I wonder if the pilot ever noticed my car below him?"
In all that snow driving, Olson did not use chains. He kept his regulation tires considerably deflated, about 25 pounds. He had but one flat tire in all, and that happened to be right in the city fortunately.
When asked by Canadians where he lived, he would answer them: On the highway! True enough, because most of the time he was behind the wheel of his car driving to or from a wrestling show.
Most of the time he drove 1,600 to 1,800 miles a week. It was 2,900 one week. All of it was difficult driving because of the snow and ice.
Wrestling is good in Canada, Olson opines, but that terrific driving would soon break you down. A tough way to earn aliving.
"Glad to be back, flowers or no flowers," Olson said, "and a belated happy new year to all."
THESZ SHOWS OLD SPEED BEATING BUDDY ROGERS
(Globe & Mail, Toronto, February 8, 1963)
By Steve York
There’s life in the old dog yet as Old Dog Trey of the old song might say.
Meaning that Lou Thesz had enough speed and agility to take care of younger opponent Buddy Rogers in the main wrestling match last night at Maple Leaf Gardens. Thesz retained the National Wrestling Alliance world’s heavyweight championship he won from Rogers two weeks ago at the Gardens by taking the match, two falls to one.
The crowd was given as 11,000. Included in the throng who were delighted at ageless Lou’s success were Les Girls, back after months of absence.
Thesz was awarded the first fall at 7:53 by referee Tiger Tasker. Thesz had Rogers in a corner. To get out, Rogers kicked at Lou’s chest. Thesz toppled back into Tasker and both fell to the mat. Tasker didn’t think this was a nice way to treat a referee, even if the tumble came second hand, so to speak, and rulled Thesz was winner of the first fall.
After Thesz had tested Rogers with a side headlock and Rogers replied with a body scissors, Rogers picked up Thesz and dumped him on his head in a pile driver. Rogers followed with a top spread to even the match at a fall each at 13:57.
Thesz must have become annoyed at the application of what is considered an illegal hold. Or he wanted to get away from our frigid air to his home in Phoenix, Ariz., where the temperature was 84 yesterday, he said. In any case he wasted no time in scoring the deciding fall.
Rogers tried another pile driver. Just as he was about to heave Thesz into the air Lou straightened up, flinging Rogers over his head in a back drop. When Rogers landed on his back his feet looked suspiciously under the ropes. Thesz took no chances. He pulled Rogers a few inches into the ring and applied a top spread for the winning fall at 15:45.
Wild Bill Longson, a former world’s champion, was introduced from the ring before the main match. Longson says he promotes shows in St. Louis and wrestles once in a while.
A couple of interesting aspects to last night’s card should be noted. There were seven matches and there hasn’t been a card like that since Jack Corcoran started promoting. And you would have to go back almost as far to find a main bout contested on a two-out-of-three basis.
LOU THESZ DESIGNATED WORLD WRESTLING KING
(United Press International, August 29, 1964)
ST. LOUIS – The men who promoted the sport of grunts and groans convened Saturday and designated Lou Thesz as the world’s heavyweight wrestling champion.
It was pointed out that Thesz won back the title for the sixth time in Toronto in 1963.
About 20 leading wrestling promoters from North America
attended the meeting of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and delegates
were expected to re-elect Sam Muchnick of St. Louis to his 12th year
as president of the 16-year-old organization.
(RETURN TO WAWLI PAPERS INDEX PAGE)